Last night, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued their decision to strike down Governor Evers’ safer-at-home order, effectively lifting restrictions on large gatherings and allowing businesses, but not schools, to reopen.
The Supreme Court also took the unusual step of making its decision effective immediately, rather than granting some time for the legislature and the Governor to come up with a plan together.
But the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision only struck down the statewide order. That effectively leaves it up to Wisconsin’s 72 counties to individually create their own public health plan, creating a patchwork of orders across the state.
And for the next two weeks, the restrictions in the Governor’s “safer-at-home” order will still apply to those in Dane County. Public Health Madison & Dane County used its authority to issue its own order shortly after the Wisconsin Supreme Court handed down their decision.
The local order was effective immediately, and is currently slated to end the morning of Tuesday, May 26th.
Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison and Dane County, says she doesn’t know yet whether the local order will be extended.
“We are as hopeful as everyone else is that we can move into a new phase. Right now we don’t know what that looks like. We have maintained a low positive rate. We are still seeing more than 25% community spread. These are the reasons we need to stay home. So we don’t have spread that continues to move,” she says.
Dane County is one of ten counties so far to enact their own safer at home order. County Executive Joe Parisi says he hopes other localities will do the same.
“What the Supreme Court did was created confusion without a follow up plan. Folks know, if we just throw this out the window, we’ll see another spike. When we do start to dial up, we don’t want to have to dial back down,” he says.
The local order also adopts the state’s plans to turn the dial on reopening. That means local standalone or strip mall retail stores can offer in-person shopping, with restrictions on customers in the store.
The county’s order also amends the Governor’s slightly by allowing places of worship to open and operate as essential businesses. That means they, too, must operate at a fraction of their operational capacity.
State Republicans have not yet offered up a formal reopening plan.
In a statement responding to the Court’s decision, Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said, “We would urge the Evers administration to work with us to begin promulgating rules that would provide clear guidance in case COVID-19 reoccurs in a more aggressive way.”
Today, the Department of Health Services began the administrative rule making process the Supreme Court ruled was required to enact protections for the state during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin DHS Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm says the agency is still working to increase the state’s testing capacity and contract tracing ability.
Today, Northwoods state Senator Tom Tiffany, who on Tuesday won an election to Congress, called for the resignation of Secretary-Designee Palm. Despite having nearly a year and a half to do so, the legislature has not yet voted on her appointment.
Shortly after the Supreme Court’s decision, Governor Evers issued a statement condemning the decision and the state’s republicans.
“Today, Republican legislators convinced four members of the Supreme Court to throw the state into chaos,” he said. “They have provided no plan. There’s no question among anybody that people are going to get sick. We presently lead the midwest in having the fewest cases per capita…The Republicans own this. They’ve set us back in our health and our economy.”
The full, 161-page Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling can be found here.