MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Tuesday, Wisconsin’s governor extended the statewide mask mandate as coronavirus cases continue to soar.

Gov. Tony Evers also declared a public health emergency. College campuses have seen the most concerning increases as people ages 18 to 24 have a case rate that’s five times higher than any age group in Wisconsin.

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Evers extended the Wisconsin mask mandate to Nov. 21, even as his authority to issue the mandate is being challenged by conservatives in court.

“Some people are OK with it and some don’t even believe in COVID,” said Nick Jadinak of River Falls.

In downtown River Falls, the mask mandate extension was not surprising, and in most cases, welcome.

“My son is 42 and he had it and he’s a professional athlete and he was right on death’s door. It’s a dangerous disease,” said Mark Tomlinson.

Last week at UW River Falls, the decision was made to temporarily stop in person classes and shift to online learning.
Students had only been in the classroom for two weeks.

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“When we saw that spike we knew we had to make some changes. We knew we had to do something to try and flatten that curve,” said interim chancellor Connie Foster.

Foster said if case numbers go down on campus testing sites, the plan is to return to the classroom on Oct. 3.

“Even now we are working on more communications with students to help them understand the science of this. What it really looks like. But we are competing with that whole need to be together,” Foster said.

The students that remain are being asked to shelter in place as much as they can, and to avoid parties and large gatherings when restrictions are lifted.

“I am fine to go along with it as long as I still get the education I’m paying for it,” said Nate Schueller, UW River Falls student.

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Wisconsin now ranks third in the country for new COVID-19 cases per capita. The state’s mask mandate was set to expire on Monday.

John Lauritsen