Wisconsin governor tells Trump to require masks at campaign rallies or stay away

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Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is trying to prevent a superspreader event in a state that its chief medical officer says is "in a crisis."

Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers told Donald Trump on Tuesday to require masks at his rallies in the state this Saturday or just "not come." Wisconsin is dealing with so-called COVID-19 "red zones," and hospitals there are reaching full capacity.

Gov. Tony Evers said in a Tuesday coronavirus briefing that there were "absolutely" two things Trump could do. 

"Number one, he could not come," Evers said. "The second thing that could be done is for him to insist that if people are there, they wear a mask. He could make that happen.

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"He could wear one too. Those are the two things that he could do to make sure that it doesn't become a super-spreader event," the governor added.

Trump is planning on having rallies with potentially thousands of people in COVID-19 hot spots La Crosse and Green Bay, both designated "red zones" by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, meaning that the locations have had more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the preceding week.

"We are in a crisis right now," said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Wisconsin's chief medical officer. "Turning the corner on this requires that we do things dramatically different than what we're doing. It requires all of society, all of Wisconsin to do things differently." 

On Wednesday, Wisconsin suffered 27 deaths from the coronavirus, the most ever reported in the state in a single day, bringing its total death toll to 1,327

In Green Bay, officials at Bellin Hospital said they were at 94% capacity as of Tuesday. Paul Casey, medical director of the hospital's emergency department for 16 years, told WBAY that "in Brown County, we're in deep trouble." 

Casey shared a graph on Facebook, saying in the accompanying post: "The second wave is here, and it is here with a vengeance.

"All four Green Bay hospitals are close to capacity," Casey continued. "Our ICU has been full several times this week. For the first time in the 16 years I have been medical director, our ED has had to place patients in the hallway. This occurred twice in the last week."  

He said: "If you have not yet accepted the seriousness of this pandemic, now is the time to start. The life of a loved one could be at stake." 

Meanwhile, Evers extended his statewide mask order to Nov. 21 after declaring a new public health emergency. The original mandate required masks be worn across the state from Aug. 1 to Sept. 28. 

On Monday, the conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty continued its efforts to repeal the mandate, filing a court request to declare the mask order invalid and void. A judge will consider the motion in an Oct. 5 court hearing, the Associated Press reported. 

Evers maintained that the spread of the virus will not get under control "until we all get on the same team." 

"We have to have people who believe that this is not a hoax, that this is a real thing and that people are dying from this disease. It's unacceptable that we just blow it off. We need leadership at the national level that are consistent in this effort. ... We have to have people in charge talk the truth," Evers said at a press conference.

In Tuesday's first presidential debate, Trump falsely claimed that "so far, we have had no problem whatsoever" at his campaign rallies. 

After his campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in late June, Tulsa County reported 261 confirmed new cases on July 6, a one-day record high, and another 206 cases the next day, according to the AP. That was more than twice the number seen the week before the rally.

A reporter who attended the rally, six of Trump's campaign staffers, and two members of the Secret Service who worked in advance of the rally tested positive for COVID-19. 

Former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, who also attended the rally and was photographed there not wearing a mask, tested positive for the coronavirus nine days after the rally and died of COVID-19 on July 30.

Wisconsin is a key battleground state in 2020. Until 2016, no Republican presidential candidate had won Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan did it in 1984.

In 2016, Trump won the state by less than 1 point, helping him clinch the White House. 

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.