The Wisconsin State Senate has voted to end a statewide mask mandate issued by the governor, a resolution that would put Wisconsin among a minority of states without such a requirement if assembly lawmakers approve it.
The resolution, which passed on Tuesday and was sponsored by Republican lawmakers who claim the measures are unconstitutional, would end a monthslong requirement to wear masks in public and indoor settings that came into force as part of emergency orders issued by Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat.
The State Assembly is expected to take up the measure on Thursday. Republicans control both chambers of Wisconsin’s legislature.
Doctors and health care professionals have widely condemned the resolution, warning that masks are the best protection to prevent the spread of the coronavirus before people are vaccinated.
And evidence has shown that mask-wearing helps contain the spread of the coronavirus: A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that focused on Kansas last summer showed that new Covid-19 cases decreased 6 percent in counties that had mask mandates, while they increased 100 percent in those without one.
“Other than vaccines, mask-wearing is one of the few tools we have in our arsenal to help prevent spreading Covid-19 even further,” Bud Chumbley, the chief executive of the Wisconsin Medical Society, an advocacy group representing physicians, said in a statement.
Wisconsin had reported nearly 585,000 coronavirus cases and 6,268 deaths as of Wednesday morning, according to a New York Times database. Around 4.6 percent of the state’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to a New York Times tally.
Forty-one states, including Wisconsin, currently have a mask requirement, according to the National Academy for State Health Academy.
Mr. Evers has issued a number of executive orders proclaiming a public health emergency in Wisconsin amid the pandemic and requiring masks to be worn in any public indoor setting.
The most recent order was issued this month, but Republicans lawmakers have argued that Mr. Evers cannot issue emergency orders indefinitely. In rejecting the mandate on Tuesday, they declared the public health emergency “unlawful and terminated.”
“There is no such thing as a perpetual emergency,” State Senator Duey Stroebel, a Republican, said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Local officials can still require a mask to be worn in public spaces if state lawmakers revoke the governor’s order, which could create a patchwork of policies across towns and counties.