State GOP repeals mask mandate, followed by new Evers emergency order

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a new statewide mask order on Thursday, Feb. 4 an hour after the Republican-controlled Legislature voted to repeal his previous mandate saying he didn't have authority to make such a decree.

Evers and the Legislature have been at odds throughout the pandemic but the latest moves created an unprecedented level of whiplash. 

The Democratic governor said in a video message that his priority is keeping people safe and that wearing a mask is the most basic way to do that.

"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 said.

The Assembly voted 52-42 to repeal the mandate, with seven Republicans joining all Democrats in opposition.

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The coronavirus has ebbed in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the U.S., but health experts have warned of a continuing danger, including the emergence of new and more contagious variants. All of Wisconsin’s neighboring states have some form of mask mandate, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy.

Prior to Thursday’s vote, Assembly Republicans sent Evers a letter saying they would support a more limited mask mandate that applies to places "susceptible to transmission of the virus." Republicans said that includes health care facilities, nursing homes, mass transit, state government buildings, assisted living facilities, public schools, universities and prisons.

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