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Dane County considers mandatory masks in public buildings

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Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.
Health officials say wearing a mask is an effective way to prevent you from giving COVID-19 to others.
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Health officials say wearing a mask is an effective way to prevent you from giving COVID-19 to others.

MADISON (WKOW) -- One Dane County official is considering requiring people to wear face masks in public places as the number of positive cases of COVID-19 continues to rise.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said he’s talking with Public Health Madison & Dane County about mandating face coverings in public buildings and possibly outdoor gatherings in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“I think it’s a real possibility, everything is on the table,” Parsi tells 27 News. “If we're unable to get this under control quickly, guidelines will continue to tighten.”

Right now, Wisconsin counties can only recommend people to wear a mask and practice social distancing.

Under the current state statute, local health officers can issue their own county-wide restrictions after Wisconsin’s safer at home order was struck down by the State Supreme court.

A legal expert with the Wisconsin Counties Association said counties could mandate faces masks, but implementing an order is easier said than done.

"The stakes are high, and if these counties take a position that later on in litigation turns out to be incorrect, then they are going to find themselves with a lot of problems,” said Andy Phillips, General Counsel for WCA.

Phillips said the Wisconsin Counties Association has been receiving a lot of questions about whether or not to implement a public health order to require face coverings. So far about 10 counties have reached out but Phillips did not disclose which ones.

To help local health departments make these decisions going forward, WCA is crafting guidelines to help determine what's lawful when enacting restrictions and how to enforce them.

For the last three weeks, WCA has received input from local health officials, law enforcement, business leaders, and other stakeholders. They plan to release their recommendations by the end of July.

"There's no statute that says here's where the line is drawn so we have to use the best information we have to say here's where we think the line might be drawn in this circumstance," said Phillips.

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Dan Plutchak

Social Media and Digital Content Manager, 27 News

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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