Last updated on August 4th, 2020 at 01:03 pm
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday declared a public health emergency over the continued spread of COVID-19 and issued an executive order that, effective Saturday, will require Wisconsin residents to wear face coverings when indoors, or in an enclosed space, and other people are present.
The order does not apply to private residences.
People will not be required to wear masks if they are outdoors.
Other exceptions to the order include activities such as when someone is eating, drinking or swimming. Those with health conditions or disabilities that would prevent them from safely wearing a mask are also exempt.
“While our local health departments have been doing a heck of a job responding to this pandemic in our communities, the fact of the matter is, this virus doesn’t care about any town, city, or county boundary, and we need a statewide approach to get Wisconsin back on track,” Evers said in a statement.
The order will expire on Sept. 28, or by a subsequent superseding order. It comes after some individual communities, such as the city of Milwaukee, issued face mask orders of their own.
It requires any Wisconsin resident five years old or older to wear a face mask when indoors or in an enclosed space with anyone outside their household.
Further, the order says face masks are “strongly recommended” if residents are outdoors and maintaining physical distancing isn’t possible.
According to a FAQ sheet on the order, people need to wear a face covering while inside a business or office space. They also need to wear a mask while exercising indoors or in an enclosed space when others are present, such as at a gym or cycling studio.
Evers said the public health emergency and face mask order are necessary because the state is seeing new and significant community spread and increases in cases of infection. The rise in cases are being seen statewide, with 61 of 72 counties representing 96% of the state’s population experiencing high COVID-19 activity, according to a news release. This compares to June, when only 19 counties were experiencing high activity.
The average number of new confirmed cases has also increased through July, with each week seeing a growing number of daily cases on average over the previous one, according to the release.
There was an average of 556 new cases each day between July 1-7, an average of 764 new cases each day between July 8-14, an average of 890 new cases each day between July 15-21, and an average of 938 new cases each day between July 22-26.
“The data is what drives our decisions, and that data tells us we have significant community spread in Wisconsin and need to take statewide action,” Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said in a statement. “Community spread means that any interaction out in the community can mean exposure, and because people can spread COVID-19 without symptoms or even knowing they are sick, we need to take universal precautions in order for wearing face coverings to be effective.”