Mandatory masks in Wisconsin goes into effect Saturday

Masks will soon be required across the entire state of Wisconsin.
Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 12:54 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Masks will soon be required across the entire state of Wisconsin.

On Thursday, Gov. Tony Evers declared a Public Health Emergency and issued an Emergency Order mandating the wearing of face coverings when someone is indoors, except when they are in a private residence.

“While I know emotions are high when it comes to wearing face coverings in public, my job as governor is to put people first and to do what’s best for the people of our state, so that’s what I am going to do,” Evers said.

The order goes into effect on Saturday, Aug. 1 and is set to end on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. It requires everyone five and older to wear a face covering when they are in an enclosed space outside of their household or living unit.

It contains exceptions for people with health conditions or disabilities that would prevent someone from wearing a mask. It also carves exceptions for eating, drinking and swimming. Full list of exceptions is available here.

“While our local health departments have been doing a heck of a job responding to this pandemic in our communities, the fact of the matter is, this virus doesn’t care about any town, city, or county boundary, and we need a statewide approach to get Wisconsin back on track,” Evers added.

The Evers Administration stated the increased number of cases of COVID-19 in the state as well as “new and significant community spread” as reasons for the issuing the emergency declaration and mask order at this time.

It pointed to an increase in the average number of new cases across the first several weeks of July, saying there were an average of 556 new cases each day between July 1-7. That number rose each subsequent week, reaching 938 cases per day between July 22-26. The latest Dept. of Health Services figures show that seven-day average currently stands at 886 cases per day.

“The data is what drives our decisions, and that data tells us we have significant community spread in Wisconsin and need to take statewide action,” said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm.

Wisconsin Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard explained that while staying home, limiting interactions, socially distancing and washing hands, are still considered the best way to fight the spread of the virus, a “growing number of scientific studies tell us that face coverings... are extremely effective for preventing the spread of COVID-19 through respiratory droplets.”

Reaction from lawmakers

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said in a statement Thursday that he does not favor a statewide mask mandate, and continued to support a county-led approach.

“Local governments have been responding appropriately and increasing precautionary measures as needed. But Wisconsin shouldn’t have a one-size-fits-all mandate. It doesn’t build public support when there are questions surrounding the metrics and the constitutionality of this mandate,” according to Vos.

“It’s disappointing that yet again Governor Evers has chosen to not communicate or work with the legislature. There are certainly constitutional questions here; I would expect legal challenges from citizen groups,” Vos said.

Speaker Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald led Republican efforts against Gov. Evers’ extension of the statewide ‘Safer at Home’ order, eventually sending it in front of the state Supreme Court. The high court decided to block the statewide order, thus allowing counties and their health departments to lead local responses against the coronavirus.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said he supported the mandate in a statement: “Increasing the use of masks means fewer COVID-19 cases, more lives saved, a faster economic recovery, and less interruption of schools.. This new policy is a significant, positive step in the fight against the coronavirus.”

Madison mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said in a release that “While the COVID-19 numbers in Madison are going in the right direction again, the pandemic is out of control in much of the state. Even the Supreme Court thought that Republican leaders in the legislature would act, but they have abdicated their responsibility to protect the public from illness and death."

“Governor Evers is right to take decisive action on a mask order before the school year begins and I hope that the courts will support this inexpensive, common sense measure which has proven to reduce the transmission rate,” according Rhodes-Conway.

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