Masks Required! Here’s What You Need to Know About Milwaukee’s New Mandate

There’s a new mandate in Milwaukee.

Starting Thursday, Milwaukee citizens will be required to wear masks in public places amid COVID-19 spikes in the city.

The Milwaukee Common Council unanimously approved the mask mandate, named “MKE Cares,” on Monday and Mayor Tom Barrett signed it into law the following day. 

The ordinance has been scaled back since it was originally introduced by Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic last week after “extensive input from members of the community,” she said in a press release.

The ordinance requires those over the age of 3 to wear masks in public places that are indoors. It does list exceptions, however, such as for medical conditions, religious beliefs and medical or dental treatments. Business owners have the right to refuse service to customers who do not comply.

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The original version required people to wear masks in outdoor public spaces when they see anyone within 30 feet who isn’t a member of their family or household, the approved version reduced the requirement to 6 feet. 

The council also unanimously approved a proposal that will provide free masks to all city residents — an effort to address how “the effects of this pandemic have disproportionately fallen on the city’s poorest residents,” the proposal reads. 

More than 600 people submitted comments to the Public Safety and Health Committee. There were only 26 more comments in support than in opposition. 

These requirements would be enforced by the Milwaukee Health Department rather than the police. Businesses who don’t enforce the mask requirement run the risk of being shut down and could be fined anywhere between $50-$500. 

The ordinance passed through the council’s Public Safety and Health Committee this past Thursday. It has also received extensive support from business owners, over 12,000 residents on a change.org petition, and local healthcare professionals. 

In a letter dated for Monday, more than 80 businesses, including Colectivo Coffee, Boswell Book Co., and Odd Duck, expressed support for the ordinance

“We believe the passage of this ordinance will result in the vast majority of people complying voluntarily. … Milwaukee residents and businesses cannot afford to wait for you to act,” the letter reads.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business group, sent a letter in opposition on Friday saying the ordinance “will create unnecessary (potentially violent) conflict between employees of these businesses and clients/customers.”

Dane County’s own face mask mandate began Monday. Additionally, as of Monday, state workers are required to wear masks inside state buildings and state buildings are to remain closed to the public after an order by Gov. Tony Evers

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