Gov. Evers' mask mandate extension met with Republican opposition

With Wisconsin's confirmed COVID-19 cases topping 104,000, Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday, Sept. 22 declared a new health emergency -- extending his statewide mask mandate, set to expire Monday, for another 60 days until Nov. 21.

"Certainly at a time like this the governor's actions to extend the statewide mask mandate are critical," said Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

Weston said cases among students are rising and believes the governor's order will help slow the spread.

However, some Wisconsin conservatives said the order is against the law.

"The governor calls it a third order. I call it a second extension," said Rick Esenberg with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL).

WILL filed a lawsuit in August, after Gov. Evers issued a mask mandate the first time. WILL argues that the governor's public health emergency, first issued in March, expired after 60 days. Only state lawmakers can extend the order. So far, they have not.

"Our system does not say when the legislature does not do what you want to do, you get to act unilaterally. That's not democracy," Esenberg said.

The WILL lawsuit, which is pending, has the support of Wisconsin Republicans.

"It's not about the masks, it's about the process," said State Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Cedarburg).

Wisconsin Capitol in Madison

Republicans hold the majority in the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate, and could repeal the governor's mask mandate on their own.

"I sure hope that we do," Stroebel said.

So far, the Republican-controlled legislature has left the matter up to the court -- making masks mandatory across Wisconsin.

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Some cities have their own mask mandate, including in Milwaukee where the order would remain in effect regardless of what happens at the state level. 

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