A timeline of Gov. Evers’ COVID-19 response and the backlash because of it

Since the pandemic’s onset in March, the Governor has faced lawsuit after lawsuit challenging his virus emergency orders
This image taken from video by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows Wisconsin Gov....
This image taken from video by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Madison, Wis. Evers issued a statewide mask mandate amid a spike in coronavirus cases.(Wisconsin Department of Health Services via the AP)
Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 8:16 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Nearly eight months of political back and forth and lawsuits against executive orders, mask mandates, school closures, restaurant capacity and more Wisconsin has nonetheless reached a critical point in the COVID-19 pandemic. The state ranks third in the contiguous United States for the most positive cases in the last week per 100,000 people and is breaking COVID-19 related records daily. Gov. Tony Evers' virus response has been challenged by lawmakers, business owners and community members alike since the pandemic began in March. Most recently, the state Supreme Court has agreed to take on a case challenging the current mask mandate.

Here’s a timeline of the Governor’s response to the pandemic, and other important dates so far:

March 12 – Gov. Evers issues Executive Order 72 declaring a public health emergency and ordering the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to take the lead in the fight against the pandemic.

March 25 – Less than two weeks after Gov. Evers announced the public health emergency, the “Safer at Home” order goes into effect. Under the order, people are directed not to leave their home unless necessary. The order is scheduled to end on April 25. “I know the COVID-19 outbreak has been difficult and has disrupted the lives of people across our state. Issuing a Safer at Home order isn’t something I thought we’d have to do and it’s not something I take lightly, but here’s the bottom line: folks need to start taking this seriously,” said Gov. Evers

April 16 – A week before the order was scheduled to end, Gov. Evers extends “Safer at Home” until May 26 and closes all schools for the remainder of the school year. Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald criticizes Evers' decision, say that it reflects a one-size-fits-all approach" that does not consider how different parts of the state have been affected.


April 21 – The Wisconsin legislature files legal action in the state Supreme Court against “Safer at Home” order. “The governor has denied the people a voice through this unprecedented administrative overreach. Unfortunately, that leaves the legislature no choice but to ask the Supreme Court to rein in this obvious abuse of power,” Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a statement.

April 24 – “Safer at Home” extension begins.

May 13 – In a 4-3 ruling the Wisconsin Supreme Court blocks Evers' stay-home extension, ruling that the administration overstepped its authority when it extended the mandate for another month without consulting legislators. The 4-3 ruling essentially reopens the state, lifting caps on the size of gatherings, allowing people to travel as they please and letting shuttered businesses reopen, including bars and restaurants.

May 19 – The Evers administration lays out $1.17 billion plan to battle COVID-19. The program is paid for through the federal government’s $2 trillion CARES Act stimulus package. The bulk of the funds, $445 million, is set aside to brace the state for a possible resurgence of the virus in the fall.


May 26 – The Governor’s “Safer at Home” order expires.

June 21 – The State Emergency Operations Center’s 100th day of activation for the coronavirus response, the longest continuous activation for the center in Wisconsin history.

July 7 – Gov. Evers says statewide mask requirement is “unlikely” after the state Supreme Court struck down the “Safer at Home” order in May. “We really don’t know if I have the authority to do that,” Evers said. Public Health of Madison and Dane County, however, announces Emergency Order #8 requiring people to wear face masks when indoors.

July 13 – Mask mandate in Dane County and Madison takes effect.

July 30 – Gov. Evers declares a Public Health Emergency and issues an Emergency Order mandating the wearing of face coverings when someone is indoors except when they are at 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.

Aug. 1 – The statewide mask mandate goes into effect

Gov. Tony Evers declares a public health emergency due to COVID-19 March 12 in the State...
Gov. Tony Evers declares a public health emergency due to COVID-19 March 12 in the State Emergency Operations Center. (Source: Wisconsin Emergency Management) (NBC15)

Aug. 25 – A lawsuit is filed on behalf of three Wisconsin residents that seeks to overturn the statewide mask mandate.

Sept. 22 – Gov. Evers extends statewide mask mandate for nearly two more months. The executive order replaces the July 30 order. “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,” Gov. Evers said.

Sept. 28 – The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty files a motion for an immediate injunction asking a judge to rule the Governor’s extended emergency order and mask mandate “invalid and void.”

Oct. 1 –Gov. Evers and his administration are temporarily restrained from releasing any information of businesses whose employees have tested positive for COVID-19 or contact tracing had shown close connections after three businesses filled a lawsuit.

Oct. 5 - A Polk Co. judge hears arguments on whether he should temporarily block Gov. Tony Evers' emergency health declaration and mask mandate. The judge said he expects to issue a written decision “very, very quickly.”

Oct. 6 – Evers' limits indoor mass gatherings with Executive Order #3 after the state hits a crisis point. Under the order, public gatherings are limited to no more than 25 percent of a room or building’s total capacity. “We are continuing to experience a surge in cases and many of our hospitals are overwhelmed, and I believe limiting indoor public gatherings will help slow the spread of this virus,” the governor said. The order is expected to last until Nov. 6.

Oct. 8 – Executive Order #3 takes effect; mass gatherings are limited.

Wisconsin limits indoor mass gatherings
Wisconsin limits indoor mass gatherings

Oct. 13 – The Tavern League sues to end statewide limits on mass gatherings. The trade association states the industry cannot afford greater restrictions on its businesses, which it argues have not proven effective.

Oct. 14 – A Wisconsin judge temporarily blocks Gov. Evers' order limiting the number of people who can gather in bars, restaurants and other outdoor places.

Oct. 20 – Organizers from ‘Recall Tony Evers Now’ report they have enough signatures to recall the governor. The deadline to submit the signatures is Oct. 27. If enough valid signatures are submitted by Oct. 27, there would be a recall election scheduled in 2021.

Oct. 26 - Petition to recall Gov. Evers falls short on signatures. The recall petitioners criticized both Governor Evers and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes for their handling of the pandemic response and protests following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha.

Oct. 27 - Evers encourages self-imposed lock-down as the state shatters COVID-19 records. “There is no way to sugarcoat it. We are facing an urgent crisis,” Evers said during the news conference when the state’s top health officer revealed the state surpassed by wide margins its previous highs for new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Oct. 28 - The Wisconsin Supreme Court agrees to take on the case that wants to challenge the emergency declarations in Wisconsin. The case is set to begin at 9:45 a.m. on Nov. 16, but oral arguments will be conducted through video conferencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nov. 4 - The Wisconsin Supreme Court refuses to consider whether to reinstate Gov. Tony Evers' order limiting the size of public indoor gatherings.

Copyright 2020 WMTV. All rights reserved.