Gov. Evers: Statewide mask mandate 'something we're considering' as COVID-19 surges

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers said Thursday, July 23 that he was still considering a statewide mask mandate as the number of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases topped 1,000 Thursday for the second time in three days. He has the authority to issue a mandate at any time; however, he has some concerns about doing so.

"We're going to continue to monitor it, and it's something we're considering," Gov. Evers said.

However, the governor has emphasized that he believes his powers to mandate the wearing of face coverings are limited due to a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling in May that struck down his “Safer at Home” order. Several cities across the state, including four on Tuesday alone, have issued their own mask mandates in the absence of a state order.

There were 1,052 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the second highest daily total after the record was set on Tuesday. There have been nearly 46,000 confirmed cases and 878 deaths, up by 13 from Wednesday.

"The continued trend this week of record day increases and positive cases is dangerous, unsustainable and ilutes the months of effort all of you put in, staying home to protect the health and safety of our communities," said Gov. Evers.

Republicans who control the Legislature, who could also issue a mask mandate, are opposed to such a requirement.

“Frankly, folks can right now put on a mask," Evers said. "There’s nothing to prevent you from doing it. "We know there are some folks in the state who don't believe that masks help...We know they do, there's no question."

As Evers held his briefing, about 50 opponents of a mask mandate rallied outside the Capitol. Many speakers argued that the government would infringe on their freedoms by ordering masks to be worn.

“We will not comply," one sign said.

“We just want to be left alone," said rally organizer Madison Elmer.

Half of the states in the U.S. have mask mandates in place, including Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota.