The Wisconsin Supreme Court has overturned the state's "safer at home" order, which was extended last month in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
According to the New York Times, the 4-3 decision was written by four of the court's conservative justices who ruled Gov. Tony Evers' administration had exceeded its authority by extending the stay-at-home mandate through May 26. The decision comes just weeks after Wisconsin's GOP-led Legislature filed a lawsuit against state health officials over the extension, arguing the order would result in economic damages that could put Wisconsinites in precarious positions. The Republican lawmakers said such an order should've never been issued without legislative approval.
"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," the justices wrote.
Gov. Evers, a Democrat, has yet to respond to Wednesday's ruling; however, he blasted the lawsuit in a statement last month, accusing Wisconsin's Republican leaders of "exploiting a global pandemic to further their attempts to undermine the will of the people."
"This isn't a game. This isn't funny. People die every day because of this virus — often times painful and lonely deaths — and the more we delay or play political games the more people die," Evers wrote. "We've seen what happens in communities that don't contain this virus through isolation measures like we have with #SaferAtHome ... Apparently, instead of having us act quickly and decisively to respond to a crisis, Republicans would rather have us jump through hoop after hoop and ask for their permission to save lives. Folks, we don’t have time. COVID-19 will not wait."
Wednesday's court decision has effectively rolled back Wisconsin's statewide COVID-19 restrictions. Local governments, however, can implement their own policies on when and how businesses and public spaces can resume business and/or reopen to the public.
Wisconsin officials have reported nearly 11,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 400 deaths, as of Wednesday.