Wisconsin stay-at-home order gets tossed by the state’s Supreme Court

While it can be frustrating, staying at home is actually one of the best ways to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further. That’s why many states across the US have imposed stay-at-home orders, which have been in place for quite a while now.

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Following the evolution of the epidemic, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers had decided to extend the lockdown until May 26. Nevertheless, the state’s Supreme Court overturned the governor’s decision, claiming it was “unlawful” and “unenforceable.”

The court’s 4-3 ruling essentially reopened the state, lifting caps on the size of gatherings, allowing people to travel as they please, and allowing shuttered businesses to reopen, including bars and restaurants. Nevertheless, local governments can still impose their own health restrictions.

Governor Evers reacted angrily in a conference call, saying the state has been doing well in the fight against the coronavirus. He predicted the court ruling will lead more counties to impose their own restrictions, leading to a confusing patchwork of ordinances that will allow the infection to spread.

“Today, Republican legislators convinced four members of the state Supreme Court to throw the state into chaos,” Evers said. “They have provided no plan. There’s no question among anybody that people are going to get sick. Republicans own that chaos.”

The ruling comes after the legislature’s Republican leaders filed a lawsuit last month arguing the order would cost Wisconsin residents their jobs and hurt many companies and asserting that if it was left in place, “our State will be in shambles.” The suit was filed specifically against Department of Health officials.

Chief Justice Patience Roggensack wrote on behalf of the majority that health secretary Andrea Palm’s order amounted to an emergency rule that she doesn’t have the power to create on her own. “Rule-making exists precisely to ensure that kind of controlling, subjective judgment asserted by one unelected official, Palm, is not imposed in Wisconsin,” Roggensack wrote.

Meanwhile, Rebecca Dallet, one of the court’s liberal justices, dissented, saying the decision will “undoubtedly go down as one of the most blatant examples of judicial activism in this court’s history. And it will be Wisconsinites who pay the price.” Dallet also took aim at the potential delay of a rule-making process.

State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, both Republicans, said they’re confident businesses can safely reopen by following guidelines calling for workers to be allowed to stay home if they’re sick, making workers wash their hands, and implementing telework and social distancing.

Experts widely agree that states and localities will need robust testing and contact tracing programs in order to control the pandemic without strict social distancing measures, but many states — including Wisconsin — have reported shortages of critical supplies needed to run coronavirus tests.

Governor Evers encouraged people in his state to continue “to stay safer at home, practice social distancing, and limit travel, because folks, deadly viruses don’t wait around for politicians and bureaucrats to settle their differences or promulgate rules.” Nearly seven of 10 Wisconsin residents back the “safer at home” order, a survey this week showed.

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