Judge strikes down attempt to stop mask mandate as cases continue to rise in Wisconsin

The state recorded nearly 2,000 new cases Monday.

October 12, 2020, 5:58 PM

A Wisconsin judge has struck down an injunction request filed Monday by state Republicans to end Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' mask mandate.

This decision comes as Wisconsin continues to see a rise in coronavirus cases and deaths.

St. Croix County Judge R. Michael Waterman ruled against the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) legal firm, which sued Evers contending that he overstepped his authority by issuing consecutive executive orders that required all residents to wear a mask outside their homes.

Waterman ruled that the law gives the governor "broad discretion to act whenever conditions in the state constitute a public health emergency."

PHOTO: People wearing face masks walk through Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee, April 9, 2020.
People wearing face masks walk through Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee, April 9, 2020.
Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA Today Network

"Nothing in the statute prohibits the governor from declaring successive states of emergency. Instead, the statute allows a declaration 'if the governor determines that a public health emergency exists,'" he wrote in his decision.

Rick Esenberg, the president and general counsel of WILL, which was hired by state Republicans to file the suit, said in a statement he would appeal the ruling.

"It is with regret that the Judge held that the Governor of the State of Wisconsin can rule the state by decree for an unlimited amount of time with the acquiescence of the legislature," he said in a statement.

PHOTO: Conservative attorney Rick Esenberg details a new lawsuit asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to overturn four partial vetoes made by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in Madison, Wis., July 31, 2019.
Conservative attorney Rick Esenberg details a new lawsuit asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to overturn four partial vetoes made by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and limit the ability of future governors to make similar vetoes during a news conference at the Statehouse in Madison, Wis., July 31, 2019.
Scott Bauer/AP

Gov. Evers said the judge's ruling would be crucial in fighting the pandemic, as a recent rise in new cases has pushed the state's total past 150,000.

Last Thursday the state recorded a record number of new cases, 3,274, according to the state Health Department. On Monday it recorded 1,965 more.

The seven-day average for newly reported cases has more than tripled since the end of the summer, going from 703 on Sept. 3 to 2,627 on Oct. 11, according to the data.

The seven-day average for positivity rose from 9.2% to 19.1% during the same period, according to the Health Department. As of Monday, the virus has killed 1,474 Wisconsin residents and hospitalized 8,454, the Health Department said.

PHOTO: This image taken from video by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers in Madison, Wis., July 30, 2020.
This image taken from video by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers in Madison, Wis., July 30, 2020.
Wisconsin Department of Health Services via the AP, FILE

Health experts around the world have stressed that masks and face coverings are critical in helping prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

"We ask Wisconsinites to please stay home as much as possible, limit travel and going to public gatherings, and wear a mask whenever out and about," Evers said in a statement.

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