By Kyle Schwarm, ABC of Wisconsin Marketing & Communications Director
Emergency Order #8 from Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC), which goes into effect on Monday, July 13, will require everyone age 5 and older to wear a face covering in any indoor space. The order, intended to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, includes individuals working on interior construction projects.
“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,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.
“Public health research now shows that face coverings are critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Public Health Madison & Dane County Director Janel Heinrich said.
Some contractors’ employees are already wearing masks on sites most of the time, but this will require it within Dane County.
“This is a pretty big deal for construction,” said Dan Parks, a safety manager for ABC of Wisconsin. “It’s not going away. If anything, it’s going to keep expanding.”
Parks said one issue for contractors is safety glasses constantly fogging up, which may prompt many contractors to seek anti-fogging safety glasses.
The order requires all employers to comply, according to the PHMDC Business Support Office, including interior construction work, but not exterior:
Interior work — Masks are required when more than one person is in the work area or you could come into contact with another person in the work area. According to the PHMDC website FAQ, a space must be completely open on all four sides to be considered outdoors and open windows does not establish outdoor space.
Exterior work — No mask is required unless individuals are unable to maintain distancing of 6 feet. Masks are required for employees who work with each other within a 6-foot radius. According to the PHMDC website FAQ, a space must be completely open on all four sides to be considered outdoors and open windows does not establish outdoor space.
This is a pretty big deal for construction.
“You have to protect the company and if you don’t have all the protection in place, how will you protect the company if you have an outbreak?” said Jared Weber, another ABC of Wisconsin safety manager.“
Weber said masks are a worthwhile measure if it prevents an outbreak on a jobsite, something contractors should consider.
Public Health Madison & Dane County
Emergency Order #8
Language pertaining to wearing masks
1. e. Face Coverings.
i. Every individual, age five (5) and older, in Dane County must wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth when:
- In any enclosed building where other people, except for members of the person’s own household or living unit, could be present.
- In line to enter any indoor space.
- Driving or riding on public transportation or in a paratransit vehicle, a taxi, a private car service vehicle, a ride-sharing vehicle, or any other for hire vehicle.
ii. Individuals may remove their face coverings under the following circumstances:
- While they are eating or drinking.
- When communicating with an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing and communication cannot be achieved through other means.
- While obtaining a service that requires the temporary removal of the face covering.
- When necessary to confirm the individual’s identity.
- When federal or state law prohibits wearing a face covering.
iii. The following individuals are exempt from the requirement to wear a face covering:
- Individuals for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by government safety guidelines.
- Individuals with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering.
“There’s a big difference between 24 hours to shut down a site to clean for one case versus having an outbreak and a whole crew out for 14 days or more,” he said.
One contractor, who has employees working in and outside Dane County, said it may implement a company-wide policy for all employees, regardless of where they’re working.
Contractors in Dane County may not be the only ones who will be dealing with such an order. Milwaukee reportedly is close to implementing an order similar to Dane County.
According to the PHMDC webpage on masks, enforcement will focus on businesses or individuals who consistently violate the order.
“If a citation is issued within the City of Madison, the ticket amount would be $376, if it is issued outside of the City under the County ordinance the ticket amount is $263.50,” according to the webpage.
Dane County officials have said they feel confident this order will hold up in court.