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Politics & Government

Evers Extends Statewide Mask Mandate; Republican Lawmaker Calls The Move A 'Power Grab'

Gov. Tony Evers wears a mask during a briefing earlier this year.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a new emergency order Tuesday extending a statewide mask mandate. The action is in part an attempt to curb outbreaks of the coronavirus on university campuses. The start of a new school year has brought a surge in cases, especially among young people. Positive tests are five times higher among 18- to 24-year-olds than any other age group over the past month.

This significant increase appears to be driven by in-person social gatherings.

Local health officials like Dr. Ben Weston of the Medical College of Wisconsin are praising the mask mandate.

“Certainly at a time like this, the governor's actions to extend the statewide mask mandate are absolutely critical. These are not trends that we want to see, especially entering into the colder months when respiratory infections such as COVID-19 typically expand dramatically. As a community, we must continue to be vigilant in thinking about physical distancing, and masking and all of our activities,” says Weston.

But there are those who see the governor's move as an abuse of power. Evers' second public health emergency, passed in July, was due to expire Sept. 28. It faces a legal challenge from the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which alleges the governor cannot unilaterally extend a public health emergency.

The group did not file for an immediate injunction against the governor’s latest mask mandate. But Republican lawmakers are speaking out, such as Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield. He says Evers' mandate is illegal.

“It is time to end the dictatorial power grabs of Governor Evers. I implore my colleagues to step up and pass a resolution dissolving his illegal order,"  Kapenga said in a statement.

There currently is no injunction against the order and it is in effect until late November.

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