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Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers to extend COVID-19 emergency declaration, mask mandate into next year
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Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers to extend COVID-19 emergency declaration, mask mandate into next year

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One day after a record 92 people died as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Tony Evers announced Wednesday he will extend the state's emergency declaration and accompanying mask mandate through mid-January.

The Department of Health Services reported nearly 8,000 new cases Wednesday, along with 52 deaths, bringing the state total to 2,793 deaths and more than 331,000 cases.

"This is not how it's supposed to be," DHS Secretary Andrea Palm said.

Evers has issued three public health emergencies and a series of related orders since the pandemic began. The current mask mandate was issued in July and extended by Evers in September. It was originally slated to expire on Saturday.

Evers said he plans to formally issue the latest order this week, but said there are not plans for any accompanying requirements beyond the mask mandate.

"I think that's where we're at at this point in time," Evers said.

At the same time, Evers' current emergency declaration and accompanying mask mandate is before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, following a lawsuit that contends the governor’s actions in recent months to mitigate the spread of the virus are an unconstitutional overreach of power.

During oral arguments Monday, it appeared as though the order could be struck down by the court, which would put the issue in the hands of local governments or the Legislature, who has the power to pass laws to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

On Wednesday, a new order in Dane County went into effect to ban large indoor gatherings and limit outdoor gatherings to 10 people, with physical distancing. The order remains in effect until Dec. 16. The county continues to require face coverings and limit the capacity for most businesses to 50%, along with many other provisions.

Evers sent a proposal to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, on Monday for $541 million in COVID-19-related measures aimed at making unemployment insurance more accessible, prohibiting evictions and waiving school assessments through the end of next year.

Evers on Tuesday released a summary of the 19 bills to news outlets after Vos scheduled a COVID-19 press conference later that day. However, Vos announced during the meeting with reporters that he had not drafted any legislation, but rather had ideas Assembly Republicans would like to propose.

Vos said he hopes to meet with Evers as soon as this week and have a package of bills negotiated later this month, but hinted that the Republican-run Assembly likely would not convene until December.

This story will be updated.

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