Milwaukee citywide mask mandate now circulating through common council

NOW: Milwaukee citywide mask mandate now circulating through common council

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – Dane County implemented a mask mandate on Tuesday, the first of its kind in the state. Milwaukee may soon follow after Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic introduced legislation last week.

Unlike Dane County’s mask mandate being passed through its health officer, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says the city will look at a common council approach so it would stand at court level.

“Locally in the state of Wisconsin we’re seeing nearly a doubling of percent positives,” said Dr. Ben Weston, Medical Director at Milwaukee County’s Office of Emergency Management.

Milwaukee County health officials say cases are without a doubt going in the wrong direction. A mask mandate would come in the nick of time.

“Cases are red, that means we’re experiencing significant growth in our case rate in Milwaukee County over the last 14 days,” said Darren Rausch with the Greenfield Health Department.

The “MKE Cares” mask ordinance introduced last week by Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic combines mask laws from cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

Mayor Tom Barrett says the Milwaukee Common Council will be looking at the draft in the next week or so.

“It is a work in progress and we want to get it moving as quickly as possible,” said Mayor Tom Barrett.

Initial talks of the “MKE Cares” ordinance would require masks in all public spaces with some exceptions.

”I think you can certainly draw a distinction between indoors and outdoors. I think that’s one distinction. Another distinction is that probably business owners would probably have a different set of enforcement mechanisms as opposed to individuals,” adds Mayor Barrett.

Infectious disease specialist at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Dr. Mary Beth Graham, says research is showing COVID-19 in the U.S. is mutating, making it easier to spread person-to-person. She says wearing a mask during this time just makes sense.

”For the prevention of the spread of droplets, especially if you have both parties wearing a mask, is a very good protection,” said Dr. Graham

Crafting a mask mandate doesn’t come easy, Mayor Tom Barrett says he is working with the city attorney to make sure the ordinance would pass legal muster, remain fair and is effective.

“Who will actually enforce it, I think is an issue,” said Mayor Barrett. “Would it be the health department? Would it be the police department? The draft that’s being circulated right now uses a health department model than a police department model.”

“Part of this too is making sure that people have access to masks, so we’re working on procurement and getting additional masks ready to go,” said Jeanette Kowalik, Milwaukee Health Commissioner.

Mayor Barrett says he believes passing the ordinance through the common council is possible, but if the numbers start going in the wrong direction and the council does not act then he will have a conversation about possibly taking action himself.

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