Note from the Editors: You are still required to wear a face mask in public in Wisconsin. While the Wisconsin Assembly struck down the statewide mask mandate, Gov. Tony Evers has since put the mask mandate back in place.
Gov. Tony Evers has issued a new public health order and new mask mandate, shortly after Assembly Republicans voted to repeal the previous ones in place.
Evers signed executive order #105 and Emergency Order #1 on Thursday, establishing a new statewide public health emergency and a new requirement of face coverings in public places.
The orders came after the Republican-controlled Assembly voted 52-42 to repeal the previous mandate.
"Under the current public health emergency one person with no appeal, no ability to say how do we change this, no ability to override it gets to make dictatorial decisions," said Speaker Robin Vos.
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"Wearing a mask is the most basic thing we can do to keep each other safe. 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," said Evers in a video released Thursday. "We’re going to keep putting people first, we’re going to keep listening to the science, and we’re going to keep working to save lives so we can get through this pandemic together."
The mask mandate will expire on March 20.
Soon after the governor's announcement, Republican Sen. Steve Nass of Whitewater issued a statement calling Evers "lawless," adding he would draft another Senate joint resolution to overturn the new orders. Nass also called on Senate leaders to consider filing for emergency action in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
"Without a doubt, the lack of a broad order will frankly cripple our efforts to contain this virus to promote health and to prevent death," said Dr. Ben Weston, Director of Medical Services at the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.
Dr. Tito Izard, President and CEO of Milwaukee Health Services Inc., noted while the mask mandate is well-meaning, it is flawed.
"The way it is written as an executive order definitely has a lot of concerns, especially ensuring that all members of our community do not have access to the proper cloth or single-use disposable masks," said Dr. Izard.
Dr. Izard stressed everyone should be encouraged to wear a mask. In light of the new variants, Dr. Izard has been advising patients to wear both a single-use mask and a reusable clean cloth mask, along with eye protection.
However, Izard said the bandannas and neck gaiters listed as examples of face coverings in the mandate are not the same as proper face masks and can worsen the virus' spread. Plus, the exception for people who have trouble breathing needs clarity.
"Our elected officials should be looking for opportunities to ensure that COVID-19 resource distribution centers are available in all communities so everyone has equal access," said Dr. Izard.
In a statement, the Wisconsin Medical Society's CEO said the legislature's action sends the wrong message at the wrong time.