WAUKESHA — Waukesha County has decided to not issue a local mask order after the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the statewide mandate Wednesday.
Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow argued in a statement shortly after the high court's decision that residents should be able to make "informed choices to protect themselves."
Farrow cites high vaccination rates, low hospitalizations and rapidly dropping cases of coronavirus as evidence that Waukesha County is heading in the right direction, regardless of a requirement for residents to wear masks in public, indoor places.
“Our residents and businesses continue to make tremendous progress in overcoming the COVID19 pandemic,” Farrow said. “More than a third of our population has now had at least one dose of vaccine, hospitalizations remain low, and our cases have dropped dramatically since the beginning of the year."
Wednesday's announcement is the latest in Waukesha County's effort to return to normal amid the pandemic. Last week, the county removed its recommended capacity limits for large, indoor gatherings such as weddings and sporting events.
Farrow does remind residents Wednesday that they should continue to take precautions "as the County continues to work toward a return to normal, to keep families safe and reverse the damage to the economy," according to the statement.
He also encouraged eligible residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible, and to respect local governments that have issued their own mask mandates, such as Milwaukee.
Waukesha County does have some of the highest vaccination rates among Wisconsin's 72 counties. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports Wednesday that 34.6 percent of the county's residents are partially vaccinated, and 20.6 percent are fully vaccinated.
Wisconsin Supreme Court decision
In their decision Wednesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Tony Evers overreached his authority by issuing several emergency orders requiring all residents wear masks in public spaces. Justices argued in the majority decision that the governor needs approval from the state's legislature to do so. The Republican-led legislature has argued against a statewide mask mandate.
The governor has renewed the mask mandate numerous times since the pandemic hit the state over a year ago, arguing a statewide order is an essential part of keeping coronavirus cases down.