Wisconsin saw a record number of new coronavirus cases and deaths reported in a single day on Wednesday, two weeks after the state’s Supreme Court struck down its statewide stay-at-home order.
The state reported 599 new known COVID-19 cases on Wednesday with 22 known deaths, according to Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services, the highest recorded daily rise since the pandemic began there. As of Wednesday, the state had more than 16,460 known cases and 539 known deaths, according to the department.
The previous record in new coronavirus cases was 528 the week prior.
Wisconsin also issued a record number of test results Wednesday, with more than 10,300 tests conducted, according to the department.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers spoke of the importance of wearing a mask in public Wednesday in order to keep others safe from the virus.
“One of the most important things you can do to help others is to wear a mask or other face-covering in public,” he said. “Wearing a mask shouldn’t be a political statement. It isn’t controversial, and it’s not hard to do.”
On May 13, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court struck down the state’s stay-at-home order during the pandemic as “unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable” after finding that the state’s health secretary exceeded her authority.
The order had put Evers at odds with the state’s Republic-controlled legislature.
Some local officials, including those in Milwaukee and Madison, have since instituted their own regulations.
In a 4-3 ruling, the court called Health Services Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm’s directive a “vast seizure of power.”
The order directed all people in the state to stay at home or at their places of residence, subject only to exceptions allowed by Palm, the ruling said. The order, which had been set to run until May 26, also restricted travel and business, along with threatening jail time or fines for those who don’t comply.
“Republican legislators have convinced four justices to throw our state into chaos,” Evers said in a statement at the time.
“We cannot let today’s ruling undo all the work we have done and all the sacrifices Wisconsinites have made over these past few months,” he said in the mid-May statement. “I am disappointed in the decision today, but our top priority has been and will remain doing what we can and what we have to do to protect the health and safety of the people of our state.”
Shortly after the ruling, the Tavern League of Wisconsin, an industry group, posted a message on social media saying that as a result of the decision, businesses could reopen “immediately.”
Just hours after the order, several bars in West Allis reopened for business, according to NBC affiliate WTMJ.
At Limanski’s Pub, customers were greeted by a sign reading “please sanitize your hands upon entering” and “remain 2 bar stools apart unless from same household.”
More than a dozen customers had gathered in the bar shortly after the reopening, the station reported.
Customer Katie Koutski told WTMJ the outing was much needed relief.
“I have a toddler at home and I’m a full-time nurse so it’s been very stressful and hard to not be able to go out and be with my friends and family at the bars,” Koutski said.
Kathy Goedde, the bar’s owner, said she reopened soon after hearing the news of the ruling.
“I was watching the news, and I saw the order was overturned, so I was pretty happy about that, and then I just waited for the Tavern League to send out information and as soon as we got that, I mean, it was awesome,” she said.
Koutski later issued a statement apologizing for not wearing a mask while visiting her sister’s bar.
“While my priority was to support my sister and her attempt to restart her business which has been devastated by this pandemic, I’d like to express my regret for not wearing a mask or practicing social distancing while there,” she said in a statement, according to WTMJ. “It was a lapse in judgment on my part to not ensure I had my mask prior to leaving my house and to not maintain social distancing — even during the interview requested by the reporter.”
Koutski said while she did not have any COVID-19 symptoms, out of an abundance of caution, she was going to voluntarily quarantine for seven days and per standard practice, undergo screening before returning to work.