The Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned statewide Safer At Home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic and mandated that all future statewide restrictions must be approved by the Legislature’s rule-making committee before they could be implemented.

Even before the decision was announced, Vilas County officials had made a recommendation for the reopening of businesses. The recommendation was signed by county board Chairman Ronald DeBruyne and Administrative Coordinator and County Clerk David Alleman.

The letter reads:?“Vilas County government supports the reopening of all Vilas County businesses including bars, restaurants and other food and beverage establishments, pursuant to and in compliance with the ‘reopen guidelines’ set by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. These guidelines are available at wedc.org/reopen-guidelines/.”

Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court ruled to strike down the orders 4-3 on Wednesday, with conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn dissenting.

The legal challenge was brought against Andrea Palm, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services,  by Republican state lawmakers, who have been pushing to relax restrictions and take a more regional approach for Safer At Home orders.

According to the ruling, Palm broke state law when she issued an April 16 Safer At Home order that prohibited Wisconsin residents from leaving their homes unless it was essential. That order was ruled to be “unlawful, invalid and unenforceable.”

The restrictions were set to expire May 26, the day after Memorial Day, and followed the state’s original Safer At Home orders implemented in March.

As a result of the Supreme Court ruling, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and his administration will be limited in their power to issue further mandates since any future orders will need to be approved by the conservative majority state Legislature.

The Republican lawmakers who filed the legal challenge asked the court for a six-day stay, which would have allowed for negotiations on the Safer At Home orders, but the court struck that request down.

Reactions to the ruling Wednesday night varied. The Tavern League of Wisconsin, a bar and tavern trade association, told its members they could open immediately, but asked its members to follow the guidelines established by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said state government has been doing a good job in slowing the spread of coronavirus in the state. 

“Wisconsinites’ actions have saved many lives, and we’ve made meaningful progress in the fight against the coronavirus. At the Legislature’s urging, however, the plan that’s been working has largely been struck down,” said Kaul.  

“Over a week ago, I called on the Legislature to act immediately. Unfortunately, it failed to do so, and Republicans in the Legislature still have offered no plan to address the corona­virus. They can’t keep waiting to do so. In the middle of the fight against this virus, we need reasonable rules in place that protect Wisconsinites’ health. In the meantime, I ask all Wisconsinites to continue helping to fight the coronavirus by socially distancing and following other recommendations from public health experts,” said Kaul.