Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes down mask mandate, but local cities and counties can still implement mask orders

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – In a 4-3 vote, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Governor Tony Evers’ mask mandate Wednesday.

It was at first declared an emergency health order back in July.

“I want to remind everyone that we are in a battle against this virus, not against each other,” Evers said in a state media briefing in July last year.

But for the last eight months, it has been a political legal feud.

“This is not about whether face masks are good or bad,” Republican State Sen. Steve Nass said. “This is about repeatedly issuing emergency orders contrary to what the law allows.”

And now, Wisconsin’s mask mandate is no more.

So what happens going forward in the La Crosse area? That’s up to each city and county.

The La Crosse County Health Department issued a health advisory back in January requiring masks inside public areas.

The health department says that advisory still remains in place and doesn’t have an end date at this time.

In a statement, the department tells News 8 Now in part, “Masks remain one of the most important tools we have to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 until enough people are vaccinated. Members of our community are doing what is needed to stay safe and we trust everyone will continue to do the right thing.”

But Trempealeau County Health Department director Barb Barczak says in a statement in part, “The Trempealeau County mask order has expired. At this time, I have no plans to issue a new one. However, we still recommend wearing a mask (covering both mouth and nose) as it is still the best practice for protecting oneself from the virus.”

La Crosse resident Ava Herlitzke says the Supreme Court’s decision is a step in the right direction.

“That’s what everybody’s been anxious to get to,” Herlitzke said. “I think it’ll be a little scary at first if like the majority, you see the majority in public without a mask.”

The state’s high court’s vote comes as variants of the virus are spreading in the La Crosse area and statewide.

Eau Claire County sent out a release Wednesday saying the city and county are putting their own mask mandates in place through June 30.

People age five and older are required to wear a mask inside public spaces.

Last month, the city and county each came up with a mask order if the statewide mandate was lifted.

News 8 Now also contacted the Monroe, Vernon and Jackson County Health Departments, but we did not receive comment.

The state’s interim health officer called the court’s decision dangerous and disappointing.

She’s urging people to continue wearing their masks.

Governor Evers released a statement following the ruling, saying in part, “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. 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.”