UPDATE: Gov. Tony Evers has issued a new statewide face mask mandate, a little over an hour after the Wisconsin State Assembly repealed his previous one, which had been in place since August.
This move will force the Legislature to hold another vote to repeal.
The Wisconsin State Assembly has voted to repeal Gov. Tony Ever's emergency order mandating face masks be worn in public indoor places, despite it being the recommendation of health experts the world over to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The GOP-led Assembly voted 52-42 to end the mask mandate, with seven Republicans joining Democrats in voting to keep the measure. It comes a week after the Wisconsin Senate voted to repeal the mandate.
It was the only statewide COVID-19 mitigation still in place in Wisconsin, with restrictions on bars, restaurants, and other businesses implemented by Evers last year also repealed by the Legislature.
The Republicans' main objection to the mandate – and other restrictions implemented by Evers during the pandemic – was the governor's use of emergency health orders over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Per the Associated Press, Republicans think Evers is using the orders improperly, and instead must secure legislative approval every 60 days. An upcoming Supreme Court ruling is expected to determine whether that is the case or not.
The repeal of the mandate goes into effect on Friday, though there are several municipalities that have local mandates that will remain in place, such as in Dane County.
The Green Bay Gazette reports that the repeal of the statewide mandate will also trigger local mask mandates to come into effect in cities including Green Bay and De Pere.
The Wisconsin Medical Society has slammed the decision to repeal the mandate, saying it "sends the wrong message at the wrong time."
"Wisconsin’s physicians continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and we need everyone in the state to help. Wearing masks is a proven way to help slow the spread of the virus, and recent studies show that government requirements on masks prompt more people to wear masks more often," said society CEO Bud Chumbley, MD.
"Meanwhile, new variants of the virus that spread faster and could be more deadly have reached the United States. Today’s action by the State Legislature ending the statewide mask order sends the wrong message at the wrong time. Instead, we need all of our policy leaders to unify behind the same message: wear a mask to protect yourself and others, prevent additional deaths and restore our economy.”