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Evers issues another emergency face mask order, right after the Legislature repealed the last one

It didn't take Gov. Tony Evers long to respond to the news that Wisconsin's Legislature voted to end his emergency order mandating face mask requirements in public places. Just an hour after the Legislature's vote, Evers issued another public health emergency renewing the statewide mask mandate.

It's unclear how Republicans in the Legislature will respond to Evers' move. Republicans have argued that Evers overreached his authority in issuing multiple emergency orders addressing the same pandemic. The Wisconsin Supreme Court, meanwhile, has yet to rule on case about those emergency orders.

"Today’s action by Republicans in the Legislature is a continuation of Republicans’ efforts to prevent Gov. Evers from keeping Wisconsinites healthy and safe," Evers' office wrote in a statement. "The governor’s statewide mitigation strategies to contain and respond to COVID-19 have been met with repeated lawsuits, political rhetoric, and obstruction from Republicans since last April. Republicans also sued Gov. Evers last spring, which ultimately led to a decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court to strike down Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order in May, leaving the state without critical mitigation tools to protect health and safety used by other states. In total, Republicans in the Legislature this year alone have spent millions in taxpayer dollars in litigation to hamstring the state’s ability to respond to the ongoing pandemic rather than meet to address the issues facing Wisconsinites."

The Legislature's move to repeal the mask mandate came over the objections of more than 55 groups representing health experts, businesses, faith leaders, schools and educators, which argued that overturning the mandate would cost lives and prolong the pandemic.

Nearly 6,000 Wisconsinites have died from Covid-19 since last spring. The state has confirmed more than 540,000 cases of the virus.

Along with physical distancing, masks are one of the most effective measures for preventing the spread of the virus. Although public health messaging on masks was inconsistent in the early days of the pandemic, health organizations including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control now agree on their importance.

The Centers for Disease Control continues to advise that "people age 2 and older should wear masks in public settings and when around people who don’t live in their household.​"

Regardless of how the political back and forth over Wisconsin's statewide mask mandate plays out -- and at this point it's difficult for anybody to predict -- local mask mandates such as Milwaukee's will remain in place.