Starting just after midnight on Saturday morning, Aug. 1, face coverings—masks—will be required in most public buildings and settings where people gather in Wisconsin, according to a statewide mandate.
Gov. Tony Evers issued an emergency order on Thursday, July 30, to try "to combat the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 throughout the state of Wisconsin."
The order has created controversy among many across the state, especially after the Wisconsin Supreme Court overruled a "Safer at Home" statewide shutdown order in May. That order had been issued by Department of Health Services secretary-designee Andrea Palm. The high court ruled that Palm did not have such authority to issue such a broad and sweeping order without legislative approval. It was not clear if Ever's order would withstand the same scrutiny.
It was likely that Ever's order would face opposition and it already was at the local level. Washburn County Sheriff Dennis Stuart said on his department's Facebook page that his deputies would not enforce the order, alleging the order violated various constitutional rights. It was not clear if the order actually violated any rights.
The new order from Evers says masks be worn in "enclosed spaces," which is defined as a confined place where people gather, which includes outdoor bars and restaurants, taxis, public transit, ride-share vehicles and outdoor park structures. Basically wherever people not of the same household are present in the same space or room, masks are required.
The order will be effective through Sept. 28, unless extended.
Failure to follow the order could result in a fine of up to $200.
Masks are defined as cloth or disposable paper masks. Masks do not include face shields, mesh masks, masks with holes or openings and masks with vents. N95 masks and other medical-grade masks should be preserved for medical use.
The order applies to people age five and older while inside a place that is not their home or an enclosed space with people who are of not of the same household. Private residences are excluded. Children between the ages of two and five are encouraged to wear masks when physical distancing is not possible. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend masks for children under the age of two.
Masks are not required when eating or drinking; when communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing and communication cannot be done through other means; when obtaining a service, like dental services; while sleeping; while swimming or on duty as a lifeguard; while doing work where a masks might create risk to the individual as defined by government safety guidelines; when a person's identity must be confirmed, such as in a bank; or when state or federal regulations prohibit wearing a face covering.
A single person at a time is exempt from wearing a mask when giving a religious, political, media, educational, artistic, cultural, musical or theatrical presentation for an audience, when that person is actively speaking. That person must remain at least six feet away from other people.
Masks are not required for people who have trouble breathing; people who are unconscious or who are unable to remove a mask without assistance; people who have medical conditions, intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health conditions or other sensory sensitivities that prevent them from wearing a face covering.
Masks are also not required for incarcerated individuals. State buildings and offices under control of the state Legislature or Supreme Court are exempt and may issue guidelines for their buildings.
The order says that scientific studies have shown that the probability of transmission of the virus between two people drops from 17.4 percent when a mask is not worn by both to 3.1 percent chance if masks are worn. The order said mandating masks could save 500 lives between now and Oct. 1, according to a University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation study.