Dane County to Implement Face Mask Requirement, Milwaukee Takes Similar Steps

The Dane County order will go into effect July 13, requiring anyone five years and older to wear masks in indoor spaces outside of their homes.

By Will Kenneally

July 7, 2020 • South Central Region

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Joe Parisi

Dane County Exec. Joe Parisi adjusts his mask during a July 7, 2020 news conference to announce the county would require residents to wear masks.

Dane County will implement an indoor mask requirement July 13, as Milwaukee continues to work toward its own mask requirement.

The order requires any resident five years and older to wear a mask when they are in an enclosed indoor space outside their homes, waiting in line to go to an indoor space or while taking public transit or a taxi.

Those who cannot wear a mask for medical or certain work-related reasons are exempt. People can remove their mask to eat or drink, or if otherwise necessary—like checking identification.

“Given the current number of COVID-19 infections in our county, we need to all be wearing face coverings every time we leave the house,” said the county’s public health director Janel Heinrich.

This comes after Madison and Dane County saw a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases which Heinrich attributed largely to bar patronage among residents in their 20s and large private gatherings. In the last two weeks, the county saw an average daily increase of 90 cases, and a more than 10% positive test rate in the last few days.

Thirty-three percent of Dane County residents who tested positive for the virus in the last two weeks did not know they were infected, according to Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. She said wearing a mask should be seen as an act of caring and of not wanting to spread the virus to others.

“It’s imperative we take this step now to try and slow the march of COVID through our community,” said Dane County Exec. Joe Parisi.

He added during a Tuesday news conference that the county would be working toward building infrastructure to make masks readily available.

“We’re going to be working with community-based organizations, community centers, churches, folks like that, to make the masks available, to do outreach into communities, to inform people and educate,” Parisi said.

Heinrich said the county would not ask law enforcement to help enforce the mask wearing order, rather that the county would rely on existing “outreach compliance and enforcement efforts” to ensure residents are wearing their masks.

“These orders are not justification for people to harass police or harm individuals for wearing a mask or not wearing a mask,” she said. “These orders are for businesses to enforce mask wearing in their indoor spaces and for individuals to make changes to their own mask wearing practices.”

Last week, the county waivered at the notion of implementing a broad face mask requirement over concerns of how it might impact certain communities in the area. Heinrich said with today’s order that county residents should not apply racial stigmas on those wearing masks.

“We are facing two public health pandemics—COVID-19 and racism. People of color in our county have already experienced racism and discrimination when wearing masks in public, which is unacceptable,” she said. “People should assume that everyone wearing a mask is doing it to protect you and themselves.”

As Dane County implements its mask order, Milwaukee is currently considering a city-wide mask wearing ordinance for those within 30 feet of a person who is not a family member. The policy is currently before the city’s public health and safety committee, and city officials hope to approve the measure before August.

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