A popup store selling face masks in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
State employees will be required to wear face masks on the job in state facilities or on state business in other enclosed buildings outside their homes starting Monday, July 13, according to an updated memo from the state’s Department of Personnel Management.
“The decision to require face masks was made in response to the increases in COVID-19 spread we have seen over the past few weeks,” says Molly Vidal, spokeswoman for the state Department of Administration (DOA).
“All state executive branch agency employees will be required to wear face masks at all times while indoors in state facilities,” Vidal says. “This requirement applies to all indoor spaces including common spaces, restrooms, break rooms, elevators, cubicles, offices, and conference rooms, regardless of the number of additional people present or physical space between individuals.”
Among the employees covered by the requirement are some who work in the Capitol but are not employees of the state Legislature or the state Supreme Court and court system. They include custodial, maintenance and security workers in the building, all of whom are DOA employees
A spokeswoman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which has members in state government but not a collective bargaining agreement, said AFSCME supports the requirement on behalf of the safety of workers as well as the general public.
“Public employees are essential employees,” Valerie Landowski, communications director for AFSCME Council 32, tells the Wisconsin Examiner — and many don’t have the option of working from home, whether they care for veterans in state veterans homes, take care of children or work in jails and other state and local municipal facilities.
As COVID-19 continues to spread, endangering the health of state residents and in some cases causing death, “any measures that we can take to mitigate those concerns is going to keep both our communities safe and the individuals serving them.”
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Gov. Tony Evers said at a DHS news conference earlier this week that he did not believe he would be able to impose a statewide mask requirement because of a state Supreme Court ruling May 13 throwing out the extension of Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order, limiting people’s movement and interaction across the state.
But Landowski says that the concerns that led to the mask order for state employees should point to broader measures for the state as a whole.
“We now are experiencing a spike in cases,” Landowski says. “We’re far from through addressing COVID and eradicating the virus.”
AFSCME, she adds, wants legislators to get behind broader statewide measures to curb the spread of the virus along the lines originally contemplated in the Badger Bounce Back phased reopening plan that the Evers administration had developed before the Supreme Court ruling.
“It’s reckless to consider opening the economy at this point to fully operational levels when we see such a widespread outbreak across the state,” Landowski says. “We’re calling on all legislators to also follow the science and take the measures to keep both Wisconsinites and all essential workers safe.”
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