Wisconsin governor issues new mask order as COVID-19 cases spike

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This image taken from video by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Madison, Wis. Evers issued a statewide mask mandate amid a spike in coronavirus cases. (Wisconsin Department of Health Services via the AP)

(WFRV) – Wisconsin’s governor has declared a new public health emergency in response to recent a recent surge in cases among young people. The announcement has declared a new face coverings order effective immediately.

Governor Tony Evers has issued Executive Order #90 and Emergency Order – both orders are effective immediately and will expire after 60 days – on Nov. 21 – or with a subsequent superseding order. Wisconsin’s previous statewide mask mandate was set to end on Sept. 28.

Under this order:

  • Wisconsin residents ages five and older are required to wear a face-covering when they are indoors or in an enclosed space with anyone outside their household or living unit.
  • Face coverings are strongly recommended if you are outdoors and maintaining physical distancing is not possible.
  • Exceptions to the requirement include when an individual is eating, drinking, or swimming.
  • Individuals with health conditions or disabilities that would preclude the wearing of a face-covering safely are also exempt from the requirement.

Those who violate the order may face a fine of up to $200.

“We continue to learn more about this virus, but what we do know is that we are facing a new and dangerous phase of the COVID-19 pandemic here in Wisconsin,” says Gov. Evers. “We are seeing an alarming increase in cases across our state, especially on campus. We need folks to start taking this seriously, and young people especially—please stay home as much as you are able, skip heading to the bars, and wear a mask whenever you go out. We need your help to stop the spread of this virus, and we all have to do this together.”

According to officials, Wisconsin is seeing a surge in cases as the school year starts, especially among young people. Wisconsinites between 18 to 24-year-olds have a case rate five times higher than any other age group.

“This significant increase has only occurred within the past month and appears to be driven by in-person social gatherings,” the governor’s announcement says.

Last week, eight Wisconsin cities were listed among the top twenty cities in the United States where COVID-19 cases were rising fastest, and six of those eight cities have University of Wisconsin System campuses.

“The current surge among young people is concerning, but it is important to remember that this increase in cases is not confined to college campuses,” said Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “Students come to these campuses from across the state, and we worry about the effect their return from an area with a high infection rate could have on their home communities. That is why it is imperative we take action to curb transmission now – to protect residents of Wisconsin in every corner of the state.”

Wisconsin is now experiencing unprecedented, near-exponential growth of the COVID-19 pandemic with the daily number of new cases rising from 678 on August 31st to 1,791 on September 21st, a 2.6-fold increase in three weeks, driven in part by the unprecedented number of infections among 18-24 year-olds.

“We need to remember that most respiratory viruses see their peak activity in Wisconsin between late fall and early spring,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Wisconsin’s Chief Medical Officer and the State Epidemiologist for Communicable Diseases. “We need to do everything we can now to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prepare for the winter. That is why we need to continue wearing masks and practicing physical distancing. It is also why we encourage everyone to get a flu shot this year; the flu shot cannot protect you from COVID-19, but by helping protect you from the flu, it helps strengthen our COVID-10 response here in Wisconsin by preserving hospital and testing capacity.”

On July 30, Gov. Evers issued Executive Order #82 to declare a public health emergency as a result of a spike in COVID-19 cases in counties throughout the state. At the same time, Gov. Evers issued a statewide face-covering mandate.

New cases of COVID-19 slowed down in August as a result of the mandate, but as campuses reopened the last several weeks, there has been a new surge in cases across our state.

Multiple schools across Northeast Wisconsin have announced they will transition to virtual learning this week, including all schools in the Oshkosh Area School District, Hilbert High School, a West De Pere elementary school, and the Menasha Joint School District.

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