Sheriff: No enforcement direction given on mask mandate

Scott Parks 101316

Scott Parks 101316

Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday issued an executive order requiring people in Wisconsin to wear masks in public indoor areas. But some sheriffs are saying they won’t enforce the policy, and Marathon County’s sheriff says the state hasn’t given any direction on how to enforce it. 

The order is effect this Saturday, Aug. 1, and expires Sept. 28, according to a press release from the governor’s office. 

“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,” Evers says. “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.”

The order requires Wisconsin residents five years old and older to wear a mask when indoors or in an enclosed space when with anyone who is not a household member. The mandate includes exceptions for things such as eating and drinking, swimming, or certain disabilities or medical conditions. The governor put together a Frequently Ask Questions document with more details. 

Senate Republicans say they stand ready to strike down the order. 

Marathon County Sheriff Scott Parks says the state as of Friday afternoon hasn’t provided any direction about how to enforce the new order, which he found alarming. “We even checked with the Attorney General’s Office and they hope to have clarification by tomorrow,” Parks told City Pages.

Other sheriffs in northern counties have said they will not enforce the mask mandate. That includes Sheriff Ken Schneider of Lincoln County who said in a press release that his department would not investigate or enforce the mandate. Instead, the sheriff says, people should make their own decisions to protect their safety.


Tony Evers

Marathon County Coronavirus Public Information Officer Judy Burrows says it isn’t clear yet how enforcement of the policy will be handled. Burrows says she seems a lot of similarites to the smoking ban in public areas. “People were very concerned about how that would be enforced and what happened was,” Burrows told City Pages. “Many people complied, peer pressure in public spaces helped compliance, and there were relatively few instances where stronger enforcement was needed.”

Burrows says wearing masks is a proven strategy for preventing the spread of COVID-19, is easy to comply with and will help get kids back to school.