Evers ‘considering’ state mask order, but wary that Supreme Court would undermine it

    Gov. Tony Evers with mask
    Wearing a protective mask as recommended by public health experts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Tony Evers addresses reporters in a telephone and live-streamed news conference on July 7, 2020. (Screenshot from Youtube)

    Once again imploring Wisconsin to return to the restraint it showed during the Safer at Home order in late March through early May, Gov. Tony Evers stressed Thursday the importance of wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and said he’d like to be able to institute a statewide mask order.

    A statewide order “is something we’re considering,” Evers said at a telephone briefing for reporters on Thursday, while also lamenting “the very messy case” in which the state Supreme Court “created chaos” with its ruling in May by throwing out the Safer at Home order and undercutting the administration’s power to act in a health emergency.

    “But frankly folks can, right now, put on a mask if you don’t have one [on],” Evers said, pivoting back to a theme he has repeatedly struck in the last several weeks, as infection counts have climbed. “There’s nothing to prevent you from doing this.”

    Evers and Andrea Palm, secretary-designee of the Department of Health Services (DHS), spoke on a day when the number of new COVID-19 cases identified once again topped 1,000.

    “These numbers are at least in part a reflection of two patterns,” said Palm. “The significant number of cases that reported attending gatherings like parties and bars and barbecues, and an increase in cases among young people. In fact, in all confirmed cases within the past month here in Wisconsin, fully one third of them have been people in their 20s.”

    Reiterating what both she and Evers have said at every briefing for weeks, Palm said: “Please, the safest thing to do as  the governor said, is to stay at home, limit your interaction and wear a mask … when you go out.”

    Evers took several other occasions to urge voluntary mask-wearing and to restate that he was considering whether to seek a statewide order while avoiding committing to that course of action. He gave his most succinct take when a reporter pressed him on the question. 

    “If you could be confident  a mask order wouldn’t face legal obstacles, do you have any hesitation about enacting one for the state?” the reporter asked.

    “No,” Evers said crisply.

    The governor brought up masks again when he was asked about the prospect of Chicago’s mayor issuing  a quarantine order for anyone who returns to the city after traveling to Wisconsin.

    “It’s difficult to prognosticate what they’re going to do in Chicago,” Evers said. Boundaries, whether of the city or of the state, are “very difficult to regulate,” he added. And Wisconsin, he said, “won’t be putting roadblocks and checkpoints” for traffic between the Windy City and the Dairy State.

    “But overall, the message for us in Wisconsin should be, if Chicago thinks people should stay home, then we better put some damn masks on and make sure that we continue to in order to reverse the course that we’re in.”

     

    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.