Wisconsinites will now be required to wear masks while indoors or in close quarters with other people in public, thanks to an order from Gov. Tony Evers.
Evers on Thursday afternoon issued the statewide mandate, telling Wisconsinites that they could prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives by wearing them.
The order will go into effect at midnight Saturday and will last through Sept. 28, unless the order is extended.
Here’s what we know.
What does the order mean?
Starting Saturday, you’ll need to wear a mask while indoors, unless you’re inside a personal residence. The only people exempt from the order are children under age 5.
Other exemptions include members of the state Legislature and the state judiciary, as well as eating and drinking, for speakers at religious services, reporters delivering news reports and people who have breathing issues, among others.
Spaces included in the order, aside from businesses and workplaces, are outdoor bars, outdoor restaurants, taxis, public transit, ride-share vehicles and outdoor park structures.
Why did Evers issue a mask order?
Health experts believe that wearing masks can substantially cut down the transmission of the coronavirus, which can cause serious illness and currently has no vaccine.
Evers said that he’s following science and public health experts in his decision.
“While I know emotions are high when it comes to wearing face coverings in public, my job as governor is to put people first and to do what’s best for the people of our state, so that’s what I am going to do,” he said Thursday.
The order also stated that if 95% of Wisconsinites were to wear masks in public, more than 500 lives would be saved by Oct. 1, according to modeling by Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Is Evers allowed to issue an order like this?
Legal experts said yes, he is allowed to issue an order mandating masks, even after the state Supreme Court struck down his stay-at-home order earlier this year. That ruling did not decide Evers’ powers, said former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, who is also a former attorney general.
But opponents are already arguing that Evers doesn’t have the ability to declare a new health emergency, which he did alongside the mask mandate, after the one he issued in the spring expired.
What happens if I don’t wear the mask?
Violating the mask order could result in a fine up to $200.
How does it affect local mandates already in place?
The state mandate will overrule any local actions that are less stringent. Local mandates with stricter guidelines will remain in place.
Will it affect schools?
Yes. Children will be required to wear masks until the order runs out, if they do return for physical classes.
Will the order be extended past the end of September?
Right now, it’s unclear if Evers will be able to extend the mask order past the 60 days it will be applicable.
Is Wisconsin the only state with an order like this?
No. Wisconsin is joining 33 other states, and the District of Columbia, in requiring masks statewide. The other states that have issued similar mandates include Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.
Wisconsin was the last state with a Democratic governor to issue such an order, but Republican governors have also issued similar orders. In Indiana, for example, the order even comes with the penalty of a misdemeanor for violation.
Laura Schulte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and twitter.com/SchulteLaura.