Wisconsin latest to rule Covid state of emergency, extending mask rule until 2021

Wisconsin’s governor also asked Republicans to drop a lawsuit challenging his mask mandate

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Wednesday 18 November 2020 22:29
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Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issues new state of emergency extends mask mandate until January 2021
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Governor Tony Evers of Wisconsin will declare a new Covid state of emergency and extend current emergency measures until January, he said on Wednesday, including expanding the state’s mask mandate through 2021. 

“It’s clear, based on where we’re headed, we cannot afford to stop, or have a gap in some of the only mitigation efforts we still have in place,” Mr Evers said. 

Wisconsin is one of few places in the country without a statewide plan to tackle the pandemic, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, after state Republicans sued to block executive measures from the governor’s office, and no legislative solution has been agreed to thus far.

The announcement, during a briefing with the state’s Department of Health Services (DHS), came the same day Wisconsin reported 7,989 new coronavirus cases, breaking a previous record. The governor warned that if current coronavirus trends continue, the state could see 5,000 deaths by the end of the year. 

"We are filling our intensive care units. Over the past week, hospitals have reported nine of our ICUs at 100 per cent capacity. There are zero ICU beds available in one region of our state, and nine ICU beds in another," DHS secretary-designee Andrea Palm said at the briefing.

Mr Evers, a Democrat, also called on Republicans in Wisconsin to drop their lawsuit challenging his mask mandate

“It’s time folks," the governor said in the briefing. “We do not get any do-overs here. Enough games. We need you to join the cause, and we need you to start today.”

Wisconsin, along with other Midwest states like North and South Dakota, has experienced a brutal coronavirus surge in recent weeks, rivaling that of even the worst days in New York City’s outbreak, according to health officials.  

“Here in Wisconsin, Covid-19 is that bad now, and worse,” Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy secretary of the state DHS, said last week.  

“Wisconsin’s daily average is not only that much higher, but it’s higher and our population is smaller by 2.5 million people,” she said.

Any additional coronavirus measures in the state are sure to meet strong political resistance. In May, following large protests, conservative justices on the state supreme court helped overturn the governor’s stay-at-home order, the first court in the nation to take such action. Madison, Wisconsin’s Capitol Times also reports that the state’s Republicans have refused to meet with the governor for weeks in the lead-up to the latest outbreak. 

Back in late September, when the governor last announced emergency measures, including a mask mandate then set to expire on November 21, Wisconsin’s GOP senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald said the declaration was “not worth the paper it’s printed on.”

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