Dane County issues mandatory face mask order starting Monday

MADISON, Wis. — Starting on Monday, Dane County residents will be required to wear a face covering or mask when inside any enclosed building beyond their homes.

Public Health Madison and Dane County announced the Emergency Order on Tuesday. It requires anyone over the age of 5 to wear the coverings.

“Public health research now shows  that face coverings are critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19. Given the current number of COVID-19 infections in our county, we need to all be wearing face coverings every time we leave the house,” said Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County.

The mask must cover a person’s nose and mouth when in public. This includes all businesses, health care settings, waiting in line and on public transportation.

The order also requires individuals to wear face coverings when in someone else’s home.

Exceptions will be made for certain activities, like dining out, or if someone has a physical, mental or developmental condition that prevents them from wearing a mask.

Last week, Heinrich said the department was hesitant to issue a mandatory mask policy due to concerns of racial discrimination.

“We do not take these orders lightly,” Heinrich said.  “We are facing two public health pandemics—COVID-19 and racism. People of color in our county have already experienced racism and discrimination when wearing masks in public, which is unacceptable. It is on every person in our county to do better. People should assume that everyone wearing a mask is doing it to protect you and themselves. If someone is not wearing a mask, assume they are genuinely not able to do so.”

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said that given the recent increase in COVID cases in Dane County, “it’s imperative we take this step now and try to slow the march of COVID through our community. Nothing that’s happening right now is easy, or normal, but it’s what we must do – come together as a community and put everything we have into keeping one another safe.”

Gov. Tony Evers says he is considering a statewide mask requirement, but doesn’t think he has the authority to do that. He called on everyone, particularly young adults, to take the virus seriously. Evers also announced that more than 2 million masks will be sent to public schools.

The order also states that children ages 2-4 are highly encouraged to wear masks in public. If your child is not able to wear a mask, the order asks that they are only brought to places where it is necessary.

“Science keeps informing our response to this virus. The recent spike in cases showed that asymptomatic cases were on the rise in Dane County and so was community spread with no known source of infection. If people are sick and don’t know it, mandatory masking protects all of us,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

County government officials said they are working to provide cloth masks to those in need. Details on how to obtain free masks will be available on the Dane County website soon.