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State court upholds Wisconsin mask mandate

A Wisconsin judge on Monday ruled that the state's coronavirus mask mandate will be allowed to continue, turning aside a challenge from a conservative legal group.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, backed by the state's GOP-controlled legislature, argued that Gov. Tony EversTony EversEight governors call on feds to immediately send out vaccine doses now in reserve Marquette men's basketball team wears black uniforms to protest Jacob Blake decision Wisconsin governor slams decision to not charge officers in Jacob Blake shooting MORE (D) overstepped his executive authority by issuing multiple emergency orders to slow the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rick Esenberg, the group's president, said they would appeal, calling the issue a "critical constitutional matter." 

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State Republicans have continually challenged Evers's orders during the pandemic, and Wisconsin's Supreme Court in May struck down his stay-at-home order, which included restrictions on businesses.

Evers said he was following the recommendations of public health experts and that he was within his constitutional rights.

The plaintiffs argued Evers was not allowed to issue successive orders for the same pandemic.

But Judge Michael Waterman ruled there is nothing prohibiting the governor from declaring successive states of emergency "when emergency conditions continue to exist."

“And, if the Legislature is unconvinced that a state of emergency does exist, the Legislature has the ultimate power to terminate it,” Waterman said.

He also noted that a ruling against the mask mandate would go far beyond the interests of the three private citizens bringing the challenge.

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An injunction stopping the mandate would “affect every person in Wisconsin by a judicial act that usurps the governor’s power to declare a state of emergency and the Legislature’s power to end one," Waterman wrote.

Evers initially declared a 60-day public health emergency in March. He renewed that order in July after the legislature did not extend it. The July order required all residents to wear a mask when indoors in public. An order last month extended the mandate to Nov. 21 amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in the state and implemented a $200 fine for noncompliance. 

Wisconsin has become a coronavirus hot spot in the past month, with more than 150,000 cases reported. Evers recently announced the opening of a field hospital to deal with overwhelmed hospitals.