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Milwaukee Common Council passes mandatory mask mandate -- here's what you need to know

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Milwaukee Common Council on Monday, July 13, passed a citywide mask mandate requiring anyone over the age of 3 years old to wear a face covering inside public spaces.

The vote from city leaders was unanimous, 15-0. 

The plan would require businesses to mandate customers wear masks, and refuse service to those who don’t.

The Milwaukee Police Department will not enforce the policy, according to alders. The plan is for the Milwaukee Health Department to monitor businesses and make sure they require customers to wear masks. 

“If businesses are not abiding by the ordinance, then I think there are going to be a lot of calls to the health department who will be following up with enforcement on that,” Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson said.

Businesses who break the rules could lose their license or receive a $500 fine. Alders gave different answers about whether it is possible to fine a customer who refuses to follow the rules a business establishes.

Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa said the Common Council purposefully left enforcement up to the health department, instead of police. There is an outdoor component of the plan, requiring people to wear a mask outside if standing within 6 feet of anybody who is not a member of their household. Zamarripa said the outdoor requirement will effectively be on the "honor system."

“We really didn’t think it was smart, or strategic, or safe right now to allow MPD to enforce," Zamarripa said.

Johnson said, despite hard consequences for not wearing a mask outside, he believes the proposed ordinance will be effective.

“There’s going to be some social pressure that’s involved with this as well," Johnson said. "When you see people out there wearing a mask, abiding by the ordinance, that’s going to encourage more and more people to abide by it."

Before becoming official city policy, the proposal must be signed by Mayor Tom Barrett, who has supported a mask policy for weeks.

“The science has been so clear that face masks are very effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19," Barrett said.

The Milwaukee City Clerk's Office said provided Barrett signs the plan, it will take effect Thursday, July 16. 

Requirements: 

  • MASK REQUIRED INDOORS: Any person 3 years old or older 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 indoor public space.
  • MASK REQUIRED OUTDOORS: Face covering whenever the person is in an outdoor public space and sees a person within 6 feet who is not a member of the person’s family or household.

Exceptions: 

  • Children under 3 years old. 
  • 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.
  • Persons who have upper-respiratory chronic conditions and silent disabilities.
  • Persons in settings where it is not practical or feasible to wear face coverings, including when obtaining or rendering goods or services, such as the receipt of dental services or medical treatments.    

Penalties: 

  • Warning
  • $50-500 fine 
  • Repeat violations could result in businesses shut down by the health department 

The council also directed the city health department to establish a program to distribute free masks to residents.

"So I think there’s going to be an opportunity for everybody who wants a mask, to wear a mask, to get a mask,” Johnson said.

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