Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Racine's coronavirus order has gotten a brief reprieve after the Court of Appeals issued a ruling Friday that reinstates the ordinance governing how businesses can reopen.
That means for the busy Fourth of July weekend Racine bars and restaurants can allow 50% capacity as long as social distancing protocols are in place and gyms can allow 25% capacity.
Two days after Racine County Circuit Judge Jon Fredrickson threw out the city's coronavirus ordinance, which he called the strictest in the country, the city requested an emergency stay. That was granted by the Court of Appeals while Racine officials put together a formal appeal of Fredrickson's decision.
When the state Supreme Court in May tossed out a statewide stay-at-home order issued by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, Republican lawmakers said local officials could put their own rules in place to handle the illness.
Several communities quickly imposed their own orders, many of them mirroring the ones written by the Evers administration.
Racine’s public health administrator, Dottie-Kay Bowersox, issued a coronavirus order the day the Supreme Court issued its opinion. Soon afterward, David Yandel, the owner of Harbor Park CrossFit, filed a lawsuit.
Fredrickson in June blocked the city’s order, saying Bowersox was exhibiting “despotic power.”
In response, the City Council passed an ordinance codifying the restrictions on how businesses must operate and explicitly giving Bowersox the ability to order businesses to close.
The move did not go over well with the judge. He quickly blocked the revived order, calling it a “direct attack” on his initial ruling.
And on Wednesday, following a two-hour hearing the day before, Fredrickson threw out the city's ordinance, which he said violated the state constitution because it interfered with the right to assemble.
Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus cases are surging in many states and positive cases continue to mount in Wisconsin. Fredrickson wrote that Racine could adopt a new plan to deal with the illness, provided that it was written more narrowly.
The appeal of Fredrickson's ruling to the Court of Appeals could take months and in the meantime Racine's coronavirus ordinance will remain in place.
Another Racine resident died of coronavirus this week, bringing the total number of deaths to 26. In Racine County, almost 2,200 confirmed cases of COVID have been reported and 64 have died in the county.