Proposed mask mandate with '30-foot rule' requires coverings for everyone over age 2

MILWAUKEE -- All Dane County residents will be required to wear masks when indoors under the first order of its kind in Wisconsin, issued Tuesday, July 7, as deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 800 statewide and confirmed cases again increased, particularly among young adults. Meanwhile, Milwaukee's proposed mask mandate hit delays Tuesday after it was introduced Monday night. A Milwaukee Common Council committee was supposed to debate the proposal Wednesday -- but that's on hold while the proposal is revised.

Following the release Monday night, there are calls to make changes to the proposed mandate that would require masks for everyone over the age of 2.

Alderman Bob Bauman

"I don't have 2-year olds, but I've talked to some folks who are parents of 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds and they tell me that age number is completely unrealistic," said Alderman Bob Bauman. "Don't know how you make a 3-year-old wear a mask."

Bauman said he'd support some mask mandate, but this one misses the mark.

"I think this ordinance is in for a major rewrite," Bauman said. "I think we go back to what seems to be the standard framework of -- you wear a mask, unless you can maintain social distancing of six feet."

The proposed ordinance would require face coverings outside when 30 feet away from someone outside your family or household.

"I think the 30-foot rule is impractical," said Bauman. "I don't think that's realistic."

Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic

It would also require people to wear a mask when inside public spaces. The sponsor, Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, said it's about saving lives.

"As science shows us, having a face covering or mask on when you are indoors, is the most effective way, combined with social distancing, and other things like washing your hands to prevent the spread of COVID," said Dimitrijevic.

Her proposal would exempt those with certain medical or mental health conditions -- or when not practical, like when the dentist is cleaning your teeth.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he expects the Common Council to take a closer look at the proposal's draft in the coming week.

"We want to make sure it withstands a legal challenge if there is one, and the legal challenge would come in the form of equal application of the law," Barrett said.

Police would not enforce this proposed mandate; instead, it would be enforced by the City of Milwaukee Health Department, focusing their efforts on businesses.

This debates comes as as COVID-19 percent positive values trend upward, the Milwaukee County "cases" indicator moved from a "yellow" to "red" designation.

"Locally in the state of Wisconsin, we've been seeing nearly a doubling of this percent positive," said Dr. Ben Weston, Milwaukee County director of medical services. "This is what's extremely worrisome."

For now, Milwaukee is not mandating masks.

The order from Public Health Madison and Dane County takes effect Monday, July 13 for everyone age 5 and older who are indoors with people they don't live with -- meaning bars, restaurants, and even visiting friends in their homes.