Appeals court reinstates Racine's coronavirus ordinance

NOW: Appeals court reinstates Racine’s coronavirus ordinance

Updated: 7:55 p.m. on July 3, 2020

RACINE, Wis. (CBS 58) - “First we had an order, then we didn’t, then we did, didn’t, and now we do, so it’s really gone back and forth five times,” said Mayor Cory Mason.

Racine’s mayor says the city’s COVID-19 orders are back just in the knick of time for the Fourth of July.

The city filed an appeal after a Racine County Circuit Court judge struck down the “Safer Racine” order on Wednesday, July 1, and on Friday the Wisconsin Court of Appeals put a stay while the city’s appeal is being considered.

Mayor Cory Mason says Friday's court of appeals stay will provide Racine with some consistency at least for a period of time.

“I think people are confused about whether or not they need to take these precautions or not, so certainly having the order back in effect allows us to take the precautions that we need,” added Mayor Mason.

Judge Jon Fredrickson struck the Safer Racine order down on Wednesday. He believed some of the wording in the “Safer Racine” ordinance on mass gatherings could be unconstitutional.

“I’m just a court. I can decide whether things are constitutional or not of course a little mindful of its severing power,” said Judge Fredrickson during a two-hour hearing on Tuesday.

He said in a written decision the city upholds its full power to still issue new laws to tackle the pandemic and even addressed it.

“I’m not here to make policy,” said Judge Fredrickson. “I’m not here to decide what I’d like to see done in Racine and with what, who, and how -- that’s what the Common Council’s for.”

In Friday’s Wisconsin Court Of Appeals stay order, Judge Paul Reilly wrote in part:

“Just as capacity limits set for public establishments for fire safety reasons are not unconstitutional despite limiting the number of people who can assemble in one place, so may capacity restrictions be set for health reasons to control communicable diseases.”

The Safer Racine order was put in place last week after attempts to put measures in place by the health department were overturned by Judge Fredrickson on June 19.

“It’ll be several months I assume before the Court of Appeals ultimately adjudicates their final decision on this, although their order today seemed to give pretty clear indication of what they thought about it,” said Mayor Mason.  

Mayor Mason says Racine has some of the highest number of coronavirus cases per capita in the state, but he’ll fight to make sure the city has proper orders in place during the pandemic and wants to protect the city’s right to pass public health ordinances.

“We’ll defend that right vigorously, but at the end of the day there’s also an education component that we need and we really need people to comply with these orders,” added Mayor Mason.

Mayor Mason says police enforcement will happen this weekend but it’s not their goal to give out tickets, the goal is to educate and work with the community.

Posted: 5:17 p.m. on July 3, 2020

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has reinstated Racine's coronavirus ordinance after a lower court declared it unconstitutional.

The court ruled Friday that Safer Racine can remain in effect while the city's appeal is considered.

The Journal Times reports the court could still ultimately rule against the city.

Mayor Cory Mason says the ordinance is critically important going into the holiday weekend and will be enforced.

It limits restaurants and bars to 50% of maximum capacity.

It requires retailers to follow guidelines on cleaning and social distancing, and it limits gyms to 25% of capacity or a maximum of 10 people.

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