September 21, 2021

Volume XI, Number 264


September 21, 2021

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September 20, 2021

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Evers issues statewide mask order for Wisconsin

Today, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers issued Executive Order #82, Relating to Declaring a Public Health Emergency (Order #82) proclaiming a public health emergency for the State of Wisconsin related to the ongoing spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The proclamation of this health emergency allows Governor Evers to issue emergency orders, which he also did today. Governor Evers issued Emergency Order #1, Relating to preventing the spread of COVID-19 by requiring face coverings in certain situations (Emergency Order #1).

Emergency Order #1, subject to certain exceptions, requires all individuals in Wisconsin to wear face coverings while indoors and in the presence of other individuals.


Face covering requirement

Emergency Order #1 takes effect at 12:01 am on August 1, 2020, and remains in effect until September 28, 2020, the same date the emergency declaration under Executive Order #82 expires. All individuals age five or older must wear a face covering when they are indoors or in an enclosed space, other than a private residence, and another person not of the same household is present in the same room or enclosed space.

When face coverings may be removed

The order includes several exceptions, allowing individuals to remove face coverings while:

  • Eating or drinking (but not while waiting to be served)
  • Communicating with an individual who is hearing impaired and communication cannot be achieved through other means
  • Obtaining a service that requires the temporary removal of the face covering, such as dental services
  • Sleeping
  • Swimming or on duty as a lifeguard
  • A single individual is giving a religious, political, media, educational, artistic, cultural, musical or theatrical presentation for an audience (although social distance of six feet must be maintained when a mask is not worn) 
  • Engaging in work where wearing a face covering would create a risk to the individual, as determined by government safety guidelines
  • Having one’s identity verified, including when entering a bank, credit union or other financial institution
  • In situations where federal or state law or regulations prohibit wearing a face covering


Certain individuals are exempt entirely from the face covering order, including individuals under the age of five and individuals who have trouble breathing, a medical condition, intellectual or developmental disability, mental health condition, or other sensory sensitivity that prevents the individual from wearing a face covering.

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document released in conjunction with Emergency Order #1 also makes clear that individuals with medical conditions are not required to carry documentation demonstrating they are unable to wear a face covering.

Adequate face coverings

To qualify under the order, the face covering must cover the nose and mouth completely, and includes bandanas, cloth face masks, disposable or paper masks, neck gaiters, or religious face coverings. Face shields, mesh masks, masks with holes or openings, or masks with vents do not qualify under Emergency Order #1. 


Under Wis. Stat. § 323.28, Emergency Order #1 is enforceable by civil forfeiture of not more than $200. 

Impact on municipal and county orders

Emergency Order #1 establishes a statewide minimum requirement for face coverings. However, local governments may issue orders that are more restrictive than the statewide order.


Emergency Order #1 applies to all indoor spaces. The FAQ document makes clear that Emergency Order #1 applies within private businesses and office spaces. Emergency Order #1 also extends to certain outdoor spaces where individuals congregate, including outdoor bars, restaurants and park structures. Enclosed spaces also include taxis, public transportation and rideshare vehicles.

Wisconsin businesses that have not already enacted a face covering policy for employees and customers must now do so. Employers and businesses are not required to provide masks but can.

Copyright © 2021 Godfrey & Kahn S.C.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 212

About this Author

Margaret Kurlinski, Labor & Employment Attorney with Godfrey Kahn

Meg Kurlinski is an associate member of Godfrey & Kahn's Labor and Employment Practice Group. Meg assists clients with a variety of labor and employment matters, including the management of day-to-day employment matters, drafting and enforcing restrictive covenant agreements, administering family and medical leave laws, litigating federal and state discrimination claims, conducting unlawful harassment investigations, and drafting affirmative action plans.

Zachary Bemis insurance lawyer Godfrey Kahn
Special Counsel

Zach Bemis is an administrative and regulatory attorney and a member of the firm’s Insurance Practice and Political Law Groups.

Prior to joining Godfrey & Kahn, Zach served as Chief Legal Counsel at the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance where he was responsible for providing legal counsel to the Commissioner’s Unit and overseeing OCI’s Legal Unit. At OCI he helped develop and implement the agency’s regulatory sandbox and led a cyber security working group. He assisted the Commissioner in drafting and issuing final orders and decisions, including review of...