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'A Terrible Decision:' Mixed Reaction To WI Supreme Court Decision Striking Down Mask Mandate

HUDSON (WCCO) - The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled Gov. Tony Evers exceeded his authority in issuing a mask mandate and struck down the statewide requirement, making Minnesota the only state in the region with a state order.

The 4-3 decision delivers another legal defeat for Evers and his efforts to use his executive powers to curb the Coronavirus pandemic. Local governments can still issue their own mandates.

But for John Gavic, a 31-year-old small business owner in Hudson, the ruling doesn't change much for him. He said he rarely wears masks anyway, even when the statewide order was effective.

"It's personal preference for everybody. Just don't tell me what I have to do," Gavic said. "That's my biggest issue with it—let people make their own decisions."

M.P. Flandrick, who lives across the St. Croix in Stillwater and is visiting Hudson, said the decision from the Supreme Court will likely keep her away from Wisconsin, even though she said she wants to patronize local businesses that are struggling.

"I'm not going to shop here," she said. "I started to walk out of a shop here yesterday because the owner wasn't wearing a mask. I want to feel safe."

She joined two friends—all of them vaccinated but still wearing masks—for lunch on Wednesday. Lee Kisling questioned why the matter was even up for political debate.

The GOP-controlled legislature passed a law repealing the mask mandate and Gov. Evers quickly re-issued it. A major Republican donor sued, and the conservative-leaning Supreme Court ruled that Evers unlawfully overstepped his authority in requiring masks.

"Why is a pandemic being portrayed as a freedom issue?" wondered Kisling, who lives in Hudson. "This isn't about civil liberties, I mean 'don't tread on me'? For God's sake, give me a break. Don't kill me."

"I think the Supreme Court made a terrible decision," he said.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court decision comes as other states are choosing to lift their mask mandates and loosen other restrictions. But cases and hospitalizations are on the rise as the variants circulate communities.

The uptick is enough of a concern that Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director for the U.S. Centers Control, issued a dire warning of feeling "impending doom" and a potential for another surge.

On Monday, she pleaded with Americans to not let up on COVID mitigation strategies.

"We have so much to look forward to. So much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope," she said. "But right now I'm scared."

Her words gave Gov. Tim Walz pause on Tuesday. He said the state's health department is still analyzing the impacts the spread of COVID variants are having in Minnesota, where cases have risen.

"That shook me," Walz said of Walensky's comments.

In a statement to WCCO, the Minnesota Department of Health doubled down on mask-wearing, saying even with vaccinations ramping up here, Minnesotans should continue to wear masks and social distance.

"After more than a year of COVID-19, the science is settled: wearing a mask around others is one of the easiest and most effective ways to slow the spread of COVID-19," a spokesman said in an email.

As of Wednesday, more than one million Minnesotans are fully vaccinated. More than 1.6 million have had at least one dose.

The state expanded eligibility to anyone 16 or older on Tuesday and Gov. Tim Walz predicted another 1.5 million people could get shots in the next three to four weeks.

Beginning Thursday, some restrictions on large gatherings at events in Minnesota lift, as long as masking and social distancing is still observed.

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