Face Masks and Coverings

Graphic with white face mask and text overlay reading Mask Up West Allis

On July 30, 2020, Gov. Tony Evers issued an Emergency Order requiring individuals to wear face coverings when indoors and not in a private residence, with some exceptions as clarified and defined in the order.  The order was extended on Jan. 19, 2021 through March 20, 2021. Emergency Order #1 requiring face coverings statewide is available here.

Under this order, Wisconsin residents ages five and older are required to wear a face covering when they are indoors or in an enclosed space with anyone outside their household or living unit. Face coverings are strongly recommended if you are outdoors and maintaining physical distancing is not possible. The order also enumerates exceptions to the requirement, listing activities such as when an individual is eating, drinking, or swimming. Individuals with health conditions or disabilities that would preclude the wearing of a face covering safely are also exempt from the requirement.

free masks available

West Allis Health Department has free, reusable cloth masks available for residents. Visit their Facebook page for updates on distribution events throughout the community.

frequently asked questions

From the Governor's Office (PDF)

How long is this order valid?

The order was extended through March 20, 2021.

Who has to follow this order?

It requires anyone 5 and older to wear a face covering while indoors and unrelated persons are in the same place.  It imposes this requirement on individuals and makes the rule enforceable against a person who is not wearing a mask.  

Why are face coverings required?

Cloth face coverings (or face masks) are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), and healthcare professionals as an easy way to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the cloth face covering coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice.

Rates of COVID-19 have significantly increased in Wisconsin as more people return to work and have more interactions in public. Wearing face coverings is the simplest way to slow and prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus without requiring people stay in their homes.

When do I need to wear a face covering?

You need to wear a face covering whenever you are indoors or in an enclosed space, other than a private residence, and other people are present in the same room or space. For example, you must wear a mask while you are shopping in a store or using a taxi.

When do I not need to wear a face covering?

You do not need to wear a face covering if:

• you are at a private residence;

• you are outside; or

• you are indoors and no one else is present.

You can also remove your face covering in the following situations:

• When you are eating or drinking.

• When you are communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing and you cannot communicate while wearing a mask.

• While sleeping (e.g., firefighters sleeping at a fire station).

• While swimming or being on duty as a life guard.

• When you are giving a religious, political, media, educational, artistic, cultural, musical, or theatrical presentation for an audience, so long as you have at least 6 feet between you and other individuals.

• When you are working if wearing a face covering poses a safety risk, as determined by government safety guidelines or regulations.

• When you need to temporarily remove your face covering to confirm your identify, such as entering a bank, credit union, or other financial institution or when having to show that you match your identification card when buying alcohol.

• When engaging in activities where federal or state law or regulations prohibit wearing a face covering.

Do I need to wear a face covering indoors, even if I can physically distance from other people at all times?

Yes, you need to wear a face covering indoors unless you are at a private residence or you’re the only person in the room.

Do I need to wear a face covering when I exercise?

It depends on where you are exercising. You do not need to wear a face covering if you are exercising in a private residence or outdoors. For example, you do not need to wear a mask if you are riding your bike on a trail. But you do need to wear a face covering if you are exercising indoors or in an enclosed space and other people are present, such as a gym, a cycling studio, or hotel workout room.

Do I need to wear a face covering when eating, drinking, or sleeping in indoor places other than my home?

No. But you must put your face covering on again when you are done with these activities. For example, while you’re waiting for your table or waiting for a server to come take your order, keep your mask on. This includes outdoor restaurant and bar areas.

I have a medical condition that prevents me from wearing a face covering. Do I need documentation to prove that I don’t need to wear a face covering in public?

No. You are not required to carry documentation to prove that you do not need to wear a face covering in public.

Does this order apply to private residences that are also used for business activity, such as a massage therapist who operates out of their home?

No, the order does not apply to private residences.

Where can I get a face covering?

You can make a face covering. The CDC provides both sew and no-sew instructions.

You can buy a face covering from a store, including online stores.

Also, many communities have programs where individuals can get a face covering for free. Check your neighborhood groups and community organizations for such programs. West Allis Health Department is also hosting mask giveaway events.

Can I wear a face shield instead of a face covering?

No. A face shield does not provide the same protections as a face covering. You are free to wear a face shield in addition to a face covering. But a face shield cannot be used in place of a face covering that would otherwise be required by this order.

There may be situations where a face shield can be used instead of a face covering if you are engaging in work where wearing a face covering would create a risk to you, as determined by government safety guidelines, or if you are engaging in activities where federal or state law or regulations prohibit wearing a face covering. But that will depend on the specific government safety guidelines.

Are face coverings required inside businesses and office spaces?

Yes, unless an exception applies.

Do I need to wear a face covering when in my car, in a ride-share service, or on public transportation?

The only time you need to wear a face covering in your own car is if you’re traveling with people from another household. You have to wear a mask if you’re using a ride-share or on public transportation.


The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has information on its website on wearing, cleaning, and making face coverings. Additional information can be found on the US. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website

Will businesses be required to provide face coverings for their employees or customers?

No. But many businesses may decide to offer face coverings to employees or customers and are encouraged to do so.

How will the face covering order be enforced?

The West Allis Police Department will not generally be dispatching officers to calls for service that solely involve an individual not wearing a mask. The Department simply does not have the resources to respond to these types of calls. As with previous State and local orders, if the WAPD has occasion to be in contact with somebody not wearing a mask, the Department's approach would be to educate as opposed to enforcement action.

What do I do if I see someone not wearing a mask, even though they should be?

Nothing. Some people have conditions or circumstances that would make wearing a cloth face covering difficult or dangerous. Just wear your mask and stay six feet away.

What do I do if someone is harassing me for wearing a mask?

No one should have to endure harassment, for any reason. Contact your local law enforcement.