Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson signs mask mandate for City of Milwaukee

Posted at 10:34 AM, Jan 20, 2022

MILWAUKEE — The return of an indoor mask mandate is one step closer to a reality in Milwaukee after Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson signed a new ordinance on Thursday. Johnson said in an announcement that the mandate will go into effect "in the coming days."

“I signed Milwaukee’s mask ordinance this morning which will take effect once it is published in the coming days. Public safety is my paramount concern, and, during the current surge in COVID-19 cases, masking is one reasonable mitigation step," Johnson said in a statement.


The ordinance requires everyone 3 and older to mask up when inside a public building except when eating and drinking. It will be in effect until March 1. However, the Common Council could end it sooner or extend it. The Council approved the ordinance on Tuesday.

“Businesses in Milwaukee have endured significant consequences from the pandemic, and I appreciate all the efforts they have made to reduce the spread of the disease," Johnson said.

The ordinance states that the mandate will go into effect when the rate of transmission of the COVID-19 virus is equal to or greater than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents in Milwaukee County. Currently, the City of Milwaukee Health Department has seen more than 1,300 positive cases of COVID per 100,000 people and a positivity rate of 28%.

It is similar to the original mask ordinance that expired in June 2021. However, the new ordinance does not include fines for non-compliance. Instead, it will take calls of businesses violating the mandate and forward the information to a file that the city reviews when a business applies to renew its license. Those complaints could lead to a license being suspended or revoked.

During the mask mandate from July 2020 to June 2021, there were 144 citations issued for violations of the mandate. Those violations included masks, physical distancing and other rules. The violators were forced to pay a total of $224,000 for not complying with the regulations.

The Milwaukee Health Department said it will not be out enforcing it due to staffing.

"For us, as long as the businesses stay open, we're good with the mask mandate," said Kevin Junior, owner of Junior's Smoked BBQ in Sherman Phoenix.

Angela Algee-Cotton, who works at Confectionately Yours just a few feet from Junior's, believes the mandate is in everyone's best interest. The first time Algee-Cotton caught COVID she said it sent her to the hospital for three weeks. She does not want anyone else to go through that.

"If it slows down the process, if it decreases the margin by 5%, anything is better than nothing," Algee-Cotton said.

During a media briefing on Thursday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-Designee Karen Timberlake applauded Milwaukee leaders for reinstating a mask mandate, saying masks are a key part of prevention.

"What we also know is that where we are required to take an action, we are more likely to do it," Timberlake said.

The news comes just one day after the Biden Administration announced they would be distributing 400 million free N95 masks across the country.

Health experts recommend wearing an N95 or KN95 mask while indoors to provide the highest level of protection.

And while this is one step in fighting the pandemic, city officials say they're still focused on increasing vaccination rates.

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