Dane County residents will be required to wear face masks in any indoor area outside of their own home starting next week under a new public health order.
The directive, announced Tuesday by Public Health Madison & Dane County, comes a week after local health officials upped restrictions on bars and restaurants following a spike in COVID-19 cases primarily driven by young adults.
Starting Thursday at 8 a.m., indoor dining and service at bars is prohibited.
The latest move, which goes into effect Monday at 8 a.m., compels anyone 5 and older to wear masks or other face coverings when in businesses, health care settings and more, as well as when visiting another person’s home.
Children between ages 2 and 4 are also “highly encouraged” to wear masks, the announcement notes.
“Public health research now shows that face coverings are critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19,” PHMDC Director Janel Heinrich said. “Given the current number of COVID-19 infections in our county, we need to all be wearing face coverings every time we leave the house.”
There are some exemptions to the new rule for those who have physical, mental or developmental conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask. Individuals who are eating at a restaurant also will not be compelled to wear a face covering, for example.
For those who aren’t able to wear a mask, local health officials are encouraging them to ask a business “for reasonable accommodation” such as curbside pickup or delivery.
“Masks and distance are really the two most effective means of slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said in the release. “Given the recent rapid increases in cases in our county—that happened even before school and university classes resume this fall—it’s imperative we take this step now to try and slow the march of COVID through our community.”
Masks must cover an individual’s nose and mouth, according to the announcement.
Wisconsin is one of more than a dozen states that don’t require face masks to be worn in public, according to media reports, a reality that’s unlikely to change at the state level.
Gov. Tony Evers told reporters Tuesday afternoon that the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision in May putting an end to the administration's extended safer-at-home directive hamstrung the state's response to COVID-19 and complicated the potential for an order mandating masks be worn.
"It makes it unlikely but it’s something we’re considering," he said.
The court currently has a 5-2 conservative majority. Its makeup will change slightly in August, to a 4-3 conservative edge, when liberal Dane County Circuit Court Judge Jill Karofsky joins the bench.
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