The Milwaukee Common Council voted 15-0 today to require residents to wear face masks indoors — as well as outdoors, if social distancing of at least six feet is not maintained. The mandate would apply to everyone over 3 years old.
Mayor Tom Barrett said last week he would sign the ordinance into law. The council also voted to supply free face masks to city residents on request.
Penalties for businesses that don’t enforce the mask mandate would begin with a warning, but subsequent violations would bring citations with fines of between $50 and $500.
Wisconsin Speaker of the House Robin Vos, R, said he thinks masks are unnecessary, but indicated that he wouldn’t challenge such local ordinances in court. On May 13, he persuaded the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Republican-backed majority to lift Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer-at-Home rules before they had been fully implemented according to CDC guidelines.
Since the state’s unplanned re-opening ahead of Memorial Day weekend, the number of positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths have risen sharply in Wisconsin. The state is not alone, as cases are rising in more than 30 states.
In response, some states have closed bars, including Louisiana. Others, including Texas, have statewide mandates for wearing masks. Some states have set occupancy limits on restaurants.
And some states have warned that lockdowns will return if the escalation continues.
In Wisconsin, however, all of those public health measures have been declared unconstitutional, leaving few, if any, ways to control the pandemic at the state level.
In more than three months, from Feb. 5, when the state identified its first case, through May 13, when the Supreme Court nixed the plan to mitigate the virus, the state recorded 11,116 positive cases and 421 deaths.
In the two months since May 13, the state has confirmed 39,967 cases and 828 deaths.
All-time records for new cases in the state were broken on July 9, 10 and 11. On July 12, the 769 positives found that day accounted for 10.1 percent of the tests performed, significantly higher than the 7.7 percent positivity rate the day before.
The test-positivity rate is considered the most significant measure of the virus’ presence.
In Milwaukee County, positive cases have been rising since mid-June. The county has recorded a total of 14,196 positive cases and 359 death. But deaths have been declining over the same period.