What enforcement will look like for Milwaukee's new mask mandate

Virus Outbreak-US
Posted at 5:37 PM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 11:41:31-05

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee is poised to once again impose a mask mandate. This comes as COVID cases surge and hospital are overwhelmed, according to Milwaukee health leaders.

Virus Outbreak-US
FILE - A sign advises shoppers to wear masks outside of a store Monday, July 19, 2021, in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. Infections are climbing across the U.S. and mask mandates and other COVID-19 prevention measures are making a comeback in some places as health officials issue increasingly dire warnings about the highly contagious delta variant. But in a possible sign that the warnings are getting through to more Americans, vaccination rates are creeping up again, offering hope that the nation could yet break free of the coronavirus if people who have been reluctant to receive the shot are finally inoculated. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

The city’s Common Council passed an ordinance that will require people to be masked indoors at businesses.

It is similar to the mask ordinance that went into effect during the past two years.

Coronavirus mask

"I think we are hopeful that businesses will be asking their patrons to mask. Whether it is retails, a coffee shop, a restaurant, the Fiserv Forum, which is already asking people to mask,” said Kirsten Johnson, commissioner of the Milwaukee Health Department.

During the mask mandate from July 2020 to June 2021, there were 144 citations issued for violations of the mandate, according to the Milwaukee Business Journal. 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.

However the Milwaukee Health Department says in this new mandate, health officials won't be out enforcing it.


“There are no fines tied to the mask ordinance that was passed today by the Common Council. We frankly are very limited on our staff, much like health care,” said Johnson. “We are heavily focused on testing and vaccination efforts. So, at this time, we do not have the capacity to enforce it and we are going to be collecting information as calls come in, but that is the most we can do right now."

Those calls and complaints regarding non-compliance will go into a file that will be looked at by Alderpersons when a business applies to renew its license. But, the editor of the Milwaukee Business Journal, Mark Kaas, says he does not see that as a huge threat to businesses.

CDC says cloth masks offer more COVID-19 protection for wearer than previously though
A visitor wearing a mask to protect against the spread of COVID-19 passes a sign requiring masks, Tuesday, July 7, 2020, in San Antonio. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared masks or face coverings must be worn in public across most of the state as local officials across the state say their hospitals are becoming increasingly stretched and are in danger of becoming overrun as cases of the coronavirus surge. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

“If somebody has a lot of complaints against them, I suppose an Alderman could say no and not allow them to operate, but I would be surprised if that happened,” said Kaas.

Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson still needs to sign the ordinance for it to go into effect. The mandate would then expire on March 1st.

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