Local mask ordinances taking effect after statewide order struck down

Published: Mar. 31, 2021 at 1:07 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2021 at 3:21 PM CDT
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NORTHEAST WISCONSIN (WBAY) - Municipalities in Northeast Wisconsin are implementing their own mask ordinances Wednesday after the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the governor’s statewide public health order.

The Supreme Court ruling does not impact local ordinances, business mask requirements or federal mask requirements. Private entities may still require masks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masking as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19 until a majority of the population is vaccinated.

Action 2 News is reaching out to communities to find out where mask ordinances exist. A municipal ordinance has to be passed by a city or common council.


Appleton city officials say they don’t currently have a municipal mandate for wearing a mask. However, officials tell Action 2 News they are deferring to Mayor Jacob Woodford’s proclamation made in February which urged residents and visitors to use face coverings.

RELATED: Appleton mayor issues mask proclamation

The proclamation also urged businesses within the City to use face coverings. Mayor Woodford’s proclamation urged everyone to wear a mask until the COVID-19 case data indicated the pandemic had abated. CLICK HERE to read the full proclamation.

The proclamation is not an ordinance, and is more of a suggestion or encouragement to do something.

Officials say in order for a municipal mandate to be issued, it would take an initiative led by the common council, and as of this writing, city officials hadn’t heard anything from Appleton alderpersons.


De Pere’s City Council approved a mask mandate in public buildings for people age five and older. People with medical conditions are exempt. Churches are also exempt. There is no end date on the current ordinance.


Green Bay’s municipal mask ordinance expires at midnight. An alder tells Action 2 News the council is calling an emergency special meeting Thursday to discuss the next steps.


The City of Menasha says, “To keep our residents and employees healthy face coverings will continue to be required for visitors in City buildings including: City Hall, Elisha D. Smith Public Library, Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue stations, & Menasha Utilities until further notice.”

The city says 1 in 10 people in Menasha were infected with the COVID-19 virus since it was first confirmed in Wisconsin in February, 2020.

“With the relatively small proportion of our population vaccinated at this point, the City of Menasha and its health department, as well as the CDC, continue to recommend the use of face coverings in public places and indoors.”


Oshkosh’s face covering ordinance took effect immediately after the Supreme Court order was issued. It requires people age five and older to wear face masks in public buildings. The ordinance is in effect until April 30.

The city’s common council passed the ordinance at its March 9 meeting in response to the legal challenge against the statewide mandate.

“The Council has determined that a face covering ordinance is a reasonable measure necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community. The local ordinance applies to enclosed spaces accessible to the public. The ordinance creates a number of exceptions similar to orders by states and other municipalities. They include making exceptions for persons from wearing face coverings while eating and drinking, when necessary to receive certain services, persons with chronic upper respiratory or other medical or other disabilities that may prevent or impair the person’s ability to wear a face covering, persons engaged in exercise and individual speakers or performers.”

The ordinance includes an exception for schools and state and federal entities. Schools and state buildings will be able to make their own rules.


Members of the Brown County Health and Human Services - Public Health Division say effective immediately, a Health Advisory is in place.

The advisory isn’t an order or mandate, due to the county’s public health department not being able to issue an enforceable mask order without authority from the County Board being provided in the form of an ordinance.

The advisory says everyone who is five and older should wear a face covering or mask when in any enclosed building where other people, except for members of the person’s own household, could be present, as well as when social distancing of six feet or more can’t be done or guaranteed. Children ages 2-4 are highly encouraged to wear masks in public. Any child which isn’t able to wear a mask should only be brought to places where it is necessary.

According to county health officials, people should wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth when in pubic, including in businesses, health care settings, when waiting in line and on public transportation.

In addition, officials say community members should wear face coverings when in someone else’s home when you aren’t of the same family group, however exceptions can be made for certain activities such as eating at a restaurant. However, when those exceptions are in place, people who aren’t from the same household or living unit should stay six feet away from others.

Those who have a physical, mental, or developmental condition that prevents them from wearing a mask may be exempted.

County health officials say the advisory shouldn’t be used to justify or harass another person who is or isn’t wearing a face covering.


Calumet County requires masks inside all county buildings. A statement from the county government says, “Calumet County does not intend to issue a countywide mask mandate at this time.” Individual communities and businesses are allowed to set their own requirements.

The county’s public health officer recommends everyone continue mitigation factors to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus on their own, including wearing a mask, social distancing and frequent hand washing.


Outagamie County Public Health Officer Natalie Vandeveld issued an emergency health order on Thursday, April 1, requiring face coverings anywhere under the jurisdiction of the county health department. The exceptions are the City of Appleton and Oneida Nation, which have their own health departments. The order will apply to everyone age 5 and older when indoors or in enclosed spaces around people who are not household members, with some exceptions (click here for our full report). The order is in effect until further notice, and county ordinance allows for a fine from $5 to $500 on the first violation and $10 to $500 for a second violation.

“While a statewide approach is much more effective in combating a global pandemic, today’s Supreme Court decision leaves us no other choice but to act at the local level to protect the health and safety of our community,” County Executive Tom Nelson wrote in a statement Wednesday.

The Outagamie County Board passed a resolution last month urging the Legislature to work with the governor for a statewide strategy to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus.


County health officials say they are reaffirming an Health Advisory, which says everyone ages five and older should wear a face covering or mask when in any enclosed building where other people could be present. That advisory doesn’t include buildings where members of a person’s own household or living unit could be present.

However, it does pertain to when social distancing of six feet or more can’t be maintained or guaranteed in buildings.

The advisory applies to all areas of the Winnebago County Health Department’s jurisdiction except for the City of Oshkosh, which has a mask mandate in effect.

Doug Gieryn, the Winnebago County Public Health Officer, issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

“The State Supreme Court ruling today was about the Governor’s authority, not the need for a masking mandate. It is still critical to wear a mask to reduce the spread of COVID-19, an illness that in Wisconsin already cut short at least 6,622 lives and resulted in at least 27,598 hospitalizations. It’s important to continue to follow masking, social distancing, and hand washing recommendations, since we are starting to see variants in Northeast Wisconsin and want to prevent a surge of COVID-19 cases from spring break, the Easter holiday and the more casual attitudes about group gatherings now that vaccination is underway. Stay the course with masking and get tested if you have traveled, are ill, or otherwise feel you have been exposed, and get your vaccine. No one wants to be the person that infected someone else. The sooner we vaccinate our community, the sooner we will be able to return to more normal activities. Vaccinations over the next two months will get us to a much better place.”

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