Hundreds of public comments submitted on Milwaukee mask proposal ahead of council meeting

NOW: Hundreds of public comments submitted on Milwaukee mask proposal ahead of council meeting

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Milwaukee Common Council is set to examine Monday whether masks should be required outside and inside public buildings for those 3 and up.

The council is encouraging residents to submit public comment ahead of the Common Council meeting Monday, July 13 at 1:30 p.m.

Hundreds of people have already submitted public comments. Many comments are in support of the city's mask mandate proposal, but others questioned the effectiveness of masks in preventing the spread of the virus or said they believe wearing a mask should be a "personal choice."

Allie Boy's Bagelry & Luncheonette in Walker's Point is one of more than 100 Milwaukee businesses and restaurants calling for a mandatory mask rule in the city.

"The more people start mandating this in their personal businesses, the more everybody will start to get on board and it won't all of a sudden be such a strange thing anymore," said Ben Nerenhausen, who owns the bagelry along with Staci Lopez.

Nerenhausen and Lopez said their obligation is to keep their employees safe. They mandate that their employees wear masks and ask everyone who comes into their restaurant to do so, as well.

"(Requiring masks) helps us stay in business. We're a small business. We just opened. We personally can't financially afford to withstand another closure," Nerenhausen said.

Milwaukee's proposed MKE Cares face covering ordinance passed 3-1-1 out of committee. One alderman said he objected to requiring masks outside.

The council's debate on the proposal comes as Wisconsin's COVID-19 case numbers continue to climb. Data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows the last four days in a row each had more than 700 new cases. There were 926 new cases Saturday and 769 new cases Sunday.

"There will be people that are perfectly healthy that are just going to refuse to wear a mask, and to those people, all I can say is, I hope they can look themselves in the mirror and realize that they might have been responsible for somebody's life," said Mike Kryshak, owner of Saukville-based Rebel Converting and an organizer of MandateMasksMKE, which is an offshoot of MaskUpMKE.

The council is also set to take up a resolution that would provide free masks to at least half the city's residents, or about 300,000 people.

Kryshak said having masks should not be a barrier to supporting the mask mandate.

"All businesses -- if they need face masks, I'll be happy to give them the kits. They can make them, and they can give them to their employees," Kryshak said.

Concerns have also been raised about enforcement of Milwaukee's proposed face covering mandate. The health department would be responsible for enforcing the mandate, and business owners could be fined up to $500 if everyone inside isn't wearing a mask.

But the owners of Allie Boy's said it all comes back to protecting those who come inside.

"I think as business owners, we have liability either way. What's the other end of the spectrum -- that somebody comes in and they do get sick?" Nerenhausen said.

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