facebook linkedin twitter

Wisconsin Governor Issues New Mask Mandate After GOP Repeal

Wisconsin Governor Issues New Mask Mandate After GOP Repeal
FILE - This July 30, 2020, image taken from video by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers in Madison, Wis. Gov. Evers has issued a new statewide mask order an hour after the Republican-controlled Legislature voted to repeal his previous mandate on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. The Democrat Evers said in a video message Thursday that his priority is keeping people safe and that wearing a mask was the most basic way to do that. The mandate, saying masks are probably the most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Wisconsin Department of Health Services via the AP, File)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a new statewide mask order on Thursday, an hour after the Republican-controlled Legislature voted to repeal his previous mandate saying he didn’t have authority to make such a decree.

Evers and the Legislature have been at odds throughout the pandemic but the latest moves created an unprecedented level of whiplash. Republican lawmakers last year persuaded the state Supreme Court to scrap Evers’ stay-at-home order and a state appeals court halted the limits he placed on indoor gatherings.

As the Legislature moved to repeal the order, many cities and counties rushed to enact or extend local mask ordinances. Milwaukee and Dane County, where Madison is located, are among those with orders in place.

The Democratic governor said in a video message that his priority is keeping people safe and that wearing a mask is the most basic way to do that.

“If the Legislature keeps playing politics and we don’t keep wearing masks, we’re going to see more preventable deaths, and it’s going to take even longer to get our state and our economy back on track,” Evers said.

Republican state Sen. Steve Nass, who led the push to repeal the order, accused Evers of being a “lawless governor.” Nass said he was drafting another resolution to repeal the new order and was considering asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take emergency action.

The Supreme Court could end the legislative back and forth with a ruling in a pending case that says Evers must secure lawmakers’ approval every 60 days. The court could also say he doesn’t need approval, thus forcing the Legislature to repeal every order Evers issues if it wants to stop him.

The attorney who argued in the case to undo Evers’ order, Rick Esenberg, said “it is now incumbent upon the courts to rein in this abuse of power.”

The Republican position is in stark contrast to a diverse coalition of doctors, nurses, hospitals, health departments, schools, chambers of commerce, pharmacists, churches, firefighters and others who urged keeping the mask order in place.

Dr. Bud Chumbley, head of the Wisconsin Medical Society, blasted the Assembly’s vote to repeal, saying it “sends the wrong message at the wrong time.”

“Instead, we need all of our policy leaders to unify behind the same message: wear a mask to protect yourself and others, prevent additional deaths and restore our economy,” he said in a statement.

Health experts say masks may be the most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which has killed nearly 6,000 Wisconsinites, and that a repeal risks creating confusion and sending the wrong message about the importance of masks.

“We should be wearing masks,” said Democratic state Rep. Robyn Vining. “Masks save lives.”

Republicans say the issue isn’t about masks, but whether Evers can legally issue multiple emergency health orders during the pandemic. The Legislature argues he can’t, and must secure their approval every 60 days. Evers contends the changing nature of the pandemic allowed him to issue multiple orders and mask mandates.

“I know you want to make it about masks. It’s not,” said Republican Majority Leader Jim Steineke. “It’s about the rule of law.”

The Assembly voted 52-42 to repeal the mandate, with seven Republicans joining all Democrats in opposition.

The vote came a week after the Senate voted to kill the mandate. Republicans, who control both chambers, argued that Evers exceeded his authority by repeatedly extending the mask mandate without legislative approval. The repeal hadn’t even taken effect before Evers issued a new one.

The coronavirus has ebbed in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the U.S., but health experts have warned of a continuing danger, including the emergence of new and more contagious variants. All of Wisconsin’s neighboring states have some form of mask mandate, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy.

Prior to Thursday’s vote, Assembly Republicans sent Evers a letter saying they would support a more limited mask mandate that applies to places “susceptible to transmission of the virus.” Republicans said that includes health care facilities, nursing homes, mass transit, state government buildings, assisted living facilities, public schools, universities and prisons.

The Assembly also passed a bill that contains a provision designed to ensure the state doesn’t lose about $50 million a month that pays for food stamp benefits for roughly 243,000 low-income people in the state. Federal law requires there to be an emergency health order in place to receive the money. The Senate planned to meet Friday to approve the bill, sending it to Evers.

Evers has not said whether he will sign the bill.

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

January 26, 2022
by Alexa Hornbeck
HHS Awards Grants to Help Reduce Health Care Provider Burnout

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, awarded $103 million... Read More

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, awarded $103 million in American Rescue Plan Funds to 45 grantees to help reduce health care provider burnout and promote mental health and wellness among the health care workforce.... Read More

EPA Acts on Environmental Justice in Three Gulf Coast States

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is taking a series of enforcement actions to address air pollution, unsafe drinking... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is taking a series of enforcement actions to address air pollution, unsafe drinking water and other problems afflicting minority communities in three Gulf Coast states, following a “Journey to Justice” tour by Administrator Michael Regan last fall. The agency will conduct... Read More

As Fed Meets, Investor Angst Over Rate Hikes Spooks Markets

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wild volatility in the stock market this week has put heightened scrutiny on the Federal Reserve's meeting... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wild volatility in the stock market this week has put heightened scrutiny on the Federal Reserve's meeting Wednesday and whether the Fed will clarify just how fast it plans to tighten credit and potentially slow the economy. With high inflation squeezing consumers and... Read More

January 26, 2022
by Dan McCue
Cooper Chooses Retirement Over Running in Carved Up District

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., a member of Congress since 1983, on Tuesday became the latest House Democrat... Read More

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., a member of Congress since 1983, on Tuesday became the latest House Democrat to announce he won’t be seeking reelection in 2022. Cooper, a longtime member of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition of House Democrats, said in the end... Read More

January 26, 2022
by Dan McCue
Majority of Cities Felt Financial Wallop Within Weeks of COVID’s Arrival

CHICAGO — Despite an almost immediate infusion of emergency federal funding, the majority of America’s largest cities saw a sharp... Read More

CHICAGO — Despite an almost immediate infusion of emergency federal funding, the majority of America’s largest cities saw a sharp and lasting decline in their fiscal well-being when the coronavirus reared its ugly head, a new report says. Published by Truth in Accounting, a think tank... Read More

January 26, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
Supreme Court Affirmative Action Case Challenges College Admissions Policies

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear an affirmative action case that threatens to invalidate college admissions policies... Read More

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear an affirmative action case that threatens to invalidate college admissions policies intended to level the playing field for disadvantaged minorities. A group of Asian students say they were passed over by Harvard University and the University of... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top