The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday said it would take up a controversial case that could result in the suspension of Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order, implemented to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The 6-1 decision is a setback for the Evers administration, which wanted the court to throw it out. Now, attorneys for the administration and Republican Legislature, which brought the lawsuit, will present their arguments via videoconferencing on Tuesday, after which the court could rule.
Liberal Justice Rebecca Dallet was the only member of the court to dissent.
A ruling could result in Evers’ “safer at home” order, which has shut down swaths of businesses, being thrown out entirely. Health experts warn any loosening of restrictions in the state at this point could lead to a precipitous increase in cases and create new COVID-19 hot spots across the state.
The progress in the case came as Wisconsin on Thursday and Friday saw consecutive records set for the daily number of new confirmed cases, with 334 on Thursday and 460 on Friday.
Republicans say the governor’s order, signed by Health Secretary Andrea Palm, exceeds the administration’s authority. Democrats disagree, and argue the public health consequences would be dire if the order is suspended.
If the Supreme Court suspends the order, which Evers issued in March and extended until May 26, he and Republican lawmakers would need to quickly come up with a replacement plan for managing the crisis; Republicans have asked the court to impose a six-day hold if it tosses out Evers’ order.
If lawmakers can’t come up with a plan in time, it could be up to counties to implement a patchwork of their own COVID-19 regulations.
Pressure in the state, particularly from Republicans and the business community, has been building for Evers to implement a plan to begin re-opening the state. Businesses say that if the order is kept in place for much longer, a large number of businesses would permanently close.
Evers’ plan to ramp up the economy would begin reopening businesses after a 14-day downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses and COVID-19 symptoms, and a 14-day downward trend in positive tests as a percentage of total tests. Republicans say those restrictions are too burdensome for businesses.
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