What you need to know about Evers’ statewide face mask order

By Patrick Lynn

Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday declared a public health emergency and has issued an Executive Order requiring face masks anytime an individual is indoors and not in a private residence.

The order, which comes with some exceptions, will become effective at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1, and expires Sept. 28, 2020.

Individuals found not in compliance with the order are subject to a $200 civil forfeiture. It was not immediately clear which entity would be responsible for issuing the fines.

Under the order, Wisconsin residents ages five and older are required to wear a face-covering when they are indoors or in an enclosed space with anyone outside their household or living unit. Face coverings are strongly recommended if you are outdoors and maintaining physical distancing is not possible.

Masks are required anytime:

  • A person is indoors or in an enclosed space, other than at a private residence
  • Another person or persons who are not members of an individual’s household or living unit are present in the same room or enclosed space

Other exceptions to the requirement include activities such as eating, drinking, or swimming. Individuals with health conditions or disabilities that would preclude the wearing of a face-covering safely are also exempt from the requirement.

Exceptions include:

  • While eating or drinking
  • When communicating with an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing and communication cannot be achieved through other means
  • While obtaining a service that requires the temporary removal of the face covering, such as dental services
  • While sleeping
  • While swimming or on duty as a lifeguard
  • While a single individual is giving a religious, political, media, educational, artistic, cultural, musical, or theatrical presentation for an audience, the single speaker may remove the face covering when actively speaking. While the face covering is removed, the speaker must remain at least six feet away from all other individuals at all times
  • When engaging in work during which wearing a face covering would create a risk to the individual, as determined by government safety guidelines
  • When necessary to confirm the individual’s identity, including when entering a bank, credit union, or other financial institution
  • When federal or state law or regulations prohibit wearing a face covering

Exceptions also include:

  • Children between the ages of 2 and 5 are encouraged to wear a mask when physical distancing is not possible. The CDC does not recommend masks for children under the age of 2.
  • Individuals who have trouble breathing
  • Individuals who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance
  • Individuals with medical conditions, intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health conditions, or other sensory sensitivities that prevent the individual from wearing a face-covering
  • Incarcerated individuals. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections shall continue to comply with COVID-19 protocols to ensure the health and safety of its staff and individuals in its care. Local governments are strongly encouraged to continue or create COVID-19 protocols to ensure the health and safety of their staff and individuals in their care

“While I know emotions are high when it comes to wearing face coverings in public, my job as governor is to put people first and to do what’s best for the people of our state, so that’s what I am going to do,” Evers said in a news release on July 30.

Evers said the state is seeing “new and significant community spread and increase in cases of COVID-19 which requires that we declare a new public health emergency and require face coverings,” adding that 61 of 72 Wisconsin counties are currently experiencing high COVID-19 activity. Compared to June figures, when only 19 counties had high activity, Evers said the jump is concerning.

“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,” said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “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.”