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Claire DeRosa / Wisconsin Watch

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Gov. Tony Evers announced Wednesday that he plans to declare a new public health emergency and extend his statewide mask mandate into mid-January as Wisconsin’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths continue to surge.

“It’s clear based on where we’re headed, we cannot afford to stop or have a gap in some of the only mitigation efforts we have in place,” Evers told reporters.

Public health experts tout mask-wearing as a key tool for slowing the spread of COVID-19, and the mandate is Evers’ only major public health restriction that has not yet been thwarted by courts. 

Evers’ current emergency declaration is set to expire Nov. 21 — as is the mask mandate attached to it. With the GOP-controlled Legislature’s backing, a consertvative legal group is challenging the constitutionality of previous extensions of the emergency declaration and mask mandate. The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard arguments in the case on Monday.   

Evers announced the extension Wednesday as his Department of Health Services reported 7,989 new COVID-19 infections in Wisconsin — yet another daily record. DHS has reported 144 COVID-19 deaths in the past two days, pushing the state’s recorded pandemic death toll to 2,793. 

Public health experts worry the death toll will only grow if residents host holiday gatherings. 

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“Living during these times is very challenging. We talk about COVID on a daily basis, we hear these messages, and it can be very daunting, just thinking about the uncertainty of the future. This is where I think every now and then it’s important to be mindful of people who may be worse off than us, and I think the holidays coming up is that time to show that kind of gratitude. If you have your health, you’re lucky. There are a lot of people who have succumbed to the virus — families who aren’t able to share the holidays with those people who have died.”

— Ajay Sethi, a public health and infectious disease epidemiology researcher at the UW-Madison, speaking to WPR 

“As Wisconsin physician leaders, we see the growing toll this disease is taking on our health care system — straining hospital capacity and stressing our nurses, doctors and others. We’re grateful to these health care heroes, but they need your help to stem the surge of COVID-19 patients in our hospitals and clinics.”

— Dr. Mark Kaufman, chief medical officer for the Wisconsin Hospital Association, writing in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel commentary signed by 32 chief medical officers in Wisconsin

Data to note

WisContext offers these visualizations of Wisconsin’s trends in COVID-19 infections, deaths and hospitalizations.

Calculate your exposure risk

In Wisconsin, even small gatherings this holiday season can carry a big risk of exposure to the coronavirus, according to a nationwide tool that estimates the danger by the size of gathering and county in which it is held. Data scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Stanford University developed the tool, which you can find here.

Resilient Wisconsin

People helping others and showing resilience during this time of anxiety. Send suggestions by tagging us on social media — @wisconsinwatch — or emailing us:

Front line fighter: Dwayne Collins is among hundreds of unsung workers keeping hospitals sanitary and safe during COVID Cap Times 

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