Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a new public health emergency Thursday afternoon requiring face coverings in public, about an hour after the Republican-led state Assembly voted to repeal a previous coronavirus emergency order that included a mask mandate, according to a news release from his office.
“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,” Evers said in a video message announcing the new mask mandate. “Unfortunately, that happened again today when Republicans in the Legislature came in to vote down our state’s public health emergency and end requiring face coverings in public places.”
The Assembly voted 52-42 Thursday to repeal Evers’ previous executive order, on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, according to online records from the Wisconsin State Legislature. Seven Republicans in the Assembly joined all Badger State Democrats in voting against the resolution after the same measure passed through the state Senate last week.
“Wearing a mask is the most basic thing we can do to keep each other safe,” Evers said in the video. “If the Legislature keeps playing politics and we don’t keep wearing masks, we’re going to see more preventable deaths, and it’s going to take even longer to get our state and our economy back on track.”
Evers’ move Thursday comes as daily new cases in the state have generally been decreasing over the past month but have still surpassed 1,000 a day recently, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
Wisconsin Republicans who control the Legislature and state Supreme Court have previously forced Evers to the sidelines. The state high court’s decision in May — at the Legislature’s request — to block Evers’ stay-at-home order was the latest in a series of moves to stop the governor from exercising power in the spring.
Other states have also faced showdowns between their legislative and executive branches over the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month, Republican Idaho Gov. Brad Little issued sharp criticism of the state Legislature’s efforts to repeal a Covid-19 emergency declaration, urging partners in the Republican-controlled state House and Senate “to stop the political gains and do what is right for the people of Idaho.”
Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended her state’s coronavirus emergency declaration by executive order in April after the Republican-controlled Legislature advanced a bill that would not have renewed the original declaration. But in October, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that she had no authority to issue or renew executive orders relating to Covid-19 beyond April 30.