WATCH: Wisconsin governor enacts statewide mask mandate

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(WFRV) – Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has declared an Emergency Order requiring individuals to wear face coverings when indoors and not in a private residence, with some exceptions, starting Saturday, August 1, and running through September 28, 2020, unless a different order is enacted.

The order is part of a Public Health Emergency Gov. Evers declared on Thursday, July 30.

“While our local health departments have been doing a heck of a job responding to this pandemic in our communities, the fact of the matter is, this virus doesn’t care about any town, city, or county boundary, and we need a statewide approach to get Wisconsin back on track,” said Gov. Evers. “We’ve said all along that we’re going to let science and public health experts be our guide in responding to this pandemic, and we know that masks and face coverings will save lives. While I know emotions are high when it comes to wearing face coverings in public, my job as governor is to put people first and to do what’s best for the people of our state, so that’s what I am going to do.”

According to Gov. Evers, Wisconsin is seeing new and significant community spread and increase in cases of COVID-19 which requires that we declare a new public health emergency and require face coverings.

Of the state’s 72 counties, 61 represent 96 percent of the state’s population experiencing high COVID-19 activity. All regions of Wisconsin have high COVID-19 activity levels. This is an increase from where Wisconsin was in June, when only 19 of 72 counties (26%) were experiencing high COVID-19 activity.  

Under this order:

  • Wisconsin residents ages five and older are required to wear a face-covering when they are indoors or in an enclosed space with anyone outside their household or living unit.
  • Face coverings are strongly recommended if you are outdoors and maintaining physical distancing is not possible.
  • Exceptions to the requirement include when an individual is eating, drinking, or swimming.
  • Individuals with health conditions or disabilities that would preclude the wearing of a face-covering safely are also exempt from the requirement.

Those who violate the order may face a fine of up to $200.

“The data is what drives our decisions, and that data tells us we have significant community spread in Wisconsin and need to take statewide action,” said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “Community spread means that any interaction out in the community can mean exposure and because people can spread COVID-19 without symptoms or even knowing they are sick, we need to take universal precautions in order for wearing face coverings to be effective.”

Face covering mandate

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the medical and scientific community continues to learn more about the virus, including how to best prevent its transmission. Recent scientific studies show that wearing face coverings is very effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“Staying home, limiting interactions, practicing physical distancing, and washing your hands thoroughly are still the most effective ways to stop the spread,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Wisconsin’s Chief Medical Officer and the State Epidemiologist for Communicable Diseases. “But we learn something new about this virus every day. A growing number of scientific studies tell us that face coverings, when used correctly and consistently by a large percentage of the community, are extremely effective for preventing the spread of COVID-19 through respiratory droplets.”

Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes tweeted shortly after the order was announced.

MinnesotaMichigan, and Illinois have already enacted statewide mandates, as have Ohio and Indiana.

Rep. Staush Gruszynski (D-Green Bay) released the following statement today responding to face-covering requirement:

“As we move through the COVID-19 pandemic we must listen to science and the public health experts who best understand this pandemic. I applaud Governor Evers for this action in working to protect the health of the constituents the 90th District and all Wisconsinites. Science and public health experts are telling us that wearing a face-covering helps protect our communities, including those at higher risk for severe illness and workers who frequently come into contact with others like nurses, grocers, and first responders. The sooner we get back to working together to flatten the curve and prevent the spread of COVID-19, the sooner we can get safely back to work, school, sports, concerts, and doing all the things we all miss. By wearing face coverings we are taking a positive step toward fighting this pandemic together.”

Assembly Democratic Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) released the following statement:

“I appreciate Governor Evers taking proactive action to help keep people safe and keep our economy open.  While there is so much we still don’t know about COVID-19, we do know that wearing a mask indoors can help reduce the spread of the virus. It’s important to remember that we control what happens with COVID-19 in our state. We can protect each other through individual actions like wearing a mask, good hand hygiene, and practicing social distancing that can dramatically decrease the spread of COVID-19,” Rep. Hintz stated. “I recognize that wearing a mask takes some getting used to, but if we want to save lives, keep our economy open and maintain the hope of in-person school this fall, it is a pretty small sacrifice to make.”

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