Mask up, Milwaukee.

At a special meeting on Monday afternoon, the Milwaukee Common Council unanimously passed a citywide mask mandate that applies to both indoor and outdoor settings. The so-called “MKE Cares” ordinance requires all Milwaukeeans 3 years old or older to possess a mask and wear it “whenever the person is in a building open to the public,” and “whenever the person is in an outdoor public space and within 6 feet of any other person who is not a member of the person’s family or household.”

Mayor Tom Barrett has 10 days to sign, veto, or return the ordinance. According to Urban Milwaukee, Barrett has said he may sign it as early as today. If so, the ordinance could go into effect this Thursday.

“I offer to you that this is not a perfect piece of legislation,” said Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, who introduced the ordinance last month. “It’s a combination of public input, compromising, and best practices. We owe it to the people that we represent to try everything that we can. And I want to ask you today, truly, how would you feel looking back on this, this vote today, and thinking “Did we do enough?” We have Milwaukeeans that have died. We have Wisconsinites that have died. And I think that we could very well regret not doing enough, but I doubt that you’ll ever look back and regret that we asked people to wear face coverings.”

It’s up to the health department—headed by Dr. Jeanette Kowalik—to enforce the ordinance. Owners of buildings open to the public can be fined between $50 and $500 for failing to require patrons to follow the indoor mask policy. Also, “the commissioner of health and the city attorney are authorized to pursue license revocation or a court order closing a building open to the public in accordance with state and local law for failing to require persons present to abide by” the indoor mask policy.

“We have technology now so people will send us pictures, videos, various accounts, screenshots of social media, and all of that stuff,” Kowalik said in June. “So we do evaluate that, we do consider that to be evidence. And then we do move forward on that account. So just again, when you see violations of the order, please let us know so we can act on that. We’re going to make sure that health department staff are more visible and out in the evening and over the weekend where we see some of the violations.”

Alderwoman Chantia Lewis talked briefly about enforcement on Monday, too, noting that the public should not call 911 on mask violations, but instead contact the health department at cehadmin@milwaukee.gov.

The outdoor mask policy would be entirely “self-enforced.”

Here’s the full ordinance:

Title
An ordinance relating to a requirement for face coverings in public spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Section
62-1-11 cr
62-1-12 cr
62-8 cr

Analysis
This ordinance creates a requirement for persons to wear face coverings when in public spaces for the duration of the ‘Moving Milwaukee Forward’ health and safety orders.

Body
The Mayor and Common Council of the City of Milwaukee do ordain as follows:

Part 1. Section 62-1-11 and Section 62-1-12 of the code is created to read:

62-1. Definitions.

11. FACE COVERING means a protective mask covering the nose and mouth, including cloth face coverings or surgical masks as described by the centers for disease control and prevention.

12. BUILDING OPEN TO PUBLIC means any structure or premises licensed by the city of Milwaukee or used in whole or in part as a place of resort, assemblage, lodging, trade, traffic, occupancy, or other use by the public.

Part 2. Section 62-8 of the code is created to read:

62-8. Face Covering Requirements During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

1. MASK REQUIRED INDOORS. For the duration of the ‘Moving Milwaukee Forward’ health and safety orders, any person 3 years old or older who is present in the city of Milwaukee shall have possession of a face covering when the person leaves home or other place of residence and shall wear the face covering whenever the person is in a building open to the public.

2. MASK REQUIRED OUTDOORS. For the duration of the ‘Moving Milwaukee Forward’ health and safety orders, any person 3 years old or older who is present in the city of Milwaukee shall have possession of a face covering when the person leaves home or other place of residence and shall wear the face covering whenever the person is in an outdoor public space and within 6 feet of any other person who is not a member of the person’s family or household.

3. MASK REQUIRED FOR CITY FACILITIES AND EMPLOYEES. The commissioner of public works and director of employee relations shall establish a face covering requirement policy for all city employees and other persons on the premises of any city facility.

4. EXCEPTIONS. Exceptions for face coverings will be made under the following circumstances:

a. Persons who fall into the centers for disease control and prevention’s guidance for those who should not wear face coverings due to a medical condition, mental health condition, developmental disability, or are otherwise covered under the Americans with disabilities act, for whom no other accommodation can be offered.

b. Persons who have upper-respiratory chronic conditions, silent or invisible disabilities, or are communicating with an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing and communication cannot be achieved through other means.

c. Persons in settings where it is not practical or feasible to wear face coverings when obtaining or rendering goods or services to the extent necessary to obtain or render such goods or services including but not limited to the receipt of dental services or medical treatments or consuming food or beverages.

d. Whenever federal, state, or local law otherwise prohibit wearing a face mask or where it is necessary to evaluate or verify an individual’s identity.

e. Persons whose religious beliefs prevent them from wearing a face covering.

f. Persons present in government facilities closed to the public, institutions of higher education, public and private K through 12 schools, and childcare or youth facilities that have a mitigation strategy approved by the commissioner of health.

5. PENALTY. The health department shall enforce this section. The owner or operator of any building open to the public shall ensure all persons present in his or her building open to the public comply with sub. 1. The owner or operator of any building open to the public has the right to refuse entry or service to any person for failure to comply with sub. 1. Any owner or operator of a building open to the public that permits a person to violate sub. 1 in their building open to the public shall upon conviction forfeit not less than $50 and not more than $500. The commissioner of health and city attorney are authorized to pursue license revocation or a court order closing a building open to the public in accordance with state and local law for failing to require persons present to abide by sub. 1.

Also unanimously passed on Monday was the so-called “Masks For All” resolution, under which “all City residents may receive a face mask without charge upon request.” The details of the program can be viewed HERE.

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About The Author

Matt Wild
Co-Founder and Editor

Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.

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