Milwaukee Common Council to consider reinstating citywide indoor masking requirement

NOW: Milwaukee Common Council to consider reinstating citywide indoor masking requirement

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- City of Milwaukee officials are debating whether or not it is time to bring back a mask ordinance.

An ordinance requiring face coverings to be worn indoors is heading to the Milwaukee Common Council after it passed through the Public Safety and Health Committee with three ayes and two abstains on Friday, Jan. 7.

"If you're going to enter a building that's open to the public, we want you to have a mask on to protect yourself, to protect other patrons, folks around you and the workers who are continuing to serve us on the front lines," Ald. JoCasta Zamarripa, the ordinance sponsor, said.

A citywide masking requirement is something some school leaders and business owners have been begging the city to issue.

"It takes a village to educate a child, and I'd say it also takes a village to keep our children healthy," Milwaukee School Board President Bob Peterson said.

Not everyone can see a purpose for a masking ordinance.

"It seems like we're rushing into a decision without knowing what the Sam heck we're doing, just to do something whether it makes sense or not," Ald. Mark Borkowski said. 

There's confusion around who and how it would be enforced.

Zamarripa said she's looking to Dane County for guidance, where they've had a successful mask ordinance for months.

"If folks can get a mask mandate in place, even for a month, it would be helpful," Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said.

Public Health Madison and Dane County enforces their ordinance through education. The department only issues citations after multiple failed attempts at compliance. 

The City of Milwaukee Health Department said it does not have proper staffing to enforce an ordinance.

"An unenforceable mask mandate shifts the burden of convincing people to wear masks to the business community and its front-line employees. It requires employees to act as the ‘mask police,'" part of a statement from Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce read.

Parisi told CBS 58 it would be helpful in the fight against COVID-19 if neighboring counties committed to masking up as they have.

"Look for a way you can, not why you can't," Parisi said.

Acting Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson is expected to announce a development regarding public health and safety during the COVID-19 omicron surge at 6 p.m. on Friday. Jan. 7.

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