Republican Legislature ends mask mandate, governor acts fast to reissue
Hours after Assembly Republicans voted to end Wisconsin’s emergency health order, ending the state mask mandate, Governor Tony Evers moved swiftly to issue a new order and mask mandate.
The vote by legislative Republicans landed Wisconsin among only 10 states in America not to require mask-wearing.
“This egregious action lays bare how little Republican lawmakers care about the safety and welfare of Wisconsin children and their families,” WEAC President Ron Martin said of the Assembly’s action. “Republican lawmakers have taken no action on the pandemic for almost a year – except now – to openly disregard the most agreed-upon method to stop the spread, wearing masks.”
Senate Republican leaders have called an extraordinary session for February 5 to pass the Assembly’s COVID bill (AB-1) which includes measures limiting civil liability claims against schools and other entities.
In advance of the legislature’s move, many school districts and other employers adopted their own measures to require masks in schools and elsewhere, recognizing the importance of mask-wearing in slowing the spread.
The $100 million Republican COVID bill has been going back-and-forth between the Assembly and Senate for weeks as the Republican majority hashed out details of their first action on the pandemic since March 2020. The bill hit a bump after legislators discovered Wisconsin would lose tens of millions in federal food stamp benefits if they overturned the public health declaration.
The COVID bill the Senate will take up was amended by the Assembly to make sure Wisconsin will qualify for funds from any future federal action. The Senate wasn’t expected back in until mid-February.
The Assembly’s vote repealing the mask mandate came as less than 10 percent of Wisconsin’s population is vaccinated, and health care workers are bracing for potential impacts of new variants. Educators aren’t slated to receive the vaccine until around March 1. WEAC has voiced its opposition to the repeal, along with nearly 60 other groups.
The GOP COVID bill includes provisions the governor opposes, raising the possibility of a veto.