Over 70 Milwaukee businesses are calling on Mayor Tom Barrett and the Common Council to require masks to be worn in public spaces. Business leaders say a universal mask policy might be what it takes to prevent another surge in coronavirus cases here in Milwaukee and could be key to avoiding another economic shutdown.
The letter, sent to Barrett and Common Council President Cavalier Johnson, is asking the city to issue a mandate for masks to be required when someone is in a public space such as stores, theaters, museums, restaurants and bars to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The letter was signed by business such Fiserv Forum, Bartolotta Restaurants, Colectivo Coffee, Lowlands Group, Pabst Theater Group and many other businesses.
"Without a city mandate, businesses say that many customers may not be compliant with their own mask requirements, resulting in a loss of business and 'the risk is much higher for new outbreaks, which could result in new stay-at-home orders that put us out of business for good,'" the letter reads.
"We are watching and learning from the mistakes that have been made in Florida, Arizona and Texas that have called a tremendous resurgence of the virus, forcing businesses to close once again," said Gary Witt, CEO of Pabst Theater Group.
On Wednesday, July 1, the City of Milwaukee will move to Phase 4 of its reopening plan, which will allow for more customers to fill businesses at one time.
"I'm not sure it's a good idea," said Alderman Robert Bauman, who oversees a large area of downtown. Bauman believes businesses should be the ones to set and enforce their own rules.
"It's very easy to sign a petition, send a letter, that's all well and good but I think there's a lot of complications here and the biggest one is enforcement," said Bauman.
Individuals can sign a petition for the mandate here.
The City of Milwaukee Health Department released the following statement in response:
"The City of Milwaukee Health Department believes COVID-19 will be in our environment until next year, if not longer; therefore the risk of exposure will remain for all people including household pets. COVID-19 is also known as Novel Coronavirus which means it is new for all of us. This means that researchers, public health and medical professionals, and the community are learning about COVID-19 along the way. What we know now is that basic precautions, including physical distancing of 6 feet between others, moving outside versus congregating indoors, enhanced hand hygiene and cleaning high-touch surfaces like doorknobs and handles, and proper mask-wearing over ones nose and mouth can prevent the spread of the virus. We would like to remind Milwaukeeans to get tested for COVID-19 especially if they are essential workers, engaged in first amendment activities, and/or feeling ill.
The City of Milwaukee Health Department supports the grassroots efforts of our community to evoke positive change. We support universal mask policy now as there is more access to masks versus earlier in the outbreak response. We also know there are a variety of home-made solutions which can be used to create masks to provide protection. We also know that masks are now available for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. We encourage City of Milwaukee residents to contact the Mayor’s office and their Alderpersons about a proposed universal mask ordinance.”
The American Civil Liberties Union also responded to mandate request, saying that "The creation of a mandate such this is the risk of disparate enforcement, especially with protests going on, and disproportionate burdens on people without means to obtain masks."
Read the full letter below: