Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Milwaukee Mask Mandate Scaled Back

Special council committee to debate it. Outdoor requirement scaled back, minimum age raised.

By - Jul 8th, 2020 03:28 pm
Customers and employees wearing masks at Allie Boy's Bagels. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Customers and employees wearing masks at Allie Boy’s Bagels. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The proposed Milwaukee mask mandate will be reviewed by the Common Council’s Public Safety and Health Committee on Thursday afternoon.

A special, 2:30 p.m. meeting of the committee is scheduled to debate the ordinance. Members of the public can watch the July 9th meeting live on the City Channel. Individuals looking to leave a comment in advance of the meeting can submit it via the City Clerk‘s new comment function.

The ordinance has been changed since it was originally released on Monday evening, most notably the self-enforced outdoor mandate has been reduced from 30 feet to six and the minimum age of a mask wearer has been increased from two to three.

“It’s great to have had a community discussion over the past few days about mask use to protect our neighbors. We’ve taken your feedback and combined it with science and best practices to develop a MKE Cares plan that will keep us all safe,” said lead sponsor Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic. “We won’t regret requiring people to cover their faces in this pandemic, but will regret it if we don’t.”

Individuals would be required to “have possession” of a mask anytime they leave home and wear the mask whenever they enter an indoor public space.

When outdoors individuals would be required to wear a mask if within six feet of someone that is not a member of their household.

The Milwaukee Health Department is given enforcement power, not the Milwaukee Police Department, and can issue citations to repeat violators for failing to comply with the indoor mask requirement. Fines, levied by the municipal court judges, can range from $50 to $500. The Health Commissioner and City Attorney are authorized to pursue license revocation or court orders to close a building for businesses that do not comply with the indoor requirement.

The outdoor requirement does not have a penalty provision.

The only explicit exceptions in the proposal are for individuals under the age of three, individuals who have upper-respiratory chronic conditions and silent disabilities, and those exempted under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance due to a medical condition, mental health condition, development disability or other Americans with Disabilities Act provisions, and individuals in settings where it is not practical or feasible to wear face coverings.

Examples for settings that are impractical or unfeasible to wear a mask include dental services and medical treatments. Explicit guidance on practices within bars and restaurants isn’t included.

The MKE Cares mask ordinance is co-sponsored by JoCasta Zamarripa and Cavalier Johnson.

“In my view this is an important moment for city government to do what is needed to protect the health and safety of our citizens, of essential workers, and the entire community. I look forward to the robust discussion that will take place around this ordinance in the coming days,” said Dimitrijevic in a statement on Monday.

All city employees, including sanitation employees and police officers would be required to wear masks when in city buildings in all cases and when out in the field if the ordinance requires it.

Face masks are defined as any protective mask covering the nose and mouth, including cloth face coverings and surgical masks.

A separate council resolution would require Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik to set up a program to distribute free face masks on an as-requested basis to at least half of the city’s residents, approximately 300,000 people. It grants the Milwaukee Health Department the ability to accept up to $100,000 of in-kind donations for the effort.

Masks are believed to be an important tool by many public health professionals to slow the spread COVID-19 by blocking, at least partially, the spread of airborne respiratory droplets.

Committee approval would not immediately enact the mandate, and serves as a recommendation to the full 15 member council.

A special Common Council meeting has been scheduled for July 14th at 1:30 p.m. according to Legistar. Should the full council approve it, Mayor Tom Barrett, who has indicated support for a mask mandate, would have 10 days to sign off on the ordinance, veto it in its entirety or return it unsigned.

Details on the meeting and a full copy of the ordinance can be found on the city’s Legistar records system.

The original, out-of-date version of the proposed ordinance and the free-mask program resolution can be found on Urban Milwaukee. A Legislative Reference Bureau report examining mask requirements in other cities is also available.

Dimitrijevic told Urban Milwaukee that those wishing to speak at the meeting should email the City Clerk at

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.

Related Legislation: File 200426

Categories: City Hall, Health, Politics

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us