Wisconsin Republicans repeal state mask mandate, emergency order

A resolution passed Thursday by Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled General Assembly repealed the state’s mask mandate and public health emergency aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

But just over an hour later, Gov. Tony Evers (D) issued a new emergency order and mandate, citing the new threat posed by “more contagious strains of the virus,” including the B.1.17 variant, which has been found in Wisconsin and 31 other states.

The new mask mandate will run through March 20, and the emergency order will be effective for 60 days.

The move by Evers sets up a new clash with state Republicans, who voted to repeal the mask mandate because they said Evers overstepped his authority.

The vote would have made Wisconsin one of only 10 states without a mask requirement.

“Every step of the way, our statewide strategies to contain this virus and prevent the spread have been met with lawsuits, political rhetoric and obstruction. Unfortunately, that happened again today,” Evers said in a video message announcing the new order.

Not anti-mask, BUT: Wisconsin state House Speaker Robin Vos (R) said he supports mask requirements in certain “appropriate” areas like hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and public schools, but not statewide. Vos, in a joint statement with state Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R), said Evers “has abused his limited authority for far too long by repeatedly issuing unlawful orders beyond his 60-day emergency powers. The Assembly and Senate voted to end the executive overreach and restore our constituents’ voice in the legislative process.”