MADISON, Wis. -- Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday issued an executive order requiring face coverings to be worn indoors by anyone 5 years of age or over across the entire state.
The new mandate is sure to leave many people with questions. Thankfully, the governor's office has provided a helpful list of frequently asked questions about the order, which we have recapped for you below. You can also access the original FAQ here.
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Why are face coverings required?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) both recommend the use of face coverings to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
"Rates of COVID-19 have significantly increased in Wisconsin as more people return to work and have more interactions in public. Wearing face coverings is the simplest way to slow and prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus without requiring people stay in their homes," the governor's office says.
When do I need to wear a face covering?
Whenever you are indoors OR in an enclosed place (other than a private residence) with other people. As an example, you WOULD need to wear a covering while you were shopping in a store, or using a taxi or Uber.
When do I NOT need to wear a face covering?
According to the governor's office, these are the allowed exceptions:
You do not need to wear a face covering if:
• you are at a private residence;
• you are outside; or
• you are indoors and no one else is present.
You can also remove your face covering in the following situations:
• When you are eating or drinking.
• When you are communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing and you cannot communicate while wearing a mask.
• While sleeping (e.g., firefighters sleeping at a fire station).
• While swimming or being on duty as a life guard.
• When you are giving a religious, political, media, educational, artistic, cultural, musical, or theatrical presentation for an audience, so long as you have at least 6 feet between you and other individuals.
• When you are working if wearing a face covering poses a safety risk, as determined by government safety guidelines or regulations.
• When you need to temporarily remove your face covering to confirm your identify, such as entering a bank, credit union, or other financial institution or when having to show that you match your identification card when buying alcohol.
• When engaging in activities where federal or state law or regulations prohibit wearing a face covering.
Do I need to wear a face covering indoors, even if I can physically distance from other people at all times?
Yes, unless you are in a private residence or you're the only person in the room at the time.
Do I need to wear a face covering when I exercise?
It depends on where you are. If you're outdoors or in a private residence, no. If you're inside or in an enclosed space with other people (such as a gym, a cycling studio, or hotel workout room), yes.
Do I need to wear a face covering when eating, drinking, or sleeping in indoor places other than my home?
No - but you DO need to put your mask back on when you're done with these activities. For example, if you're at a restaurant table waiting for your order to be taken, you should keep your mask on. The governor's office says this does include outdoor restaurants and bar areas.
I have a medical condition that prevents me from wearing a face covering. Do I need documentation to prove that I don’t need to wear a face covering in public?
No, you do not.
Does this order apply to private residences that are also used for business activity, such as a massage therapist who operates out of their home?
No, it does not.
Where can I get a face covering?
The governor's office lists three basic options here:
- You can make one. Find both sew and no-sew instructions here.
- You can buy a mask at a store (including online stores)
- Many local communities have started their own programs to distribute masks, such as the 50,000 being given away at Milwaukee Citgo gas stations. You are encouraged to reach out to community groups and local organizations for more info.
Can I wear a face shield instead of a face covering?
No. A face shield does not provide the same level of protection as a mask. You can, however, wear a face shield in addition to a mask.
From the governor's office: "There may be situations where a face shield can be used instead of a face covering if you are engaging in work where wearing a face covering would create a risk to you, as determined by government safety guidelines, or if you are engaging in activities where federal or state law or regulations prohibit wearing a face covering. But that will depend on the specific government safety guidelines."
Are face coverings required inside businesses and office spaces?
Yes, unless a specific exception applies.
Do I need to wear a face covering when in my car, in a ride-share service, or on public transportation?
According to the governor's office, the only time you would need to wear a mask in your own car is if you're driving with someone who is not from your household. You do have to wear a mask if you're using a ride-share or public transportation.
Where can I get more information on how to wear a face covering, safe practices for putting it on and taking it off, and when to wash face coverings?
There are two main options for you here:
- DHS has information on wearing, cleaning, and making masks here
- The CDC has additional considerations for mask wearing here
Will businesses be required to provide face coverings for their employees or customers?
No, but businesses are encouraged to provide masks to their employees and guests.
How will the face covering order be enforced?
Violating the order may result in a fine of up to $200. Both state and local officials are empowered to enforce the order.
What do I do if I see someone not wearing a mask, even though they should be?
According to the governor's office, you should do nothing, because some people may have conditions that keep them from wearing a face covering. Just wear your mask and stay six feet away.
What do I do if someone is harassing me for wearing a mask?
"No one should have to endure harassment, for any reason. Contact your local law enforcement," the governor's office says.
What if the town or city I live in already has a face covering or mask order?
Governor Evers' order sets a "minimum bar" for the state. If your city or county have more stringent orders, you need to follow those.