Milwaukee Could Pass Mask Requirement Next Week

Masks would be compulsory indoors and outdoors, but there is no mechanism to enforce the outdoor requirement.

Milwaukee could have a mandatory mask rule as soon as Monday, a requirement that would come on the heels of Dane County and the Village of Shorewood instituting their own mask policies this week. 

The Milwaukee Public Health and Safety Committee on Thursday voted 3-1-1 to forward a mask-wearing ordinance to the full Common Council, which is scheduled to meet on Monday. The ordinance, as written, requires mask use indoors, including in outdoor areas at businesses, at all times — unless actively eating or drinking at a restaurant — and outdoors in public when within six feet of another person.

The vote was taken as Wisconsin recorded 754 new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Thursday, a single-day record. The City of Milwaukee surpassed 10,400 cases on Thursday as the county neared 13,100, according to local data.

However, the ordinance leaves no way for any authority whatsoever to enforce the outdoor mask requirement and leaves enforcement of the indoor requirement up to individual businesses. If a business is caught not requiring masks for its patrons, it would be subject to a fine of between $50 and $500 from the Milwaukee Health Department. Individuals without masks would not be cited.

Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, author of the ordinance, said enforcement of outdoor mask-wearing will be “voluntary,” but she said keeping the requirement was important because coronavirus is still transmissible when people are in close proximity outdoors.

Mark Borkowski, another alderman, tried to have the outdoor requirement removed because it “has no teeth,” but that proposal was shot down. He voted against forwarding the ordinance to the Common Council.

Alderman Scott Spiker likewise tried to amend the ordinance’s language, allowing an exemption for the mask requirement if business’ patrons were in outdoor areas such as a patio.

Spiker cited a gym in his aldermanic district that created an outdoor workout area in an effort to keep people safer, saying the city should allow areas such as those to operate without a mask requirement. 

Jeanette Kowalik, Milwaukee’s health commissioner, said it would be dangerous to be without a mask outdoors because coronavirus particles spread farther when people are breathing heavily from physical exertion. Spiker’s amendment was voted down.

The Public Health and Safety Committee also passed along to the Common Council a resolution that would direct the Health Department to set up free mask distribution centers for all city residents.


On Wednesday, the Evers administration announced that state buildings will be closed to the public for the time being and all state employees will be required to wear masks beginning Monday, “regardless of the number of people present or physical space between individuals,” the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The order was meant to provide clarity and consistency with the Dane County order.