Evers: Statewide mask mandate unlikely
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – In his first media briefing with health officials in two weeks, Gov. Tony Evers said the state is headed in the wrong direction in its fight with the coronavirus but because of a state Supreme Court decision earlier this year, there is little concrete action his administration can do at a state level.
The briefing came as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Wisconsin with the surge driven primarily by people in their twenties.
“Folks, we cannot let this trend continue,” Evers said. “Wisconsinites have sacrificed too much over the past few months for us to give up on our efforts now. We cannot go backwards. […] No bar, no party is worth it.”
One tool to help slow the spread is to use masks or face coverings. Dane County became the first to issue a countywide requirement that takes effect July 13. But Evers said while his administration encourages the use of masks and face coverings, it’s unlikely a statewide mandate will happen because the state Supreme Court blocked the Safer at Home order in May.
“We’re looking at it but frankly the Supreme Court has made it more complex that what it ever should have been,” Evers told reporters. “Obviously, and I just talked about this, the importance of masking is really critical to slow things down going forward and has always been on the main ways to keep safe.”
Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm emphasized how drastic the surge in recent cases has been and why things like wearing masks are needed.
“Since Memorial Day weekend, Wisconsin has added 16,972 more cases,” Palm said. “For comparison, it took Wisconsin five months to get to approximately 15,500 cases.”
Palm and Evers also called on Wisconsinites to be patient and considerate as the climate in the state and country is tense over things like wearing masks.
“We should be demonizing the virus, not each other,” Palm urged.
Another source of tension brewing is over schools reopening in the fall.
President Trump and his administration put pressure on state and local leaders to have schools open full-time for in-person class instruction.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos told governors on a phone call conference Tuesday that anything less would be a failure to students and taxpayers.
Evers said he was on the call and expressed his differing in opinion.
"I would not consider a district that offers hybrid [instruction] to be failing responsibilities,” Evers told reporters. “They have to make that decision locally – I don’t think that’s something Secretary DeVos can discern necessarily from Washington D.C.”
The Evers administration also announced Tuesday a PPE distribution effort to send 2 million masks and 4,200 infrared thermometers to schools statewide as well as 60,000 masks to small businesses to be distributed through organizations like the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the Wisconsin Grocers Association among others. The distribution is being don in partnership with FEMA.