City of Milwaukee Passes Ordinance Requiring Masks to be Worn in Indoor Public Spaces
Thursday, January 20, 2022

On January 18, 2022, the City of Milwaukee Common Council passed an ordinance that would require masks to be worn indoors until March 1, 2022. The city’s acting mayor has not yet signed the order, but he has signaled that he is likely to do so.

The previous mask mandate under the “Moving Milwaukee Forward” ordinance expired on June 1, 2021.

The ordinance would apply to “[a]ny person 3 years old or older who is present in the city of Milwaukee.” A mask must be worn when the person leaves his or her place of residence and “whenever the person is in a building open to the public.”

The ordinance would modify the exceptions for “[p]ersons in settings where it is not practical or feasible to wear face coverings when obtaining or rendering goods or services to the extent necessary to obtain or render such goods or services” to include:

  • performers during rehearsals or performances;

  • individuals receiving dental services;

  • individuals receiving medical treatments; and

  • individuals who are eating or drinking.

The ordinance would repeal previous exceptions for individuals present in government facilities closed to the public, institutions of higher education, public and private K-12 schools, and childcare or youth facilities with approved mitigation strategies. The new ordinance would make an exception for those engaged in athletic activities. The ordinance would not affect the other exceptions, which include:

  • “Persons who fall into the [U.S.] [C]enters for [D]isease [C]ontrol and [P]revention’s guidance for those who should not wear face coverings due to a medical condition … [or] mental health condition, developmental disability, or for whom no other accommodation can be offered under the Americans with [D]isabilities [A]ct”;

  • “Persons who have upper-respiratory chronic conditions, silent or invisible disabilities, or are communicating with an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing”;

  • “Whenever federal, state, or local law otherwise prohibits wearing a face mask or where it is necessary to evaluate or verify an individual’s identity”; and

  • “Persons whose religious beliefs prevent them from wearing a face covering.”

There are no fines associated with violating the ordinance, but businesses that are not in compliance may face issues when renewing their licenses if the City of Milwaukee Health Department (MHD) receives multiple complaints about noncompliance. If the MHD receives a complaint that a business open to the public is violating the ordinance, it may send a letter explaining the business’s responsibilities under the ordinance. If the MHD receives a second complaint about the same business “at least one week after the initial letter [was] sent,” the department may follow up in person, by phone, or virtually to “develop strategies for compliance.” If the MHD receives a third complaint, the department may conduct an in-person visit, and if noncompliance is found, the department may submit a written statement regarding the violation to the license division of the city clerk’s office.


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