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Gov. Evers letter to GOP leaders: ‘What’s your plan to respond to the pandemic?’

evers vos fitz
FILE: Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Governor Tony Evers & Assembly Speaker Robin Vos

MADISON (WKOW) -- Governor Tony Evers is willing to meet with Republican leaders to discuss their opposition to his emergency orders aimed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but asks them in a three-page letter to be prepared to bring ideas, feedback, and their own plan to address the pandemic.

"Given it has been 180 days since the Legislature last passed a bill and that you have repeatedly—through costly litigation and your public comments—expressed opposition to nearly every action my administration has taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, I am eager to ensure our meeting is productive," Evers wrote in a letter to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senator Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

Speaker Vos and Senator Fitzgerald asked Gov. Evers for a meeting last week after he issued Emergency Order #3, which limits certain capacity to no more than 25% capacity.

In the letter, Evers also asks GOP leaders to withdraw their support to strike the statewide mask order which faces an appeal from a conservative group after a judge denied a temporary injunction, keeping the statewide mask mandate in place for now.

Republicans can also vote down the mask order in the legislature, but many have backed off the idea as the election nears.

State Sen. Van Wangaarrd (R-Racine) told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the Senate would strike down the order after the election saying it be "sure to happen." Evers said he was "troubled" to read Sen. Wangaarrd's comments and had hoped they were not true.

Evers stressed in his letter he has yet to see "a plan to respond to this pandemic, no such plan has ever materialized or been offered to me or
the people of our state."

For weeks 27 News has reached out to GOP leadership for interviews to ask them what their plans are to curb the spread of COVID-19 and whether or not they plan to strike down the mask order through the legislative process.

Rep. Vos and Sen. Fitzgerald's office did not immediately return requests seeking comment.

The governor's letter stresses a sense of urgency as COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising, overwhelming our health care system as Wisconsin continues to rank one of the worst in the country for coronavirus cases.

27 News has also asked a handful of top Republicans in the legislature why they are not encouraging their constituents to follow public health guidelines, another point Evers brought up in his letter.

"I would ask you and your members to model this behavior yourselves and please join these efforts by publicly echoing these calls, sharing information from the Department of Health Services and urging your constituents in every medium and vehicle available to you to follow these best practices so we can all do our part to help prevent the spread," said Evers.

Sen. Duey Stroebel told 27 News he believed, Republicans had no obligation to publicly encourage mask wearing. Sen. Chris Kapenga also recently said he doesn't believe masks are effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and downplayed the need to open a field hospital as some facilities are overflowing with patients.

In the Assembly, Rep. John Nygren bristled at the idea of Republican lawmaker’s attitudes toward Evers' orders contributed to mask wearing and physical distancing becoming the newest theaters in the culture war.

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Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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