‘Do your jobs’: Group of nurses calls on legislative leaders to keep mask mandate in place, pass Healthcare Heroes bill

MADISON, Wis. — A group of nurses called on leaders in the Wisconsin state legislature on Thursday to leave the mask mandate alone and pass a bill to offer hazard pay and paid sick leave to healthcare workers.

The Senate majority leader said the legislature was looking at this week or next for passing a joint resolution to block the mask mandate, but the nurses, there with the Service Employees International Union, said the mandate would help combat spread of the coronavirus.

Republican leaders in the legislature have objected to the way the governor went about issuing the mandate by declaring a second public health emergency. Some have also called it an infringement on rights.

Nurses who spoke Thursday said the legislature needs to act in the best interest of the people in the state, and said blocking the mandate wouldn’t do that.

“On top of working our full shifts and overtime for a lot of us to keep up in a busy hospital that we’re then coming down here to ask our representatives to do their jobs, do the bare minimum of what we expect from them as their constituents, it’s infuriating,” said Kate Walton, an emergency room nurse. “It’s frustrating, and it shouldn’t have to happen.”

The group also said the legislature should pass the Healthcare Heroes Act, which would provide hazard pay, paid sick leave and no-cost coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment for healthcare workers. Three Democratic lawmakers introduced that legislation in June, but it has not been taken up.

News 3 Now reached out to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, for this story, but he did not return a request for comment. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, who is also running for Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional seat, did not return multiple requests for comment on this story.