Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday, Jan. 19, signed a new executive order declaring a public health emergency and paving the way for an extended mask mandate designed to slow the spread of coronavirus and aid the state’s vaccination efforts.

“We’re working every day to get vaccines distributed and get shots in arms to get our state back to some sort of normal,” Evers said in a news release. “At the end of the day, vaccine supplies are limited, so while we continue to ask the federal government for more vaccines and faster, we have to keep working together to stop the spread today by continuing to wear our masks, staying home whenever we can, avoiding gatherings, and doubling down on our efforts to keep our friends, neighbors, and families safe.”

The mask mandate requires anyone at least five years old to wear a face covering while indoors or in an enclosed space, unless in a private residence or while eating and drinking, along with a host of other exceptions.

The public health emergency declaration lasts 60 days, unless revoked sooner by the governor or a joint resolution of the Legislature.

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More than 248,000 vaccines had been administered in Wisconsin as of Tuesday, the news release states. Vaccination of the 1B priority group, which includes emergency first responders, started this week. The state’s roughly 700,000 residents aged 65 and up will become eligible Monday, Jan. 25.

The Evers administration’s vaccine management has come under scrutiny, with the Badger State ranking below its neighbors in the number of doses administered per 100,000 population.

Doses administered per 100K (as of Jan. 17, 2021, reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):

  • Michigan — 3,647
  • Minnesota — 3,515
  • Illinois — 3,455
  • Wisconsin — 2,916

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Majority Leader Jim Steineke sent a joint letter to the governor Jan. 13 calling for a comprehensive vaccine distribution plan.

The letter states: “For months, both the federal government and private sector moved at a historic pace to deliver a safe and effective vaccine to American citizens. However, now that we are on the cusp of being able to deliver this meaningful solution to every Wisconsinite, it is becoming painfully clear that what your administration is doing is woefully inadequate.”

By the numbers...

Here are the latest COVID-19 statistics as of Jan. 19, according to state and local health departments:

  • 524,402 — cumulative lab-confirmed cases statewide
  • 24,700 — active cases in Wisconsin as of Tuesday
  • 42 — number of new deaths reported Jan. 19, bringing the ongoing total to 5,512
  • 3,952 — confirmed and probable cases in Pierce County
  • 7,294 — confirmed and probably cases in St. Croix County

Wisconsin COVID-19 response and vaccination information can be found on the Department of Health Service’s COVID-19 webpage.