Gov. Tony Evers wears a mask during his press briefing from Madison on July 7, 2020.
(The Center Square) – Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday issued an order that requires anyone 5 years old or older to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces.
“While our local health departments have been doing a heck of a job responding to this pandemic in our communities, the fact of the matter is, this virus doesn’t care about any town, city, or county boundary, and we need a statewide approach to get Wisconsin back on track,” Evers said in a statement.
The mask requirement means people must wear a mask while inside. That means inside stores, restaurants, shops, office buildings, and all other indoor public spaces. People do not have to wear a mask in their own homes, and masks are not required when people are outside. But masks are required in outdoor seating areas of bars and restaurants.
There are, of course, exceptions for eating and drinking, as well as for speakers at churches and other religious centers. Judges and lawmakers are also exempt.
“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 added.
Evers had resisted calls for a statewide mask mandate for weeks. He said he wasn’t sure he possessed the legal power to order everyone wear a mask. His new order goes into effect the same day, Saturday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court adds another liberal justice. The Supreme Court smacked down his Safer at Home order in May.
Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Racine, and a number of other communities have adopted their own mask requirements. The governor says his order is the minimum. Local communities can add more restrictions to their orders. Many other local public health managers asked the governor to step in so they didn’t have to issue orders of their own.
“We’ve said all along that we’re going to let science and public health experts be our guide in responding to this pandemic, and we know that masks and face coverings will save lives,” Evers said.
Not everyone is happy with the order.
State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said Thursday that Gov. Evers’ mask mandate has more to do with appearances than safety.
“You can’t legislate common sense. For that reason, I continue to strongly oppose the one-size-fits all approach of Governor Evers’ response to coronavirus in this state, including the statewide mask mandate. It’s transparent and blatantly political that his order doesn’t take effect until his handpicked Supreme Court justice take office.
The number of people who’ve tested positive for the coronavirus in Wisconsin has increased over the past month. But so has the number of people testing negative. Wisconsin’s daily positive-test rate has hovered around 6 percent for the past two weeks. Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services is reporting a different trend in people hospitalized because of the virus. The state’s hospitalizations have alternated between steep increases and sharp drops over the past two weeks. But no more than 400 people, out of a state of nearly 6 million, have been in the hospital at one time.
DHS’s latest numbers show 87-0 positive tests reported on Thursday and 13,824 negative tests. DHS said 295 people were being treated in the hospital, with 101 in intensive care units. Wednesday, DHS said more than 360 were hospitalized. No one is offering an explanation for the huge swings in hospitalization numbers.