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Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes down governor's mask mandate

Local mask orders will not be affected, and many of Wisconsin's larger cities have their own mask orders in place.
Image: Janette Davis gets a Covd-19 vaccine at North Division High School in Milwaukee on March 22, 2021.
Janette Davis gets a Covd-19 vaccine at North Division High School in Milwaukee on March 22, 2021.Angela Peterson / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Imagn

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the governor's statewide mask mandate in a 4-3 ruling.

"The question in this case is not whether the Governor acted wisely; it is whether he acted lawfully," the majority opinion read in part. "We conclude he did not."

Fearing more deaths statewide from Covid-19, Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, reissued several mask mandates recently, only to be rebuffed at every interval by Republicans in the Legislature.

Many conservatives have accused Evers of overreaching his authority and have filed suit.

“I applaud the court for ending this constitutional crisis,” state Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, a Republican, wrote on Twitter after the ruling.

“Today’s ruling vindicates the Legislature’s role and will expand freedom and opportunity for Wisconsinites," he wrote. "As we work to fully and safely reopen our state, we trust our residents to follow CDC guidelines when appropriate, get vaccinated when ready, and always employ common sense.”

Evers said he will continue to fight to keep residents out of Covid’s way.

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, I’ve worked to keep Wisconsinites healthy and safe, and I’ve trusted the science and public health experts to guide our decision making,” Evers wrote in a statement.

“Our fight against Covid-19 isn’t over — while we work to get folks vaccinated as quickly as we can, we know wearing a mask saves lives, and we will still need Wisconsinites to mask up so we can beat this virus and bounce back from this pandemic.”

After a Republican challenge, the state Supreme Court in May also overturned Evers' stay-at-home order in a 4-3 decision, arguing that he had overstepped his authority.

Evers' staff has long accused Republicans of using their unyielding power to work against his efforts to protect residents.

Evers declared at least three other public health emergencies and issued other coronavirus-related orders, all of which have been met with Republican resistance.

In a Marquette Law School Poll released in May, nearly 70 percent of Wisconsinites thought it was appropriate to close schools and businesses and restrict public gatherings to fight the spread of the virus.

In addition, 53 percent of residents trusted Evers more than the Legislature to decide when it came to reopening and easing Covid-19 restrictions, the poll found.

Local mask orders will not be affected by a decision from the court and many of Wisconsin's larger cities have their own mask orders in place, according to NBC affiliate WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee.

The court decision comes a day after state health officials said residents ages 16 years and older are eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine starting Monday, the station reported.

More than 2.7 million vaccines have been administered in Wisconsin. The state continues to lead the nation in distributing the vaccine to residents.