A judge in the US state of Wisconsin temporarily blocked an order from the state governor limiting the number of people who can gather in bars, restaurants and other indoor spaces. It does when the state breaks records for new cases of coronavirus, deaths, and hospitalizations.
Sawyer County Circuit judge John Yackel blocked the order of Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Wednesday, the day after the Tavern League of Wisconsin complained about it.
Yackel has scheduled a hearing for Monday to give lawyers for the defendant, Wisconsin’s Secretary of Health Andrea Palm, an opportunity to argue why the order should not be suspended while the lawsuit is ongoing.
The Democratic governor’s order, issued last week by Evers Representative Palm, limited the number of customers in many interiors to 25 percent of capacity. Indoor gatherings with no occupancy restrictions were limited to 10 people. The regulation does not apply to colleges, schools, churches, polling stations, political gatherings and outdoor venues.
The limit should run until November 6th, with violations punishable by fines of up to $ 500.
Evers said the move is designed to curb the spread of the virus in Wisconsin. The state opened a field hospital near Milwaukee on Wednesday to treat an excess of patients from hospitals that were treating a record number of COVID-19 patients on Tuesday.
The Tavern League, the powerful lobby group for the state’s 5,000 bars, restaurants and taverns, argued in their lawsuit that the order was “de facto closed”. It said Palm did not have the legal authority to make the order, which instead should have gone through the Republican-led legislative process.
A GOP-controlled legislative committee met Monday to begin drafting the rule that would then allow lawmakers to crush it.
Evers defended the order on Tuesday, saying it was unnecessary to enact a rule of law, as the Tavern League and Republicans have argued.
Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback said the verdict was being appealed.
“This is a dangerous decision that will leave our state without nationwide efforts to contain this virus,” she said.
An Evers spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a message on Wednesday asking for comment on the ruling.
However, Democratic lawmakers said any attempt to lift the capacity limit order would undermine the state’s pandemic.
“Make no mistake, if this dangerous decision is correct, Wisconsin will choose full bars over full classrooms,” Milwaukee Senator LaTonya Johnson tweeted. “What a pathetic set of priorities to teach our children.”
Earlier this year, the conservatively controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court ended Evers’s “safer home” order. Republican lawmakers are currently suing the termination of the governor’s statewide masked mandate, arguing – as the Tavern League did in that lawsuit – that the order exceeded Evers’ authority. A judge confirmed the mask mandate Monday, saying lawmakers have the power to put it down if they want.
Evers has argued that Republicans are making it difficult for the state to deal with the pandemic.
The Tavern League, the Sawyer County Tavern League, and the Flambeau Forest Inn in the village of Winter brought the lawsuit. It is argued that the Flambeau Forest Inn would be forced to limit its capacity to 10 people under state regulation, including five customers and five employees who are needed to run the restaurant.
“Flambeau could not operate profitably under these conditions and would be forced to cease operations,” the lawsuit said.
The Wisconsin Department of Health reported 3,279 confirmed new coronavirus cases Tuesday, breaking a record of 3,132 set just five days earlier. 34 deaths have been reported, also a new high, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,508. To date, more than 155,000 people in Wisconsin have tested positive.