Wisconsin mask mandate decision looms as vaccinations gain steam

Increased eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine in Wisconsin is on the way as two pivotal dates in the state's pandemic response draw near.

Gov. Tony Evers announced Tuesday that starting Monday, April 5, vaccine eligibility will open to everyone age 16 and older. The announcement comes one day before a key Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling.

Wednesday morning, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is set to rule on Wisconsin's mask mandate -- before the governor's current order expires April 5. Some leaders hope the state keeps masking up.

"We’re also seeing cases steadily increase, locally as well as nationally.  We can’t give up right now," said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley.

The court first heard the case in November. The question is: Can Gov. Tony Evers continue ordering health emergencies to extend the statewide mandate.

"He is not allowed to keep the state of Wisconsin in a health emergency without the approval of the legislature," said Matthew Fernholz, a lawyer fighting the order.

Milwaukee County vaccination efforts continue

In Milwaukee, Commissioner of Health Kirsten Johnson said her department has been preparing for weeks to accommodate an increase in demand for the vaccine -- but warns the city is heading in the wrong direction.

"Unless there are changes, the health department will be issuing a new order in the coming weeks, re-imposing restrictions that were eased just a week and a half ago," Johnson said.

According to Dr. Ben Weston with the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management, confirmed COVID-19 cases rose 45% in the past week.

Twenty-one percent of Milwaukee residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine. As of Wednesday, Milwaukee County will also offer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

There is a push to get those eligible vaccinated before appointments are filled next week, including an estimated 40,000 in Milwaukee County who are 65 years old and older who still haven't rolled up their sleeves.

Leaders in Milwaukee County said there are still vaccine appointments available Wednesday and Friday. They plan on updating their website for appointments that include the 16-and-up category over the weekend.

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