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Milwaukee Common Council approves mask mandate

Milwaukee has moved one step closer to reinstating a citywide mask mandate. The Milwaukee Common Council approved a proposed mandate Tuesday morning on a 12-1 vote.

The ordinance would require anybody over the age of three to wear a mask in indoor, public settings and would be in effect through March 1.

The ordinance would need to be signed by Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson to go into effect. Johnson, who is one of six candidates on the ballot for Feb. 15 mayoral primary, has not indicated his position on the mandate, but he told Fox 6 this week he'd rather see the city prioritize vaccinations over masks. "We have the best tool to defeat Covid, which is to substantially reduce people’s symptoms, which is vaccination," he said. "We should be pushing folks to do that."

Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic spoke in favor of a citywide mask ordinance Tuesday

The ordinance would apply only to the City of Milwaukee, not Milwaukee County.

The exact wording of the mandate was not initially clear because the ordinance was rewritten at the last minute before today's vote. Sponsors of the bill said the ordinance was softened to emphasize encouraging masks instead of imposing fines on those who violate the mandate. Ald. Nic Kovac, who supported the mandate, admitted some would call the ordinance "watered down," but said it was necessary to encourage masking in the city.

Despite his concerns about how effective the ordinance will be, Ald. Bob Bauman supported it, saying that it was tantamount to a recommendation to wear masks. "This is a recommendation, folks," Bauman said. "This is not a mandate of anything."

Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic, who co-sponsored the ordinance with Ald. JoCasta Zamarripa, said the ordinance is necessary due to recent record-breaking rates of Covid-19 infection in the state. Zamarripa said business owners have been pleading for the ordinance so they can post signs saying masks are required by the city.

Health officials continue to stress that Covid-19 vaccines provide the strongest protection against serious illness or hospitalization due to the virus. Vaccines and boosters are free and widely available. For more information on Covid-19 vaccines, you can visit Radio Milwaukee’s vaccine resource guide.