The Wisconsin Supreme Court Must Strike Down Dane County’s Mask Mandate Right Now

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MADISON, Wis. — Surprise, surprise. Dane County, home to Wisconsin’s capital city of Madison, once again extended its indoor mask mandate on Monday until Nov. 27, meaning one thing we aren’t allowed to be grateful for this Thanksgiving is the freedom to breathe fresh air.

The order — which the unelected bureaucrats at the county health department first handed down in August, renewed in September, renewed in October, and now are renewing again — applies to everybody, including toddlers as young as two years old, regardless of whether they’re vaccinated and in all indoor spaces. Dane is one of the most vaccinated counties in the entire country, and according to its own numbers, herd immunity there could be as high as 90 percent. When the health director first issued the diktat in August, weekly average deaths had been steady at zero since the middle of May.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has had every opportunity to strike down these ridiculous orders, but it hasn’t. And as we’ve warned, the emboldened health honchos saw no reason to relinquish their power.

Right before stretching out the mandate another few weeks, the Dane County heath department tweeted this, noting a decrease in cases and the fact that the county “has the lowest case rate and lowest percent positivity out of all 72 counties in the state.” Yet it remains the only place in Wisconsin with a county-wide mandate for face coverings indoors.

But don’t worry. This is the last time it will be extended — they promise. Or at least they have “no plans” to institute another mandate “at this time.”

This plan not to re-extend the mandate after it’s set to expire later this month “comes as a result of decreasing case rates, increasing vaccination rates and the expansion of eligibility for booster doses which will only help strengthen our collective immunity,” public health Director Janel Heinrich said in a press release accompanying the extension.

Does she hear herself? If case rates are decreasing, vaxx rates are increasing, and booster shots are bolstering immunity, what is the justification for extending the mandate another day — especially when the zero death rate never warranted her slapping down a mandate in the first place?

It’s for the children! That’s the justification they’re going with this time.

“Our main goal with masking guidelines continues to be protecting those most vulnerable to the virus, including unvaccinated children,” county executive Joe Parisi said. “We know wearing masks helps keep kids from getting sick in school settings and keeps kids in school. As soon as the Wisconsin Department of Health Services authorizes us to do so, we have the capacity to vaccinate many people quickly and are prepared to get our kids vaccinated as soon as possible.”

But this too is a bunch of bunk. Schoolchildren have always been at extremely low risk of getting a severe enough case of the Wuhan virus to be hospitalized for it and have long been at almost no risk of dying from it.

So cases are going down, shots are going up, and the people we’re allegedly protecting have never really been in harm’s way, but Dane County residents are still forced to comply with an onerous mask mandate while they’re working out, punching the clock, shopping for groceries, or worshipping.

Despite a conservative majority, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has completely shirked its responsibility to “say what the law is” for the more than half a million county residents who can’t escape the bureaucratic tyranny no matter how hard they try. Unelected bureaucrats can’t just issue senseless decrees endlessly and without accountability.

But because the health director gave a squishy indication that this is the last time she’ll unjustifiably snatch your freedom for a while, the court will be tempted to keep twiddling its thumbs until the mandate expires because it doesn’t want to wade into pandemic politics and what’s a few more weeks of masking?

What happens when case counts go up after Thanksgiving and Black Friday? We had no plans to renew the mandate, but we now have no choice. Or parents are hesitant to immediately get their children the jab? We’ve always upheld our commitment to protecting the vulnerable, and until children are fully vaccinated, we cannot risk any positive cases at school. 

Or cold weather moves more people inside? Colder temperatures have unfortunately moved more people indoors, forcing us to take every precaution to keep you safe as we weather Wisconsin winters — together. The December press release practically writes itself.

The science on COVID and children didn’t stop the mandate. Neither did zero deaths, falling case rates, rising vaxx rates, and veritable herd immunity. The county health overlords have shown unequivocally that they don’t need any reason other than their own power expansion to impose endless diktats, meaning there’s absolutely no reason to believe that Nov. 27 will be the end of the madness, and the court would be foolish to think so.

By neglecting to put Heinrich in her place, the Wisconsin justices have enabled the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people, including school children and toddlers who aren’t permitted to breathe freely.

There is a lawsuit the state Supreme Court could take up anytime. It was brought months ago by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and challenges the authority of bureaucrats like Heinrich to issue such orders. So while the court could just wait this order out again and see what happens, for the sanity of Dane County residents and the fidelity of the law, it must strike this order down immediately.

After all, if the court had fulfilled its role in September when a lawsuit was brought over an earlier iteration of the mask mandate, there wouldn’t still have been a mandate for Heinrich to extend in October. And if it had taken up the case last month, we wouldn’t be forced to enter the holidays masked, nearly two years after the pandemic kicked off.

The next holiday is already tainted with mask rules; the last thing we want for Christmas is another mask mandate. But unless the court upholds the law, that’s exactly what we’ll get.

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