MADISON, Wis. (WLS) -- Wisconsin health officials are confirming 1,956 new positive tests of the coronavirus, and the overall total to 152,192. State Department of Health Services figures show more than 50,000 new cases in the last three weeks.
About 29,000 of the cases remain active, or more than 19% of total cases.
Officials confirmed nine new deaths in the last day, for a total of 1,474 since the pandemic began.
The state reached a new all-time high in its seven-day average of the percent of positive tests at 19.1%. Hospitalizations rose by 56 in the last day.
A Wisconsin judge on Monday allowed the state's mask mandate to stand, rejecting an attempt by the Republican-controlled Legislature and a conservative law firm to overturn it, even as coronavirus cases spiked and the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 hit a new high.
The judge noted in his ruling that lawmakers could vote to overturn Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' order, but haven't so far. Evers sent Republican legislative leaders a letter hours after the ruling asking them to drop the lawsuit and "work together on our state's greatest challenges."
Noting a spike in cases, and the opening of a field hospital to provide additional capacity for coronavirus patients, Evers urged Republicans to "start taking this seriously."
Republican legislative leaders did not immediately return messages seeking comment. The Legislature filed a brief in support of the lawsuit. Also Monday, a Republican-led legislative committee took the first steps to overturn another order Evers issued last week setting capacity limits for business.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which filed suit against the mask mandate, will appeal, said the group's president Rick Esenberg. He did not say if they would attempt to skip the state appeals court by asking the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case. Esenberg called the issue a "critical constitutional matter."
The lawsuit argued that Evers overstepped his authority by issuing multiple emergency orders to curb the coronavirus pandemic. It also said masks are ineffective since Wisconsin's infection numbers have continued to rise since Evers' mandate was imposed. Evers defended the mask order, saying it was within his power to impose the requirement and that he followed the recommendations of public health experts.
St. Croix County Circuit Judge R. Michael Waterman said in his ruling that nothing prevents a governor from issuing multiple emergency declarations "when the emergency conditions continue to exist."
"And, if the Legislature is unconvinced that a state of emergency does exist, the Legislature has the ultimate power to terminate it," the judge said.
Evers called the ruling a victory in the fight against COVID-19.
"We will continue doing everything we can to prevent the spread of this virus," he said. "We ask Wisconsinites to please stay home as much as possible, limit travel and going to public gatherings, and wear a mask whenever out and about."
The judge also noted that overturning the mask mandate would "affect every person in Wisconsin by a judicial act that usurps the governor's power to declare a state of emergency and the Legislature's power to end one."
Evers first declared a public health emergency in March and renewed it in July after the Legislature declined to extend it. The July order mandated the wearing of masks starting in August for anyone aged 5 and up in all enclosed spaces except at home. He issued another order in September that extended the mask mandate until Nov. 21. Violators could be subject to a $200 fine.
Thursday, the state set a new daily case record with more than 3,000 new postivite COVID-19 cases with a one-day positivity rate of nearly 20%, health officials said.
Gov. Tony Evers' administration issued an order limiting the size of public indoor gatherings to stem the spread of COVID-19. It takes effect Friday.
Wisconsin has become one of the worst hot spots for the disease over the last month as colleges and schools reopened and fatigue over wearing masks and social distancing has grown.
The order issued Tuesday limits public indoor gatherings to 25% of the room or building's capacity. Gatherings in indoor spaces without an occupancy limit are limited to 10 people.
The order runs through Nov. 6. Evers' attorney says he's confident the restrictions will withstand any legal challenge.
Milwaukee health officials say the city will enforce its own coronavirus orders for bars and restaurants, which doesn't necessarily limit the businesses to 25% capacity imposed under Evers' new restrictions.
The Milwaukee Health Department says Evers' order permits local municipalities to have more restrictive orders in place and the city determined its plan fits that criteria.
Health official say that even though the city's current order "permits a larger threshold of individuals...the additional restrictions listed under the local order do more to prevent COVID-19 transmission than Governor Evers' Emergency Order #3."
The local order requires restaurants and bars to submit an 80-point COVID checklist to the health department in order to operate.
Evers also announced a field hospital at the state fairgrounds will open next week as a surge in COVID-19 cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a 530-bed field hospital on the state fairgrounds in West Allis in April. The department says it will open Oct. 14.
Both Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady voiced concern during a Wednesday press briefing about the state of COVID-19 in Wisconsin and urged Chicagoans not to travel there.
A federal appeals court has blocked a decision to extend by six days the deadline for counting absentee ballots in Wisconsin.
Democrats will almost certainly appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled last month that any ballots that arrive in clerks' offices by Nov. 9 will be counted as long as they're postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 3.
Previously ballots were due by 8 p.m. on Election Day. A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the extension on Sept. 30.
Republicans then sought a new ruling from the court, and the same three judges stayed Conley's ruling on Thursday.
A medical examiner has confirmed at least two inmates of a Wisconsin prison have died after contracting the coronavirus. The Dodge County Medical Examiner's Office says two prisoners at the Dodge Correctional Institution died in September.
The state Department of Corrections does not report the deaths because of privacy laws. The medical examiner says a 63-year-old man with preexisting health conditions died Sept. 12 from COVID-19. And on Sept. 15, a 62-year-old man who tested positive for COVID-19 while incarcerated at Dodge Correctional died of lung cancer.
The medical examiner says the coronavirus infection was a contributing factor to his death.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.