Wisconsin Supreme Court asked to block statewide mask order
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A new legal challenge to Gov. Tony Evers’ latest mask mandate is before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, filed less than a week after the Legislature struck down a previous order and the governor quickly issued a new one.
Prominent Republican donor Jere Fabick asked the court late Tuesday to issue a temporary injunction to block the mask order Evers issued on Feb. 4, just after the GOP-controlled Legislature voted to repeal an earlier order. Fabick’s lawsuit challenging Evers’ authority to issue multiple emergency orders remains before the Supreme Court, which heard arguments in November but has yet to issue a ruling.
Republicans and Fabick contend that the Democratic governor exceeded his authority by issuing multiple public health emergencies due to the coronavirus pandemic. Evers tied the mask mandates to each emergency order.
Fabick and the GOP-controlled Legislature argue that Evers must get legislative approval to extend a health emergency beyond 60 days if it’s for the same event. Evers contends the changing nature of the pandemic warranted him issuing new health orders.
Fabick’s attorneys argued in the filing Tuesday that the Supreme Court needed to take “immediate action” to stop the latest order from Evers. Republicans in the Legislature have said they are awaiting a court rule before taking any action to strike down the latest mask order, which runs until March 20.
Nearly 60 organizations opposed repeal of the mask mandate, including groups representing hospitals, doctors, nurses, EMTs, school administrators, businesses, children, unions, Milwaukee schools, American Indian tribes, pharmacists, firefighters, local health departments, senior citizens, churches and dentists.
Fabick is a board member and policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank, and also the president of a multistate Caterpillar equipment and engine dealer. He has given more than $350,000 to Republican or conservative candidates in Wisconsin between 1994 and the middle of 2020, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
Wisconsin’s COVID-19 cases have been trending downward since mid-November. The seven-day average of new cases on Wednesday was its lowest in five months and the state ranks 11th nationally in the percentage of its total population that has received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of Wednesday, there were nearly 552,000 positives cases to date and 6,129 deaths. Wisconsin ranked 40th in new cases per capita over the past two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University.
On Wednesday, Evers announced that the state’s first free community vaccination clinic would be at Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville. The clinic will open for vaccinations on Tuesday. It is projected to be able to vaccinate up to 250 people per day, with a goal of ramping that up to 1,000 per day, depending on availability of the vaccine.
The UW Health System reported Wednesday that thanks to wearing masks and other coronavirus precautions, cases of influenza are “practically nonexistent.” As of Wednesday, there had been one positive flu test at UW Health. That compares with 1,183 at this point last year and 149 in 2019, the health system said.