Wisconsin's Supreme Court voted against continuing the state's stay-at-home orders — and their governor warns the move could "undo" their efforts during the pandemic.
On Wednesday, the court ruled 4-3 that Gov. Tony Evers and his administration's top health officials were out of bounds when they extended shelter-in-place protocols through May 26. The decision declared the order "unlawful, invalid and unenforceable," even under emergency standards amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
"An agency cannot confer on itself the power to dictate the lives of law-abiding individuals as comprehensively as the Order does without reaching beyond the executive branch's authority," read the court ruling.
Evers fired back at the decision, saying he was "disappointed" — and that it could reverse the "sacrifices" already made by residents following social distancing and public health guidelines.
"Up until now, Wisconsin was in a pretty good place in our battle against COVID-19," he said in a statement. "We had reached almost all our gating criteria. We had opened up 14,000 small businesses across the state, putting 90,000 folks back to work, and that was because of the good work of Wisconsinites across our state who banded together, stayed home, and stayed safe."
He added: "Despite that good work, Republican legislators have convinced 4 justices to throw our state into chaos."
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"We cannot let today's ruling undo all the work we have done and all the sacrifices Wisconsinites have made over these past few months," said Evers. "We need everyone to continue doing their part to keep our families, our neighbors and our communities safe by continuing to stay safer at home, practice social distancing, and limit travel."
He added: "… deadly viruses don't wait around for politicians and bureaucrats to settle their differences or promulgate rules."
According to data compiled by The New York Times, there have been 10,903 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 421 deaths, as of May 14.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Daniel Kelly, according to the Times, compared the Wisconsin stay-at-home orders to being incarcerated. "This comprehensive claim to control virtually every aspect of a person’s life is something we normally associate with a prison, not a free society governed by the rule of law," he said.
Wisconsin drew headlines in early April when the Supreme Court again went against the governor's public health orders amid the pandemic, squashing Evers' motion to postpone the state's election.
The state’s Department of Health Services later reported that at least 52 people tested positive for the coronavirus after participating at the in-person polling places on the controversial Election Day.
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