Wisconsin Republicans renewed their efforts to end the state-wide mask mandate this week which could cut off nearly $50 million in food assistance during the pandemic.

Global Health Institute infectious disease specialist James Conway said in an email statement to The Badger Herald that with the emergence of new, transmittable mutations of COVID-19, now is the time to continue strict infection control measures.

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“I am extremely disappointed by the discussions being held at the WI legislature, which would prevent our state from having a uniform statewide mask mandate,” Conway said in the statement. “Nearly every country and state on this planet has adopted these measures as a means to protect us from this ongoing and tragic pandemic.”

Conway said mildly and non-symptomatic individuals represent some of the highest risks for transmission among community members and masks are one of the most important measures to protect vulnerable communities.

Conway also said communities with high compliance with masking policies have the lowest rates of disease transmission. Additional research conducted by the University of Utah shows state mask requirements are more effective than
county-level requirements in terms of economic stability.

The study found consumer spending decreases in areas with county-level mask requirements when compared with areas under state-wide requirements. Polls have shown a majority of the public is in support of the mask mandate, Conway said.

“Surveys show that the vast majority of Americans support masking requirements, and our political leaders need to appropriately represent the majority,” Conway said in an email statement.

Conway said having uniform and simple guidelines instead of fragmented rules that differ in various areas leads to consistency in mask usage.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said in an email statement to The Badger Herald that masks are an important tool to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Science shows that wearing a face-covering can prevent the transmission of the respiratory droplets that spread the virus. Wearing a face covering is the simplest way to slow and prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” Wisconsin DHS said.

Republicans said they believe Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has overstepped his boundaries and they want to stop him from exercising powers they believe he does not have, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

State law allows the governor to issue emergency orders for up to 60 days and Evers has been issuing new orders every 6o days to extend the mask mandate after Republican legislators rejected to extend his initial order months ago.

“This is about repeatedly issuing emergency orders contrary to what the law allows,” Sen. Steve Nass said in an interview with WPR. “He never came to the Legislature and asked for an extension of any of those emergency orders.”

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Republicans would also prevent $49 million a month in food assistance to nearly 243,000 households in Wisconsin by ending the mask mandate, according to a story broke by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel which briefly paused the Republican’s efforts in the Assembly after it passed the Senate last week.

Republicans said they hope a new piece of legislation introduced concurrently on the floor will allow them to repeal the mask mandate without losing funding, according to WPR. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he would likely reschedule the vote to this week, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“I’ve been a mask advocate from the beginning. It’s an easy thing to do because it saves lives,” Evers said to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I will continue to make that promise to the people of Wisconsin [that] we will do everything in our power to make sure they’re safe.”