UPDATE 8:39 p.m.: Despite the Supreme Court decision, the City of Racine Public Health Department extended Governor Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” order — with the “Turn the Dial” amendments — until May 26.

This story also appeared in Madison365

Public Health Administrator DottieKay Bowersox issued the following statement:

“I know these are very difficult and highly unusual times, but Public Health’s responsibility is to mediate and maintain the safety and welfare of our residents. I am therefore adopting the provisions of Safer At Home locally and ordering that it be extended until May 26th. Before that date, additional guidance will be released for how we can safely move forward. 

“I do not issue this order lightly, but we must protect ourselves, our families, and the other members of our community.  A full and immediate lifting of the Safer At Home order would put all of us in danger of contracting the virus. We have to be concerned about surges in cases overwhelming our local hospitals, as well as our first responders, public health professionals, and workers employed at our community’s grocery stores, pharmacies, and other essential
businesses at risk.”

The extension only applies to businesses in the City of Racine.

ORIGINAL STORY: In a 4-3 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has overturned the “Safer at Home” order, declaring that the Secretary of Health Services does not have the authority to issue such a statewide order without legislative approval.

In a concurring opinion, Chief Justice Patience Rogensack wrote that she would have also issued a six-day stay, giving the governor and lawmakers time to craft a new order. But the order takes effect immediately.

“I trust that the parties will place the interests of the people of Wisconsin first and work together in good faith to establish a rule that best addresses COVID-19 and its devastating effects on Wisconsin,” she wrote

Issued March 25, Evers issued a Stay at Home order Tuesday to close non-essential businesses until April 24 to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). That order was extended to May 26 to help slow the spread of the virus.

Wisconsin State Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) called the decision a victory.

“Today’s decision is a victory for all who believe that the power to dictate how people live and
to punish them with jail time does not belong with a single, unelected bureaucrat, no matter how
good their intentions. And that is what this case was about,” he said.

Wanggaard, however, encouraged people to use common sense, saying that if they were sick or had a compromised immune system, they should stay home and wear a mask if they go out.

“If a business wants to require customers to wear marks to keep others safe or limit their own capacity, that’s their right. And it’s the right of the customer to go elsewhere if they feel it’s inappropriate,’ he said.

Somewhere between 20 and 60 percent of adults could contract the virus, and about a fifth of the people who get COVID-19 could need to be hospitalized, according to officials at the Harvard Global Health Institute. But the number of known cases is significantly less than predictive models that indicated that the state would see between 440 and 1,500 deaths by April 8.

Still, health officials have voiced concerns that the spread of the virus could mean more significant numbers of people will need medical care. If that happens, hospitals will not be able to deal with a higher volume of patient care. The term flattening the curve refers to fewer people contracting the virus and having less of an impact on the state’s healthcare system.

The order is available here

Racine County COVID-19 cases rise sharply over the past week

The decision comes just hours after Racine County released its report showing the number of people infected with the COVID-19 virus in Racine County continues to rise at a rate faster than the state-wide increase.

Racine County reported 820 confirmed cases of COVID-19, an increase of 238 cases, or about 41 percent, compared to the number of cases reported on May 6. During the same timeframe, the overall number of positive COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin increased to 10,901, or 22 percent. This means Racine County cases represented about 12 percent of the 2,001 increased cases in Wisconsin.

Officials also reported one more death to the total, which stands at 17.

Racine Mayor Cory Mason issued the following statement:

“Today the Wisconsin Supreme Court and their Republican allies in the legislature have put politics before the health and lives of Wisconsin residents. This decision seems rooted more in partisan politics than findings of law. It certainly ignores science and what thousands of medical professionals have been saying about the necessary steps we all need to take to combat the spread of coronavirus, flatten the curve, and save the lives of our residents. This reckless decision will almost certainly mean that the pandemic lasts longer and the health consequences will be even more severe, particularly in places like Racine which is seeing a spike in cases and savage disparities among communities of color. I urge City residents to continue to take the necessary steps to protect yourself, your families, and the community.”

This is a breaking news story and we’ll be adding more to it over the next few hours.

Madison365 Editor Robert Chappell contributed to this story.


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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.