Evers declares new COVID-19 emergency and extends statewide mask order

    Health Services Sect. designee Andrea Palm at media briefing 11/18/20 via YouTube
    Health Services Sect. designee Andrea Palm at media briefing 11/18/20 via YouTube

    With Wisconsin once again setting a record for confirmed new cases of COVID-19, Gov. Tony Evers said Wednesday he  will declare a new State of Emergency and institute a new statewide mask order that will extend into January 2021.

    The governor announced the new actions at a scheduled media briefing Wednesday afternoon with officials from the state Department of Health Services (DHS). The new order effectively overlaps the current emergency and mask order, which expire Saturday, Nov. 21.

    “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,” Evers said, announcing the new emergency and mask order.

    The order comes as the Wisconsin Supreme Court prepares to issue a ruling on a lawsuit that asserts Evers cannot issue any new emergency orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Court heard arguments in the lawsuit on Monday.

    If the Court sides with the plaintiff, that would immediately end the new emergency declaration and the mask mandate.

    DHS reported Wednesday 7,989 new people had tested positive for the coronavirus, a new one-day record. Altogether, 331,837 Wisconsin residents have been confirmed to have been infected with the virus.

    “We’ve got a long road ahead of us in Wisconsin, but we know there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” Evers said, noting “promising reports of vaccines on the horizon in the new year.”

    He added: “We need to buckle down and get through this together until then.”

    The department also reported 52 new deaths on Wednesday, a day after reporting a record 92 new deaths. The virus has now claimed the lives of 2,793 Wisconsin residents.

    On Tuesday, citing the surge of cases in Dane County, Madison & Dane County Health Director Janel Heinrich issued a new order banning mass gatherings in the county until Dec. 16.

    Monday evening, Evers sent Republican leaders in the state Legislature draft proposals for new legislation in response to the pandemic’s surge. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) responded Tuesday with a brief, broad outline of potential responses by the Legislature, but said there were no draft bills.

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    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.