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Wisconsin governor orders masks statewide amid virus surge

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has issued a statewide mask mandate amid a spike in coronavirus cases, setting up a conflict with Republican legislative leaders who oppose such a requirement and successfully sued earlier to kill a “safer at home” order.

Posted: Jul 30, 2020 2:24 PM

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday issued a statewide mask mandate amid a spike in coronavirus cases, setting up a conflict with Republican legislative leaders who oppose such a requirement and successfully sued to kill the governor's "safer at home” order.

Evers, a Democrat, declared a new public health emergency and ordered the wearing of masks for anyone age 5 and up starting on Saturday for all enclosed spaces except a person’s home. The new order also applies to outdoor bars and restaurants, except when people are eating or drinking.

Anyone who violates the order would be subject to a $200 fine. It is scheduled to run until Sept. 28.

“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, citing the recent rise in cases across the state. “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.”

The conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court in May tossed out an order from Evers’ health secretary closing most nonessential businesses in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. Republican state Sen. Steve Nass, one of the Legislature's most conservative members, called for lawmakers to meet in an emergency session to kill the order, which he called “illegal and unnecessary.”

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he opposes a statewide mandate, but he indicated that he wouldn't sue to stop it like he did the “safer at home” order.

“There are certainly constitutional questions here,” Vos said. "I would expect legal challenges from citizen groups.”

Vos did not say whether the Legislature would reconvene to kill the order.

Evers has repeatedly cited the earlier Supreme Court ruling as a reason for his reluctance to join 32 other states that have mask mandates. However, the May ruling determined that the state health secretary overstepped her authority with the “safer at home” order; the court did not address the governor’s power to issue public health emergencies.

The state’s high court was controlled 5-2 by conservatives when it struck down the earlier order on a split 4-3 decision. But on Saturday, when the mask order takes effect, Justice-elect Jill Karofsky will join the court, narrowing the conservative majority to 4-3 and increasing the odds of the order surviving a legal challenge.

Evers said the rise in COVID-19 cases, not Karofsky's joining the court, and the fact that not enough people wore masks voluntarily motivated him to act now. Evers had been under pressure from local governments, and even some Democrats, to issue a statewide order. Democratic state Sen. Chris Larson, of Milwaukee, started a petition for a statewide mandate.

“The bottom line is we need to keep people safe and this is one way to do it," he said. "We hope the Supreme Court agrees with us. You never know, it may never end up in the Supreme Court.”

Absent a statewide mask order, cities and counties across the state have been taking action on their own. Milwaukee and Dane counties, with Wisconsin’s largest cities of Milwaukee and Madison, were the first to make masks mandatory. Numerous other cities, including Green Bay, Racine, Superior and Whitewater, have followed suit. Appleton this week recommended that people wear masks, but did not require it.

Evers’ order doesn’t preempt local governments from enacting even stricter ordinances.

Wisconsin has had more than 52,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 919 deaths from the disease since the pandemic started. That death count is the 28th-highest in the country and the 35th highest per capita, at nearly 16 deaths per 100,000 people. Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has gone up by 90, an increase of more than 11%.

The virus, although still heavily concentrated in urban areas, is spreading to more rural counties that had largely avoided the disease.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 56560

Reported Deaths: 1656
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin18009819
Ramsey6944261
Dakota3991103
Anoka3365113
Stearns283120
Washington191743
Nobles17466
Olmsted162923
Scott139014
Mower10812
Rice9998
Blue Earth8525
Wright8135
Carver7792
Clay74540
Kandiyohi6761
Sherburne6497
St. Louis43619
Todd4202
Lyon4163
Freeborn3541
Steele3301
Nicollet31213
Benton3063
Watonwan2980
Winona24716
Crow Wing21313
Martin2045
Le Sueur2011
Beltrami1930
Chisago1791
Goodhue1768
Otter Tail1763
Cottonwood1710
Becker1431
Pipestone1439
Unassigned14040
McLeod1380
Itasca13212
Polk1313
Douglas1300
Waseca1280
Pine1270
Carlton1250
Dodge1230
Murray1221
Isanti1100
Chippewa981
Brown852
Faribault830
Meeker832
Morrison831
Wabasha810
Sibley792
Koochiching743
Rock740
Pennington721
Jackson700
Mille Lacs653
Fillmore610
Renville595
Cass582
Lincoln540
Swift521
Grant491
Yellow Medicine490
Roseau460
Pope430
Houston390
Norman340
Redwood300
Kanabec291
Hubbard280
Marshall280
Wilkin283
Aitkin270
Mahnomen231
Wadena230
Big Stone220
Red Lake200
Lake180
Clearwater150
Stevens150
Traverse100
Lac qui Parle60
Kittson40
Cook20
Lake of the Woods10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 45774

Reported Deaths: 883
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk9723203
Woodbury365151
Black Hawk300362
Linn210887
Johnson193315
Dallas178935
Buena Vista178512
Scott159312
Dubuque153729
Marshall138924
Pottawattamie121723
Story110914
Wapello84932
Muscatine82648
Webster7255
Crawford7193
Sioux5952
Cerro Gordo57617
Tama53729
Warren5281
Jasper45524
Plymouth4438
Wright4431
Louisa37914
Dickinson3754
Clinton3173
Washington28710
Hamilton2411
Boone2282
Franklin2205
Bremer1877
Clarke1863
Carroll1811
Emmet1791
Clay1711
Hardin1650
Shelby1611
Marion1530
Allamakee1514
Poweshiek1468
Benton1431
Jackson1411
Des Moines1392
Mahaska13617
Floyd1292
Guthrie1265
Jones1242
Cedar1201
Hancock1172
Butler1142
Henry1133
Pocahontas1131
Buchanan1111
Lyon1020
Madison1022
Clayton983
Cherokee971
Harrison970
Lee953
Taylor930
Humboldt921
Delaware901
Monona900
Iowa891
Winneshiek851
Calhoun822
Mills820
Fayette810
Sac810
Palo Alto790
Kossuth780
Jefferson770
Osceola770
Mitchell760
Page760
Winnebago760
Grundy741
Union701
Monroe677
Worth610
Chickasaw510
Cass481
Davis481
Howard480
Lucas454
Montgomery433
Appanoose423
Greene380
Fremont350
Van Buren321
Keokuk301
Ida290
Audubon281
Decatur220
Adair210
Ringgold211
Adams160
Wayne161
Unassigned80
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