On March 31, 2021, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the most recent statewide mask mandate issued by Governor Evers on February 4, 2021. The first mask order was issued in August 2020 and was extended four times by Evers. In a 4-3 decision, the Court ruled that Evers exceeded his authority by unilaterally issuing multiple emergency orders relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Court held that Evers needed legislative approval to issue more orders after the expiration of the initial 60-day mandate, and it rejected the argument that successive emergencies could be declared based upon the changing nature of the pandemic. The decision also blocks Evers from issuing any new public health emergency orders to mandate face masks without the approval of the state legislature. The Court’s ruling was effective immediately.
The Supreme Court’s ruling does not affect mask mandates implemented by cities, counties, or tribes. Therefore, Dane County residents must continue to follow the mask requirements set forth in Public Health Madison and Dane County Emergency Order 14. For a full discussion of this Order, please see Lake Effect’s prior blog on Emergency Order 14 and amendments to that Order. Mask mandates issued by cities like Milwaukee, Racine, and Beloit also remain in effect. Furthermore, businesses, organizations, and nonprofits can continue to enforce their own mask requirements for employees, customers, visitors, or other members of the public.