Milwaukee businesses could be fined for not enforcing proposed city masking mandate

Ristorante Bartolotta employees are required to wear masks. Photo Credit: The Bartolotta Restaurants.
Ristorante Bartolotta employees are required to wear masks. Photo Credit: The Bartolotta Restaurants.

Last updated on July 8th, 2020 at 12:04 pm

Milwaukee’s proposed city-wide masking policy would require people to wear a face covering whenever they are in an indoor public space and whenever they are within 30 feet of a non-family member outdoors.

The city released on Monday a draft ordinance of the policy, which is an effort to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Businesses would be responsible for enforcing the indoor masking requirement and would be fined between $50 and $500 for noncompliance after receiving a warning, under the draft legislation. The Milwaukee health commissioner would be allowed to shut down a business if it failed more than twice to enforce the mandate.

A business would have the right to refuse service to anyone who doesn’t wear a mask indoors.

Exceptions to the order include children under 2 years old, people who are advised not to wear face coverings because of a medical condition under CDC guidelines, people with upper-respiratory chronic conditions and silent disabilities, and those in settings “where it is not practical or feasible to wear face coverings,” such as medical or dental settings.

The proposal isn’t scheduled for a Common Council meeting yet, but a special meeting could be held this week, said David Kuta, public information supervisor for the city.

Currently, the city’s Health Department strongly recommends the use of a mask or cloth face covering, but has not required them. Businesses are allowed to require masks as a policy to provide service.

Milwaukee’s proposed policy integrates elements of those in New York, Los Angeles and Phoenix. The outdoor mask requirement is patterned after San Francisco’s policy, which requires people to have a mask on their person and wear it when they see another person within 30 feet of them.

Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic, who sponsored the “MKE Cares” legislation, said it’s time to require masks as new COVID-19 cases rise in the region. As of Tuesday, there were 9,903 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city, and 241 fatalities.

“The time to act is now, we cannot stand by while new cases soar, school reopening discussions are taking place, and people continue to die,” Dimitrijevic said. “We won’t look back and regret this science supported action to protect our loved ones, but we will regret it if we do not act. MKE Cares is built on compliance. We want you to do your part to help keep everyone safe.”

Dozens of Milwaukee businesses have called on city officials to require people to wear face masks in public spaces. They said it’s necessary for protecting workers and patrons, and to help customers feel safe about patronizing a business.

Saukeville-based Rebel Converting has pledged to donate the materials to make 1 million face masks if the city passes a mask ordinance.

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.

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