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DNR’s iron mask mandate

Empower Wisconsin | Aug. 12, 2020 

MADISON — An Evers administration secretary believes if you’re going to be an overbearing bureaucrat, you might as well go all in. 

Preston Cole, head of the state Department of Natural Resources, recently instructed his staff that they must strictly follow Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate — even if it’s only for keeping up appearances. 

“Also, wear your mask, even if you are home, to participate in a virtual meeting that involves being seen — such as on Zoom or another video-conferencing platform — by non-DNR staff,” Cole said in a department email, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Set the safety example which shows you as a DNR public service employee care about the safety and health of others.”

Evers’ order went into effect on Aug. 1. It mandates those 5 and up to wear a face covering in an enclosed space. It excludes private residences. Many state employees remain working from their home, which apparently ceases to be their private property under Cole’s directive.

Evers’ statewide order comes with a maximum $200 fine, that he and Attorney General Josh Kaul apparently are not interested in enforcing. 

So what happens if DNR employees don’t abide by the DNR secretary’s demand?  That’s not clear. 

But DNR spokeswoman Megan Sheridan tells McClatchy News that the show must go on. 

“We ask staff to wear masks when on externally facing calls is that, taken out of context, a screenshot of a staff person or high ranking department official, if not properly attributed, could be misinterpreted to suggest that state employees are not properly following the Governor’s directive,” she said. 

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