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UPDATED: Evers orders all to wear masks, but GOP says to expect legal challenge

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

July 30, 2020

The Brillion News

MADISON —​ Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday, July 30, declared a Public Health Emergency and issued an Emergency Order requiring individuals to wear face coverings when indoors and not in a private residence, with some exceptions as clarified and defined in the order.

The order is effective at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, August 1, 2020, and will expire on September 28, 2020 or by a subsequent superseding order. Executive Order #82 declaring a public health emergency is available here and Emergency Order #1 requiring face coverings statewide is available here

“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,” said Gov. Evers.

“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. 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.”

Legal challenges are expected, according to Assembly Speaker Riobin Vos, R-Rochester.

“Local governments have been responding appropriately and increasing precautionary measures as needed. But Wisconsin shouldn’t have a one-size-fits-all mandate. It doesn’t build public support when there are questions surrounding the metrics and the constitutionality of this mandate," Vos said. “It’s disappointing that yet again Governor Evers has chosen to not communicate or work with the legislature. There are certainly constitutional questions here; I would expect legal challenges from citizen groups.”

Republican State Representaive Cody Horlacher of Mukwonago, called Evers a "dictator."

“I would like to share my extreme opposition to this mandate from Gov. Evers. Although, I am not surprised by his actions as they are consistent with his pattern of saying one and thing and doing another," Horlacher said. "I am enraged with today’s announcement. Wearing a mask is a personal choice. It is simply not the government’s role to tell you to wear a piece of fabric."

Horlacher's words were angry.

"This type of policy will only turn neighbor against neighbor ... A $200 forfeiture is not just. That is real money coming out of real families' pockets all across our state. Many of these folks have lost their jobs and their businesses at the hand of Gov. Evers and now to add insult to injury he is charging them a forfeiture as well. I am irate at the state of affairs in Wisconsin today and I call on Wisconsinites across the state to reach out to their elected officials.”

According to Evers, Wisconsin is seeing new and significant community spread and increase in cases of COVID-19 which requires that we declare a new public health emergency and require face coverings. Wisconsin has experienced a drastic rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the entire state, with 61 of 72 counties (84 percent) representing 96 percent of the state’s population experiencing high COVID-19 activity. All regions of Wisconsin have high COVID-19 activity levels. This is a dramatic increase from where Wisconsin was in June, when only 19 of 72 counties (26%) were experiencing high COVID-19 activity.  

The governor's office said the average number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 has drastically increased throughout July, with an average of 556 new cases each day between July 1-7, an average of 764 new cases each day between July 8-14 (a 37% increase from the previous week), an average of 890 new cases each day between July 15-21 (a 16% increase from the previous week), and an average of 938 new cases each day between July 22-26 (a 5% increase from the previous week).

Under this order, Wisconsin residents ages five and older are required to wear a face covering when they are indoors or in an enclosed space with anyone outside their household or living unit. Face coverings are strongly recommended if you are outdoors and maintaining physical distancing is not possible. The order also enumerates exceptions to the requirement, listing activities such as when an individual is eating, drinking, or swimming. Individuals with health conditions or disabilities that would preclude the wearing of a face covering safely are also exempt from the requirement. A frequently asked questions (FAQ) document is available here.

“The data is what drives our decisions, and that data tells us we have significant community spread in Wisconsin and need to take statewide action,” said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “Community spread means that any interaction out in the community can mean exposure, and because people can spread COVID-19 without symptoms or even knowing they are sick, we need to take universal precautions in order for wearing face coverings to be effective.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the medical and scientific community continues to learn more about the virus, including how to best prevent its transmission. Recent scientific studies show that wearing face coverings is very effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“Staying home, limiting interactions, practicing physical distancing, and washing your hands thoroughly are still the most effective ways to stop the spread,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Wisconsin’s Chief Medical Officer and the State Epidemiologist for Communicable Diseases. “But we learn something new about this virus every day. A growing number of scientific studies tell us that face coverings, when used correctly and consistently by a large percentage of the community, are extremely effective for preventing the spread of COVID-19 through respiratory droplets.”


I, TONY EVERS, Governor of the State of Wisconsin, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of this state, and specifically Section 323.12 of the Wisconsin Statutes, hereby order the following: 1. DEFINITIONS. a. "Enclosed space" means a confined space open to the public where individuals congregate, including but not limited to outdoor bars, outdoor restaurants, taxis, public traI').sit, ride-share vehicles, and outdoor park structures. b. "Face covering'' means a piece of cloth or other material that is worn to cover the nose and mouth completely. A "face covering'' includes but is not limited to a bandana, a cloth face mask, a disposable or paper mask, a neck gaiter, or a religious face covering. A "face covering'' does not include face shields, mesh masks, masks with holes or openings, or masks with vents. c. "Physical distancing'' means maintaining at least six feet of distance from other individuals who are not members of your household or living unit. 2. FACE COVERING REQUIRED. Every individual, age five and older, in Wisconsin shall wear a face covering if both of the following apply: a. The individual is indoors or in an enclosed space, other than at a private residence; and; b. Another person or persons who are not members of individual's household or living unit are present in the same room or enclosed space. Face coverings are strongly recommended in all other settings, including outdoors when it is not possible to maintain physical distancing. 3. EXCEPTIONS. a. Individuals who are otherwise required to wear a face covering may remove the face covering in the following situations: 1. While eating or drinking. 11. When communicating with an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing and communication cannot be achieved through other means. 111. While obtaining a service that requires the temporary removal of the face covering, such as dental services. 1v. While sleeping. v. While swimming or on duty as a lifeguard. v1. While a single individual is giving a religious, political, media, educational, artistic, cultural, musical, or theatrical presentation for an audience, the single speaker may remove the face covering when actively speaking. While the face covering is removed, the speaker must remain at least 6 feet away from all other individuals at all times. v11. When engaging in work where wearing a face covering would create a risk to the individual, as determined by government safety guidelines. v111. When necessary to confirm the individual's identity, including when entering a bank, credit union, or other financial institution. ix. When federal or state law or regulations prohibit wearing a face covering. b. In accordance with CDC guidance, the following individuals are exempt from the face covering requirement in Section 2: 1. Children between the ages of 2 and 5 are encouraged to wear a mask when physical distancing is not possible. The CDC does not recommend masks for children under the age of 2. 11. Individuals who have trouble breathing. 111. In_dividuals who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance. 1v. Individuals with medical conditions, intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health conditions, or other sensory sensitivities that prevent the individual from wearing a face covering. v. Incarcerated individuals. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections shall continue to comply with COVID-19 protocols to ensure the health and safety of its staff and individuals in its care. Local governments are strongly encouraged to continue or create COVID-19 protocols to ensure the health and safety of their staff and individuals in their care. 4. LEGISLATURE AND JUDICIARY. State facilities or offices under the control of the Wisconsin State Legislature or the Wisconsin Supreme Court are exempt from this Order. The Wisconsin State Legislature and the Wisconsin Supreme Court may establish guidelines for face coverings that are consistent with the specific needs of their respective branches of government. 5. PRESERVATION OF MEDICAL SUPPLIES. To conserve limited supplies of N95 masks and other medical-grade supplies, individuals are discouraged from using such supplies as face coverings. 6. LOCAL ORDERS. This Order supersedes any local order that is less restrictive. Local governments may issue orders more restrictive than this Order. 7. ENFORCEMENT. This order is enforceable by civil forfeiture of not more than $200. Wis. Stat. § 323.28. 8. SEVERABILITY. If any provision of this Order or its application to any person or circumstances is held to be invalid, the remainder of the Order, including the application of such part or provision to other individuals or circumstances, shall not be affected and shall continue in full force and effect. To this end, the provisions of this Order are severable. 9. DURATION. This Order shall enter into effect at 12:01 am on Saturday, August 1, 2020. This Order shall expire on September 28, 2020, or by a subsequent superseding emergency order.


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