On the Wearing of Masks

South Milwaukee and St. Francis Health Administrator Jackie Ove this morning issued new guidance on mask wearing. From it …

As we work toward a safe reopening of businesses and recreational opportunities in our cities, and with COVID-19 cases continuing to increase, I strongly encourage everyone in South Milwaukee and St. Francis to incorporate wearing masks into their daily routine when in public places. This includes all indoor public spaces and outdoor where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that each person over the age of two years should wear a face covering or mask when in public. This is in addition to protective measures such as hand washing, use of hand sanitizer, and when possible maintaining six feet of physical distance from others who do not live in your household.

I stand by this guidance, and strongly encourage everyone to follow it.

This is not an order, as you’ve seen issued in a few other area communities and in now half the states. (Milwaukee’s ordinance goes into effect today.) And the biggest reason for that is enforceability.

If you can not (or will not) adequately enforce an ordinance, it’s only words on paper, and we do not have the means or ability to enforce a mask mandate effectively. Even in those communities where they have been passed, that has been a point of contention.

Despite that, the motivation for these mandates is right. Masks save lives. And I credit leaders everywhere who are doing what they think is right to keep people safe. It is what we have been doing in the City of South Milwaukee since the start of the pandemic, knowing that not everyone will agree with our recommendations and actions.

For months, the South Milwaukee and St. Francis Health Department have been offering guidance around mask wearing; today’s statement clarifies and strengthens those recommendations.

Meanwhile, individual businesses and organizations are putting in place their own mask requirements, equipped with guidance from local, state and federal health officials. I was happy to see places like Walmart, Pick ‘n Save and Kohl’s announce such requirements on Wednesday.

I’ve heard from a number of people in the past week expressing support and opposition to a mask mandate, and, barring business-specific requirements, ultimately it is your choice whether or not to mask up in South Milwaukee.

Some will choose to. Some will not, for very valid reasons.

I will heed the advice of health experts and do so, with these words from our health administrator in mind:

The case for wearing masks is clear: They significantly reduce the potential for spreading the virus. Please do your part in protecting yourself and others from the spread of COVID-19 in South Milwaukee and St. Francis.

Stay healthy, South Milwaukee.

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