MADISON, Wis. — Citing a new and significant community spread and increases in cases of COVID-19, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has issued an emergency order mandating that face coverings be worn in indoor settings statewide.
The order, based on what Evers labels a public emergency, took effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1, and expires on September 28, 2020, or earlier if the virus situation in Wisconsin changes.
Under the emergency order, Wisconsin residents ages five and older are required to wear a face covering when they are indoors or in an enclosed space with anyone outside their household or living unit. Face coverings are strongly recommended for those outdoors when maintaining physical distancing is not possible.
The order also makes exceptions to the requirement, listing activities such as when an individual is eating, drinking, or swimming. Individuals with health conditions or disabilities that discourage the wearing of a face covering safely are also exempt.
“While our local health departments have been doing a heck of a job responding to this pandemic in our communities, the fact of the matter is, this virus doesn't care about any town, city, or county boundary, and we need a statewide approach to get Wisconsin back on track,” said Gov. Evers in a prepared statement. “We’ve said all along that we’re going to let science and public health experts be our guide in responding to this pandemic, and we know that masks and face coverings will save lives. While I know emotions are high when it comes to wearing face coverings in public, my job as governor is to put people first and to do what's best for the people of our state, so that's what I am going to do.”
Health officials say Wisconsin has experienced a drastic rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the entire state, with 61 of 72 counties (84 percent), representing 96 percent of the state’s population, experiencing high COVID-19 activity. All regions of Wisconsin currently show numbers that reflect high virus activity levels, a dramatic increase from June when only 19 of 72 counties (26%) were experiencing high COVID-19 activity.
State case numbers reflect the trend: From July 1-7, Wisconsin reported an average of 556 new cases each day. Between July 22-26, an average of 938 new cases were reported each day.
“The data is what drives our decisions, and that data tells us we have significant community spread in Wisconsin and need to take statewide action,” said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “Community spread means that any interaction out in the community can mean exposure, and because people can spread COVID-19 without symptoms or even knowing they are sick, we need to take universal precautions in order for wearing face coverings to be effective.”
For more on Wisconsin's new emergency order, check out a special FAQ page on the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website.