Empower Wisconsin | June 22, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MILWAUKEE — Could Team Evers push another lockdown?
The governor isn’t instilling Republican legislative leadership with much confidence.
“I’m not really feeling like we are getting any assurances that it couldn’t happen,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) told Empower Wisconsin Friday on the Jay Weber Show.
“I still have concerns about it. I know some of the members of the caucus have been reaching out to me and talking to me a little bit about what are we going to do if we have that spike in the fall and how do we react to it,” Fitzgerald said.
Evers banned nonessential travel and issued a stay-at-home order on March 24 amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The move shut down much of Wisconsin’s economy and drove the state’s unemployment rate to levels not seen since the Great Depression. Running out of authority to act unilaterally, the Democrat had his Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm issue a one-month lockdown extension days before Evers’ original order was set to expire on April 24.
The Republican-led Legislature took the administration to court, alleging it had abused its executive branch powers in extending the order. The Wisconsin Supreme Court in a 4-3 ruling struck down the lockdown, allowing the state to reopen, although cities like Madison and Milwaukee have been slow to lift their public health restrictions.
While confirmed COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have for the most part declined over the past several weeks, Evers and health care officials have been sounding the alarm about potential numbers spiking since the lockdown was declared invalid. The governor insisted the ruling would “throw the state into chaos,” predicting that “people are going to get sick.”
A new study found no uptick in coronavirus cases following the court ruling.
“(W)e find no evidence that the repeal of the state (shelter-in-place orders) impacted social distancing, COVID-19 cases or COVID-19 mortality” during the two weeks following the state’s reopening, according to the study, titled “Did the Wisconsin Supreme Court Restart a COVID-19 Epidemic?”
The analysis, conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research found just a fractional increase in the number of people who altered their behavior after the Evers administration order was struck down.
Days after the Supreme Court ruling, Evers and Palm pushed new rules that looked a lot like the stay-at-home orders. Republican lawmakers said they would not support the proposal and it died.
But as Wisconsin moves through the summer and into the fall, Evers may try again to lock down the state.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Fitzgerald said.