JEFFERSON — On a day when a group of Wisconsin residents have filed a lawsuit trying to strike down the statewide facemask mandate, the positive number of COVID-19 cases in the Badger State continues to remain, high with another 638 cases reported Tuesday.
But what has changed in the last few weeks is less testing than in previous weeks across the state. It has not gone past 10,000 tests in a day in about a week and a half, a number that was common in July and early August.
However, testing will increase in Jefferson County this week as a free testing site will open again at Jefferson County Fair Park in Jefferson on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 28 and 29, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Given by members of the Wisconsin National Guard, the test is free to anyone 5 years or older, and one need not be a county resident.
Symptoms of COVID-19 are not required to take the test.
There have been 829 people who have tested positive for the virus in Jefferson County, about 1 percent of the population. And more than 71,000 in the state.
This marks the third site that has opened in the area since the start of the pandemic in March.
In May, about 1,300 people were tested in Whitewater and that same number were tested in late July at Fair Park in Jefferson.
Also on Tuesday, Wisconsin’s statewide mask mandate was challenged by three western Wisconsin residents represented by a conservative law firm who argued that Gov. Tony Evers didn’t have the authority to order it.
It’s the first legal challenge to the mask order Evers issued to help slow the spread of the coronavirus after cases began to spike again in mid-June. Evers issued the order on July 30, it took effect Aug. 1, and is set to run until Sept. 28.
The order requires everyone age 5 and older to wear a mask while indoors, except at home. Violators could be fined $200.
Two Polk County residents and one in St. Croix County filed the Wisconsin lawsuit. They are represented by the conservative law firm the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.
The lawsuit contends that the legal challenge is about Evers’ authority, not whether the state should act to slow the spread of COVID-19 or whether there can be a mask mandate. If Evers wanted to enact a mask mandate, he could have done so with the Legislature’s approval, not by issuing an executive order, said Rick Esenberg, president of the law firm bringing the challenge.
Evers’ spokeswoman Britt Cudaback accused Republicans and their allies of trying to prevent the governor from keeping people healthy and safe.
“We know requiring masks and face coverings will help us save lives, and Gov. Evers will continue listening to science and public health experts in making the best decisions for the people of our state,” she said in a statement.
Evers declared a public health emergency in March related to the coronavirus. That expired after 60 days on May 11 after the Republican-controlled Legislature did not extend it. In July, Evers declared a second state of emergency and issued the mask mandate in conjunction with that order.
Before Evers issued the statewide order, many cities and counties across Wisconsin had instituted mask mandates, including Milwaukee and Dane counties, Green Bay, Racine, Superior and Whitewater.
Gov. Evers’ order doesn’t prevent local governments from enacting even stricter ordinances.
The lawsuit argues that the mask order should be struck down because Evers has no authority under state law or the Wisconsin Constitution to issue a second health emergency to address the same crisis without legislative approval. If the court determines that Evers did have legal power to issue the order, the lawsuit argues that the underlying law giving him that power should be found unconstitutional.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.