Gov. Evers to declare new health emergency, extend mask mandate while powers, legislative efforts are in hands of conservatives
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Governor Tony Evers announced Wednesday, Nov. 18, he will declare a new public health emergency and extend the statewide mask mandate until mid-January as the COVID-19 crisis continues to push the state’s health care system to its limits.
“It's clear based on where we're headed, we cannot afford to stop or have a gap in some of the only mitigation efforts we still have in place,” Gov. Evers said in a media briefing.
The Department of Health Services reported 7,989 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, as well as 283 more hospitalizations and 52 more deaths.
The governor’s current public health emergency and mask mandate expires on Saturday, Nov. 21. Evers said he would make his official declaration on Thursday or Friday of this week.
Gov. Evers also called on Republicans to support his efforts – even though they are supporting a lawsuit aimed at challenging the governor’s emergency powers.
“Today I’m also once again calling on Republicans to withdraw their support in this lawsuit, and to publicly support our new public health emergency and face coverings order,” Evers said.
The state Supreme Court is set to rule on a case concerning the governor’s emergency order that includes the mask mandate, though it is not clear when that ruling will come.
The governor is also pushing through a legislative agenda aimed at providing relief in the pandemic. Assembly Republicans said in a news conference Tuesday they are open to meeting with the governor and offered some ideas, but not drafted legislation of their own.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he hoped to have a bill passed some time in December. State Senator Chris Kapenga (R – Delafield), however, told CBS 58 while the GOP caucus still has to meet and discuss the governor’s proposals, he sees January a more likely time for the Senate to consider and vote on such measures.
CBS 58 asked Governor Evers for his reaction to that timeline.
“I think it’s a bad timeline. They haven’t been in for a long time,” Evers said. “Two years ago, they made it back into December to do a Lame Duck session, I see no reasons why we can’t do it to save lives here in Wisconsin.”
Sen. Kapenga said he believes the governor should make an effort to negotiate and his proposals, upon initial review, are not a good start.
“If the governor is truly looking at working with us I think he would’ve put something in there that would’ve indicated that, ‘Hey, I’m willing to negotiate and come to a compromise,’” Kapenga told CBS 58 in a phone interview. “To me it was a clear sign that he’s not really looking for compromise on this I think he’s just playing political games.”
Kapenga said ideas like liability protections for businesses and organizations and licensing flexibility to address the health care worker shortage are proposals he could see having support.
The governor said Wednesday he is ready to meet with GOP leaders but no meeting has been officially announced yet.