Wisconsin Orders Mandatory Face Masks. Some Sheriffs Refuse to Enforce.

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by Luis Miguel, The New American:

Wisconsin this week is joining the growing number of states to issue a mandatory face mask order to counter the media-stoked fears about rising COVID-19 cases.

The order, signed by Democratic Governor Tony Evers, declared a “Public Health Emergency and issued an Emergency Order requiring individuals to wear face coverings when indoors and not in a private residence, with some exceptions as clarified and defined in the order.”

Effective August 1, the order argues that widespread mask wearing is essential to curtail the spread of coronavirus.

Said Evers: “While our local health departments have been doing a heck of a job responding to this pandemic in our communities, the fact of the matter is, this virus doesn’t care about any town, city, or county boundary, and we need a statewide approach to get Wisconsin back on track.

“We’ve said all along that we’re going to let science and public health experts be our guide in responding to this pandemic, and we know that masks and face coverings will save lives. While I know emotions are high when it comes to wearing face coverings in public, my job as governor is to put people first and to do what’s best for the people of our state, so that’s what I am going to do.”

The document points to statistics that say cases “dramatically increased” in July, with an average of 890 new cases each day between July 15-21. The directive from the governor requires that anyone over age 5 to wear a “face covering” in any enclosed space that is not one’s dwelling.

DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm is quoted as saying, “The data is what drives our decisions, and that data tells us we have significant community spread in Wisconsin and need to take statewide action. Community spread means that any interaction out in the community can mean exposure, and because people can spread COVID-19 without symptoms or even knowing they are sick, we need to take universal precautions in order for wearing face coverings to be effective.”

“Staying home, limiting interactions, practicing physical distancing, and washing your hands thoroughly are still the most effective ways to stop the spread,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Wisconsin’s Chief Medical Officer, in support of Evers’ order. “But we learn something new about this virus every day. A growing number of scientific studies tell us that face coverings, when used correctly and consistently by a large percentage of the community, are extremely effective for preventing the spread of COVID-19 through respiratory droplets.”

Evers was the last Democratic governor to put such an order in place. He had previously said he lacked the authority to issue such a statewide mandate after the Wisconsin Supreme Court in may struck down his state-at-home order.

Although Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) signaled he would not sue the governor over the mandate, he said legal challenges from “citizens groups” are likely on the way.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, meanwhile, said Wisconsin Senate Republicans would “stand ready” to strike down the order, though he stopped short of saying when the Senate would convene to do so.

“Republicans in the State Senate stand ready to convene the body to end the Governor’s order, which includes the mask mandate. The Governor has caved to the pressure of liberal groups on this. How can we trust that he won’t cave again and stop schools that choose in-person instruction this fall? There are bigger issues at play here, and my caucus members stand ready to fight back,” Fitzgerald said.

Under state law, the legislature has the authority to revoke a governor’s emergency order.

Some Wisconsin sheriffs have already said they will not enforce Evers’ mandate. The Adams County Sheriff’s Office put out a statement saying they “do not have resources to investigate this type of complaint. There are numerous legitimate exemptions to the requirement of wearing a face covering.”

Brown County likewise announced that they “will not be responding to complaints of individuals violating the Governor’s mandate, nor will it be taking any direct law enforcement action as it relates to the Governor’s face covering mandate.”

This is in contrast to Miami, Florida, where the city has created a 39-officer mask enforcement team and established penalties of up to $500 and jail time for offenders.

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