By Shereen Siewert

An online face covering noncompliance reporting tool will be live next week, Marathon County Health Department Public Information Officer Judy Burrows said.

The launch date was initially set for Friday but work was not completed in time, Burrows said.

A large number of the state’s sheriffs and police departments issued statements telling residents they won’t enforce Gov. Tony Evers’ Aug. 1 order. But the order itself appears to shift enforcement to local health departments, which are ramping up efforts to ensure compliance statewide.

Ryan Nilsestuen, Evers’ legal counsel, said this week that local health departments can recommend citations and fines to their local district attorney’s office when people refuse to comply.

At least one Wisconsin business is in jeopardy of losing its food and beverage license for defying the order. Helbachs Coffee Roasters and Kitchen in Middleton, which posted signs declaring a “mask-free zone,” will be called in front of the board of public health Aug. 25 after being issued three citations for violating a public health order, according to The Wisconsin State Journal.

And earlier this week in Milwaukee, nine businesses received warnings for violating Milwaukee’s mask mandate, according to Urban Milwaukee.

Some businesses and organizations have posted signs stating they won’t ask customers why they aren’t wearing a mask, an open invitation to defy the order.

“If you have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a mask, you don’t need to wear one,” the sign reads. “If you are not wearing one, we will assume this is the case. Due to HIPAA, and the Fourth Amendment, we will not ask you about your condition.”

But numerous health officials have weighed in on the claim and say that HIPPA, a law that regulates health insurance coverage and protects private health information, does not apply to businesses. Rather, the law covers health plans, health care providers conducting transactions electronically and health care clearinghouses, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The mask orders mandates anyone ages 5 and up, to wear a mask for all enclosed spaces except a person’s home. The new order also applies to outdoor bars and restaurants, except when people are eating or drinking.

Infection numbers continue to rise in Marathon County, which reported 623 confirmed cases and nine deaths as of Friday. A free COVID-19 testing event held Friday shut down several hours early after running out of tests. Five hundred tests were administered.

Marathon County health officials say the online reporting tool will help them identify multiple reports of non-compliance, which will prompt follow-up from their department.