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Milwaukee Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic introduces city-wide mask mandate

NOW: Milwaukee Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic introduces city-wide mask mandate

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The City of Milwaukee may soon be under a mask mandate. The discussion comes after a number of outbreaks were reported in states including Florida, Arizona and Texas. 

On Tuesday, Milwaukee Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic announced she is introducing legislation that would require people in the city to wear masks in public spaces. Mayor Tom Barrett says he’s optimistic about passing a mask mandate.

“A lot of this is driven by the fact that you’re seeing these dramatic increases in California, Arizona, Texas, Florida and other southern states,” said Mayor Barrett.

Mayor Barrett feels a mask mandate is necessary.

“We have to take steps to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can to slow the spread of the disease,” he adds.

The proposed ordinance, called ‘MKE Cares’ by Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, would possibly last until the end of the year. It would closely resemble Los Angeles’ current mask law. L.A. requires a face covering if you visit any retail business, use public transportation and while doing outdoor activities at places like golf courses and trails.

”They were successful early on in working to flatten some of the curve. I believe that some of the data they have with their demographics -- while they’re obviously larger than Milwaukee -- reflects ours a bit,” said Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic, who represents Milwaukee’s 14th district and serves as the chair of the Public Safety and Health Committee.  

“I’m very optimistic that we’ll be able to come to a meeting of the minds,” said Mayor Barrett.

Ald. Dimitrijevic says the Public Safety and Health Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday with a public comment session, after that she hopes to have the legislation passed quickly.

”We’re looking at about a week or so if everything goes as planned,” she added.

Doctors say there’s no downside to a mask mandate from a public health stance, but say there may be hurdles politically.

“It’s become a political issue and one where people are weighing their civil liberties and public health,” said Dr. John Raymond, president and CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

On Monday, more than 70 businesses sent a letter to the mayor and Common Council President Cavalier Johnson urging them to implement a mask policy.

Mayor Barrett says other cities have had their mandates overturned—so he wants to pass a mandate that would last.

“Racine had done it through its health commissioner and that was challenged. The Common Council in Racine then in essence then passed a resolution delegating it to its health commissioner and that was challenged as well. At this point it looks as though we are going to have to take more definitive steps,” said Mayor Barrett.

”The thoughtfulness and care that’s going into this is very important for its sustainability moving forward,” added Jeanette Kowalik, Milwaukee’s health commissioner.

After Thursday’s committee meeting, Alderwoman Dimitrijevic says the issue will be heard a second time during Tuesday’s Common Council meeting. It will then be followed by a special meeting the day after.

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