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Dane County to enforce mandatory mask policy next week

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Public Health Madison Dane County announced Tuesday morning masks or face coverings will be required in public and private buildings effective Monday, July 13.

Emergency Order #8 goes into effect at 8:00 a.m.

Face coverings will be required of everyone five-years-old and up when in an enclosed space with anyone other than people they live with.

The order is countywide.

“Public health research now shows that face coverings are critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19. Given the current number of COVID-19 infections in our county, we need to all be wearing face coverings every time we leave the house,” said Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County.

“However, we do not take these orders lightly. We are facing two public health pandemics—COVID-19 and racism. People of color in our county have already experienced racism and discrimination when wearing masks in public, which is unacceptable. It is on every person in our county to do better. People should assume that everyone wearing a mask is doing it to protect you and themselves. If someone is not wearing a mask, assume they are genuinely not able to do so,” continued Heinrich.

“Masks and distance are really the two most effective means of slowing the spread of COVID-19,” County Executive Joe Parisi said. “Given the recent rapid increases in cases in our county—that happened even before school and university classes resume this fall—it’s imperative we take this step now to try and slow the march of COVID through our community. Nothing that’s happening right now is easy, or normal, but it’s what we must do – come together as a community and put everything we have into keeping one another safe,” Parisi added. 

Parisi said at a news conference while the order doesn't officially take effect until Monday, he asks people start wearing masks right away if possible.

County officials say they hope everyone will step up to protect each other, so they don't have to enforce compliance.

Still, if it comes down to it, there is a $376 citation possible for violating the order in the city of Madison, or $263.50 for the rest of Dane County.

"I think this community has to step forward, and step up and do the right thing for our neighbors. Because again, we're not doing this for ourselves, but we all look out for one another," Parisi said at the news conference.

This comes as an organization has filed a request for a court to block Dane County's recent order on public gatherings. County officials say they feel confident that order and this new one will hold up in court.

For those who don't have a mask, the county will help people get them. The emergency management department will coordinate with libraries and community centers to give out 20,000 masks. The county has also ordered 15,000 more cloth masks to share with the community. They're still working to set up those distribution sites.

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