Evers declares public health emergency, issues Executive Order requiring face coverings statewide as COVID-19 cases climb
For the Tomahawk Leader
WISCONSIN — Governor Tony Evers on Thursday, July 30 declared a public health emergency and issued an Emergency Order requiring individuals to wear face coverings when indoors and not in a private residence, with some exceptions as clarified and defined in the order. A release from Evers’ office states the order is effective at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, and will expire on Sept. 28, 2020 or by a subsequent superseding order.
Under the 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, according to the release. The order, however, does set forth exceptions to the requirement, including 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, the release says.
The governor’s executive and emergency orders come as COVID-19 cases in the state continue to climb.
“Wisconsin is seeing new and significant community spread and increase in cases of COVID-19 which requires that we declare a new public health emergency and require face coverings,” the release states. “Wisconsin has experienced a drastic rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the entire state, with 61 of 72 counties (84 percent) representing 96 percent of the state’s population experiencing high COVID-19 activity. All regions of Wisconsin have high COVID-19 activity levels. This is a dramatic increase from where Wisconsin was in June, when only 19 of 72 counties (26%) were experiencing high COVID-19 activity.”
July has seen the number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 drastically increase, with an average of 556 new cases each day between July 1 and 7, an average of 764 new cases each day between July 8 and 14 (a 37% increase from the previous week), an average of 890 new cases each day between July 15 and 21 (a 16% increase from the previous week), and an average of 938 new cases each day between July 22 and 26 (a 5% increase from the previous week).
“While our local health departments have been doing a heck of a job responding to this pandemic in our communities, the fact of the matter is, this virus doesn’t care about any town, city, or county boundary, and we need a statewide approach to get Wisconsin back on track,” Evers said in the statement. “We’ve said all along that we’re going to let science and public health experts be our guide in responding to this pandemic, and we know that masks and face coverings will save lives. 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.”
“The data is what drives our decisions, and that data tells us we have significant community spread in Wisconsin and need to take statewide action,” DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm stated. “Community spread means that any interaction out in the community can mean exposure, and because people can spread COVID-19 without symptoms or even knowing they are sick, we need to take universal precautions in order for wearing face coverings to be effective.”
“Staying home, limiting interactions, practicing physical distancing, and washing your hands thoroughly are still the most effective ways to stop the spread,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Wisconsin’s Chief Medical Officer and the State Epidemiologist for Communicable Diseases. “But we learn something new about this virus every day. A growing number of scientific studies tell us that face coverings, when used correctly and consistently by a large percentage of the community, are extremely effective for preventing the spread of COVID-19 through respiratory droplets.”
A frequently asked questions (FAQ) document regarding the order is available here.
For up-to-date information about Wisconsin’s COVID-19 response, visit the DHS COVID-19 webpage at https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/, and follow @DHSWI on Facebook and Twitter and dhs.wi on Instagram.