Fearing more deaths statewide, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers reissued a mask mandate Thursday, standing up to a Republican Legislature that had repealed his previous mask order earlier in the day.
“We know that wearing face coverings can save lives and prevent death. We know it’s supported by science,” Evers, a Democrat, said in a two-minute video.
He said repealing his previous mandate to wear face coverings in public places put at risk about $50 million a month in federal funds to help hundreds of thousands of vulnerable residents.
“Our fight against this virus isn’t over — it’s not going away, especially after we see mutations of this virus in our state,” Evers said. “Wearing a mask is the most basic thing we can do to keep each other safe.”
Earlier in the day, the Republican-led Assembly voted to repeal the previous order, which was extended last month. A Republican challenge to the mandate is being heard in state Supreme Court.
Calls to several Republicans, including Speaker Robin Vos, weren’t returned late Thursday.
Vos wrote in a joint statement with Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu: “Governor 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.”
Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, a Republican, also didn’t agree with the new order.
“Yet again, Governor Evers pushes away an olive branch to reach common goals, instead opting for continued authoritarian rule,” Steineke said in a statement. “I’m disappointed that the Governor would rather continue issuing orders that he knows to be illegal as opposed to working with the legislature to keep Wisconsinites safe.”
Evers said that since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, he has promised Wisconsinites three things: never to play politics regarding health, to trust science and health experts to guide decision-making and to fight to keep residents safe.
“Well, 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,” he said.
Evers’ staff has long accused Republicans of using their unyielding power to work against his efforts to protect residents.
The state Senate is made up of 20 Republicans and 12 Democrats, with one vacancy. The Assembly consists of 60 Republicans and 38 Democrats, with one vacancy.
After a Republican challenge, the state Supreme Court in May overturned Evers’ stay-at-home order in a 4-3 decision, arguing that he had overstepped his authority.
Evers has declared at least three other public health emergencies and issued other coronavirus-related orders, all of which have been met with Republican resistance.
In a Marquette Law School Poll released in May, nearly 70 percent of Wisconsinites thought it was appropriate to close schools and businesses and restrict public gatherings to fight the spread of the virus.
In addition, 53 percent of residents trusted Evers more than the Legislature to decide when it came to reopening and easing Covid-19 restrictions, the poll found.