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Mandatory masks in the City of Milwaukee moved forward today.

Committee passes mask mandate, moves to Common Council for vote next week

After an almost two hour meeting and discussion, the Public Safety and Health Committee passed a proposed mask mandate for the City of Milwaukee. The ordinance now proceeds to the entire Common Council for approval next week.

Sponsored by Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic, the mandate – titled MKE Cares – will require a mask or face covering on any person in an indoor public space, as well as a mask or face covering on any person when within six feet of another person in a outdoor public space, save for those who are members of the person's family or household. Businesses found in violation of the ordinance will be given a citation of no less than $50 and no more than $500, enforced by the health department. All businesses must enforce the mandate as well or risk the health department revoking licenses or closing the building down.

The ordinance includes select exceptions, such as children under three years old, those who shouldn't wear masks due to a medical condition or disability, and select impractical cases such as receiving dental services or amid the act of eating or drinking.

During the two-hour meeting, concerns with the ordinance were debated. Ald. Mark Borkowski brought issue with the enforceability of the outdoors aspect of the ordinance as well as questioned how it would work for City of Milwaukee neighborhoods bordering un-mandated parts of the county, while Ald. Scott Spiker asked about technicalities such as indoor restaurant and bars with outdoor patios. In the end, the mandate passed three votes (Ald. Dimitrijevic, Ald. Spiker and Ald. Chantia Lewis) to one nay (Ald. Borkowski) and one abstention (Ald. Khalif Rainey).

The ordinance will now go to the full Common Council on Monday, July 13, for a vote, and if the mandate passes, it shall go to Mayor Tom Barrett for a signature, veto or unsigned return, though Barrett has previously voiced his approval for the measure.

Dozens of Milwaukee businesses – including OnMilwaukee – announced their support for a city-wide mask mandate last week, while Saukville manufacturer Rebel Converting added Tuesday morning that, if the ordinance were to pass, the company would donate the materials needed to make a million masks free to low-income individuals and available to law enforcement to hand out as needed if the City deemed that appropriate.

In addition to the mandate, the Public Safety and Health Committee also approved of a "Masks for All" resolution that intends to give all City residents a washable and reusable face mask without charge on request, though further details and logistics on the program have yet to be determined.

For full copies and details on the legislation and discussion Thursday afternoon, click here. And stay tuned to OnMilwaukee for more details and updates as they become available.

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