Sheriff Mike Lukas releases statement on Evers’ order

Courtesy Portage Co. Sheriff Mike Lukas

Yesterday, the Governor issued Executive Order #82 and Emergency Order #1, mandating the use of face coverings for all individuals who are indoors or in enclosed spaces who are present in the same room or enclosed space with someone who is not a member of that individual’s household or living unit.

Following the Governor’s announcement of these orders, we have received several inquiries regarding the enforcement of that Order.

The Portage County Sheriff’s Office supports individual actions that can be taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Those actions include but are not limited to social distancing, proper washing of hands, use of hand sanitizers, and the use of proper protective personal equipment (PPE), including face coverings. Additionally, we strongly encourage that all county residents follow the guidance set forth by the CDC, DHS, and local public health division.

We also appreciate the efforts of business owners, large and small, who have taken numerous steps to keep people healthy including but not limited to the use of safety barriers, social distance arrangements, and disinfecting procedures. We understand that some individuals may have medical conditions or disabilities that prevent them from utilizing face covering and expect county residents to share that understanding.

In order to provide some clarification that is consistent with our understanding of Executive Order #82, the goal is compliance and education and is not meant to be punitive. It is also not the job of county residents to police individuals who are not wearing masks, as there are numerous exemptions and it can place people into uncomfortable or possibly confrontational situations.

The Sheriff’s Office will not respond to reports of an individual or group of individuals not wearing face coverings. Please do not call 9-1-1 with these types of calls, either. However, the Portage County Sheriff’s Office will continue to respond to reports or complaints from a business owner, manager, or other premises owner who has already requested that an individual leave a premise for failing to comply with the face-covering mandate as it relates to that specific premises.

We anticipate that these circumstances will be rare, but enforcement is necessary under these circumstances because they are situations where a disturbance may be likely. In those situations, our focus is not on the face-covering order itself, but rather the fact that the individual is not wanted in a particular place, that the individual has been asked to leave and has not complied with the request of the person in control of that premises.

This enforcement response is consistent with most, if not all, of the other Sheriff’s Offices throughout Wisconsin.

We anticipate more information about the enforcement of the Governor’s executive order to come from the Governor’s Office or the Wisconsin Attorney General within the next few days. At this time, it is not clear who the Governor has designated to be responsible for the primary enforcement of the face-covering mandate.