Gov. Evers extends statewide mask mandate

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 9:49 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2020 at 10:22 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - With a new executive order, Gov. Tony Evers added nearly two more months to the statewide mandate on wearing face masks.

The governor issued the order Tuesday replacing the original one, in which the requirement for face coverings would have ended on Monday. The order pushes that back 60 days, or until Gov. Evers decides to end it or lawmakers pass a resolution.

The new mandate is set to expire on November 21.

Explaining the order, Evers stated the state has moved into a “new and dangerous” phase of its battle against COVID-19, as the spread of the virus has seen an “alarming increase… especially on campus.”

“We need folks to start taking this seriously, and young people especially—please stay home as much as you are able, skip heading to the bars, and wear a mask whenever you go out,” he continued.

Evers points out that eight Wisconsin cities rank among the top 20 in the nation where the coronavirus is rising the fastest – six of which have a University of Wisconsin System school. Dept. of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm called the surge “concerning” and argued it isn’t contained solely to younger Wisconsinites.

“Students come to these campuses from across the state, and we worry about the effect their return from an area with a high infection rate could have on their home communities,” she said.

To drive home the point about the rapid spread in new cases across the state, the Governor’s Office points to the seven-day rolling average number of new cases. At the end of August, it stood at 678 per day for the previous week. It now currently stands at 1,792.

The increase in cases cannot be attributed entirely to an increase in testing either. On August 31, the percentage of total tests that came back positive was 8.6 percent, while it has since ballooned to 14.9 percent, according to DHS figures.

The state’s Chief Medical Officer and State Epidemiologist for Communicable diseases, Dr. Ryan Westergaard, noted that even with the jump so far, the outbreak could still get worse. In the governor’s statement he reminded readers that the peak time for respiratory viruses is late fall and early spring. He said the state needs to do what it can to arrest the spread of COVID-19 now so the state’s ready for winter.

“That is why we need to continue wearing masks and practicing physical distancing,” he said.

He also urged everyone to get a flu shot this year, explaining that people protecting themselves from that virus helps save valuable resources for people suffering from the coronavirus.

The order also designates the Dept. of Health Services as the lead agency to respond to the public health emergency, authorizes the Adjutant General to activate the National Guard as needed, and directs all state agencies to assist the state’s ongoing response.