City of Milwaukee’s COVID health order, mask mandate to expire June 1

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

Last updated on May 20th, 2021 at 12:08 pm

Milwaukee’s COVID-19 health order will expire June 1, two weeks sooner than originally planned.

The expiration of the health order will eliminate the city’s mask mandate and gathering-size limits, which have been in effect for over a year to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Last week, city officials said the city would lift its occupancy and gathering-size limits for businesses and events on June 15. Today’s announcement from city officials moves that timeline up by 14 days.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said the city will continue to emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated.

City health commissioner Kirsten Johnson said the CDC’s guidance issued last week saying vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear masks in most cases made it “very difficult” for the city to have a mask mandate in place for only unvaccinated residents.

“It really just put us in a position where we had to make the best decision we can for our community and for our city and we are very hopeful this incentivizes people who are unvaccinated to get vaccinated,” Johnson said.

Johnson noted that all people regardless of vaccination status are still encouraged to wear masks in schools, congregant living settings and medical facilities, per the CDC’s recommendations.

She noted that the city won’t have a mechanism for individuals to prove their vaccination status.

“There is no way for us to know,” Johnson said. “We are trusting individuals, residents in the city of Milwaukee, to be honest and wear a mask if they are unvaccinated.”

Businesses and organizations may enforce their own masking and social distancing requirements.

Several major retailers announced they are lifting their masking requirements this week, including Target, Walmart, Starbucks, Costco and Trader Joe’s.

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Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits and education for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism. In her free time, Lauren enjoys hiking, kayaking, and seeing live music.

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