Milwaukee mask mandate ends Tuesday after 10 months

The Milwaukee Common Council unanimously approved the city's mask mandate in July 2020. More than 10 months later, it ends Tuesday, June 1, bringing relief to many and uncertainty for some. 

"Oh my gosh, it feels great," said Daniel Arfsten.

The mandate's end brings a breath of fresh air for many Milwaukeeans on Monday, May 31.

"It fills my spirit with joy just seeing people getting back to, I guess you’d call it – normal," said Arfsten.

After nearly a year, Milwaukee's mask mandate and COVID-19 health order will soon be a thing of the past.

"Feeling separated from the people we want to get close to is becoming really hard," said Jose Ramos, manager and bartender at The Wicked Hop.

Starting June 1, Ramos said patrons can choose to continue wearing masks, but they will no longer be required, and that's not the business's only move toward normalcy.

"We’re going to certainly be removing the plexiglass," he said. "We’re going to bring in some new tables. It might get a little closer, but it's going to be a lot more fun."

On the patio, there are also plans to expand seating and maximize outdoor space.

"We’re welcoming people to bring their dogs outside and enjoy it and enjoy the good weather," said Ramos.

For Rachel Quast and her four-legged friend, seeing faces she's been missing is the best part.

"I’ve seen a change when I do my walks with little Benni all the time," she said. "The thing I’m most excited about is to see people smile."

Still, the mandate's end is met with hesitancy from others.

"COVID was scary for everybody," said Brittney Hart.

Hart works for Milwaukee Public Schools, where masks are still required indoors.

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"I feel safer with my mask on," said Hart.

She said she will continue to mask up inside businesses even when others aren't.

"Stay safe, Milwaukee," she said.

Mayor Tom Barrett said masks will still be required by Milwaukee as an employer. For example, masks must still be worn inside City Hall.

Restaurants and other businesses can still implement their own mask requirements.