Yesterday afternoon, Governor Evers issued Executive Order #82, declaring a public health emergency in response to Wisconsin’s increased outbreak levels and statewide spread of COVID-19. The Governor’s public health emergency powers under Wis. Stat. § 323.10 and Wis. Stat. § 323.12(4)(b) authorize him to issue public safety orders. Pursuant to those powers, the Governor issued Emergency Order #1, which requires face coverings in specified situations. That order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, August 1, 2020.

This provides some basic information about the orders.

The goal is voluntary compliance. For intentional violations of the face covering order, enforcement will depend on the factual setting.

Unlike the “Safer at Home” order issued by Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Palm this spring, violations of the Governor’s face covering order, standing alone, are not subject to criminal penalty. Instead, an intentional violation is enforceable through a civil forfeiture of no more than $200. Such a violation may be reported to a local public health official for follow-up or to a district attorney, who has statutory authority under Wis. Stat. § 978.05(2) to prosecute state forfeiture actions.

Consider conferring with your District Attorney, corporation counsel, and local public health officials to develop an efficient way for citizens to report their concerns about violations of the face covering order. It is within the District Attorney’s authority to take referrals from public health officials, law enforcement, or others in the community who report intentional violations.

There may be occasions where businesses or individuals face behavior rising to the level of disorderly conduct. Of course, as always, law enforcement has the authority to investigate and address such conduct.

The order does not apply to courtrooms or court proceedings.

In issuing his order, the Governor cited the effectiveness of face coverings in reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. We will keep you updated about any legal developments. Note that the validity of the order is not controlled by the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision in Wisconsin Legislature v. Palm, 391 Wis. 2d 497, 942 N.W.2d 900 (2020). That decision addressed statutes in Chapter 252 that govern how Secretary-designee Palm carries out her duties as the DHS Secretary. Governor Evers’ emergency powers are under different statutes, in Chapter 323.

We will update you further as we have additional information.

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