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On July 30, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Tony Evers issued Executive Order #82, declaring a Public Health Emergency in Wisconsin, and Executive Order #1, via the Wisconsin COVID-19 Coronavirus Information website.  In Executive Order #1, every Wisconsin resident aged 5 or older is required to wear a face covering (a bandana, cloth mask, disposable or paper mask, neck gaiter, or religious face covering; face shields are not included) while in an indoor setting, unless in a private residence, outside, or indoors when no one else is present, until Sept. 28, 2020.  A FAQ was also released. 

Face coverings are required even if the individual can practice social distancing.  Face coverings are also required when in a car if traveling with people from another household or as part of a ride-share or public transportation.  Failure to follow the order can result in a civil fine of up to $200 enforced by local officials.  In terms of enforcement, individuals should not take any action against another individual that is failing to comply, but refer the matter to local officials.  Businesses are not required to provide masks to employees or customers, but may do so voluntarily. 

The order takes effect on Saturday, August 1, and includes several exceptions, including:

  • while eating or drinking,
  • communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing,
  • services where removal is needed (e.g. dental care),
  • sleeping,
  • swimming or as a lifeguard,
  • events in which the speaker can remove the mask while speaking and maintain 6 feet of distance from others (religious, political, educational, media, educational, artistic, cultural, musical, or theatrical events),
  • where the work performed would cause risk according to gov’t safety guidelines, or
  • when confirming an identity.

In accordance with CDC guidelines, the following individuals are exempt from complying: aged 2-5 years; have trouble breathing; unconscious or incapacitated; medical conditions, intellectual or development disabilities, or mental health conditions that prevent the wearing of a mask; and incarcerated individuals (which have guidelines from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections).  If unable to wear a mask because of a medical condition, medical documentation is not required to be carried as proof.  The Wisconsin Legislature and Wisconsin Supreme Court are also exempt.     

In Executive Order #82 declaring a Public Health Emergency, Gov. Evers appointed the Department of Health and Human Services as the lead agency to take appropriate measures to respond to COVID-19, and activated the Wisconsin National Guard to support upcoming elections and testing sites.  As a rational for the orders, Gov. Evers cited the increase of cases on a county-by-county basis, an increase in daily positive cases of COVID-19, Pres. Trump’s identification of Wisconsin as a “red zone” state with 21 other states, an increase in cases in Milwaukee and Green Bay counties, the strain on the healthcare system, confirmed deaths increasing to 911 people, the CDC’s projection of 1,800 deaths by fall, the novel nature of the COVID-19 virus, and the need to intervene to prevent the uncontrolled spread of infections.

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