City of Milwaukee to issue 32 more citations for COVID-19 violations from past weekend

Alison Dirr
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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The City of Milwaukee will be issuing 32 additional citations to businesses that just last weekend violated a mask ordinance and other Health Department orders meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

This comes as a new, more contagious variant has been found in Milwaukee.

As of late last week, the department had issued 38 citations since July for violations of capacity limits, social distancing requirements and mask violations, which together amounted to $28,000. At that time, 11 additional citations were pending. 

The majority of the new citations were for mask and social distancing violations, not capacity violations, Interim Milwaukee Health Commissioner Marlaina Jackson said Tuesday.

The 32 citations were issued by Milwaukee Health Department staff that resumed site visits after a hiatus that followed a rally outside Serb Hall last year in which health inspectors were pushed and harassed, she said. The department later received a death threat.

A list of the businesses that will be cited was not immediately available Tuesday.

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Jackson said people are letting up on mitigation efforts such as social distancing, mask-wearing and washing their hands.

Those mitigation steps are necessary not only for the city to continue to see progress in its efforts to slow the virus' spread but also for the city to issue new orders allowing businesses to gradually reopen, she said. 

"If we see that individual companies or individual establishments cannot abide by their safety plans, it makes it very difficult for the City of Milwaukee Health Department to put orders in place that allow for additional capacities or less mitigation," she said, adding that's especially true given new COVID-19 strains.

The city's COVID-19 safety plans allow for more establishment-specific rules than provided in the city's overarching health orders.

The more contagious COVID-19 variant discovered in England late last year was reported in Milwaukee on Jan. 28, Jackson said.

On Jan. 13, officials announced that the state's first documented case of the new variant had been discovered in Eau Claire County

Late last year city officials raised the fine for businesses that violate the Health Department's COVID-19 orders from $500 to between $500 and $5,000, with a maximum accumulated fine of $20,000 in any one action.

City officials cited concerns that some businesses considered the $500 fine a cost of operating and not an incentive to comply with the city's COVID-19 safety orders.

The mask ordinance puts the responsibility on owners and operators of buildings open to the public to ensure compliance on the premises. It carries a fine of between $50 and $500 for mask violations and allows the city to pursue license revocation.

Contact Alison Dirr at 414-224-2383 or adirr@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter @AlisonDirr

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