Eau Claire Mask Ordinances Now in Force After Statewide Rule Tossed by Court
city, county backup rules go into effect as governor’s order falls
The Wisconsin Supreme Court voted narrowly Wednesday to overturn Gov. Tony Evers’ public health order mandating face masks, but that doesn’t mean that Eau Claire residents won’t still be required by law to wear them as a way of combating COVID-19.
Anticipating that Evers’ order might be overturned, in February the Eau Claire City Council and the Eau Claire County Board approved their own face covering ordinances, which were designed to go into effect if the statewide order fell. According to a joint press release from the city and county Wednesday afternoon, “Based on the decision of the Supreme Court these ordinances will now become effective immediately.”
The announcement continued:
These ordinances require any person who is age 5 or older, and who is located indoors or in an enclosed space, other than a private residence, to wear a face covering. Face coverings are strongly recommended in all other settings, including outdoors when it is not possible to maintain physical distancing. These ordinances also require buildings with public access in the City of Eau Claire and Eau Claire County to post a notice that face coverings are required. These ordinances remain in effect until June 30, 2021 unless otherwise modified by the City Council or the County Board. Businesses that have already posted a notice requiring a face covering do not need to post an additional notice to be in compliance with these ordinances.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in favor of plaintiffs who asked them to repeal Evers’ declaration of a state public health emergency. Under Wisconsin law, a state of emergency may not last longer than 60 days unless “extended by joint resolution of the legislation.” However, the Republican-controlled state Legislature has not voted to extend Evers’ order; in fact, it voted Feb. 4 to repeal it. (In response, the Democratic governor issued another emergency order the same day.)
“The question in this case is not whether the Governor acted wisely; it is whether he acted lawfully. We conclude he did not,” Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote in the court’s majority opinion.
Evers had previously argued that repeated 60-day states of emergency were lawful because the COVID-19 pandemic has changed over time, “similar to emergency declarations over separate flooding events in the same river,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Evers responded to the ruling with a statement asking state residents to continue wearing masks: “Since the beginning of this pandemic, I’ve worked to keep Wisconsinites healthy and safe, and I’ve trusted the science and public health experts to guide our decision making. Our fight against COVID-19 isn’t over – while we work to get folks vaccinated as quickly as we can, we know wearing a mask saves lives, and we still need Wisconsinites to mask up so we can beat this virus and bounce back from this pandemic.”