Gov. Evers meets with lawmakers, extends mask mandate
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers and Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos described their Friday meeting to discuss coronavirus relief measures as productive.
The meeting came hours before Evers formally extended his order requiring masks to be worn in the state another two months, citing the strain on hospitals that are at or near capacity. The head of the Wisconsin Hospital Association on Thursday urged Evers and Republicans to work together urgently to avoid the crisis becoming a catastrophe.
Evers had said on Wednesday that he planned to issue the order. It comes as the state Supreme Court is weighing a lawsuit brought by conservatives that seeks to invalidate the requirement on the grounds Evers exceeded his authority. Republican legislative leaders also oppose the mask order.
The meeting Friday was Evers’ first with newly-elected Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu and his first since May with Vos.
“The conversation was productive and the governor expressed urgent need for working together on additional state support and asked legislative leaders to meet again the week after Thanksgiving,” said Evers’ spokeswoman Britt Cudaback. “He looks forward to the Legislature acting quickly to pass additional COVID-19 legislation to support our state’s response to this crisis.”
Vos said agreement was reached on some issues but not others. He did not specify.
“I see today’s conversation as a positive step forward to finding common ground in developing a more unified state response to the coronavirus pandemic,” he said in a statement.
Evers put forward a half-billion dollar COVID-19 relief bill this week. Vos outlined steps Assembly Republicans would like to take to combat the virus, but has not released any specific bills. Vos said the Legislature may come back in December to vote on bills.
LeMahieu did not immediately return messages seeking comment on the meeting.
The meeting came on a day that the state Department of Health Services reported 78 more deaths and 6,473 additional positive cases of COVID-19. To date, there have been nearly 345,000 positive cases and 2,954 deaths. There were 2,076 people hospitalized as of Friday, down from an all-time high of 2,277 set on Tuesday, according to the hospital association.
There were 1,626 new cases per 100,000 people in Wisconsin over the past two weeks, which ranks fifth in the country for new cases per capita, according to data from Johns Hopkins. One in every 120 people in Wisconsin tested positive in the past week.