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⏰ Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,081 words ... 4 minutes.

🧀 1 big thing: Grand reopening experiment
Jonesy's Local Bar in Hudson, Wisc. Photo Jerry Holt/(Minneapolis) Star Tribune via Getty Images

A rolling, living experiment — and preview of coming attractions for the rest of the country — has begun in Wisconsin, after a surprise court ruling made the Badger State the first in the nation where businesses can reopen.

  • President Trump called the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling a win: "The people want to get on with their lives. The place is bustling!"
  • Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, the loser in the court case, warned of “massive confusion” after his stay-at-home order was thrown out Wednesday night.

Some bars filled within hours, picking up their St. Patrick's Day celebrations where they'd left off.

  • Restaurants, hair salons, barbershops, spas and gyms opened around the state, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
  • At Hair Extraordiniar By Michael in Menomonee Falls, patrons waited in their cars until it was their turn.
  • But the party was short-lived in the state's biggest areas — including Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay and more — which pledged to continue the state's "safer at home" rules.
Wednesday night in Platteville, Wisc. Via Twitter

Why it matters: For several years, Wisconsin has been a testing ground for GOP
maximalism on labor, gerrymandering and other fronts — especially under the previous governor, Scott Walker (R), Axios' Scott Rosenberg writes.

  • The state's reopening conflicts reflect national divisions that have only deepened with the pandemic.

The big picture: Lawsuits challenging lockdown measures, in whole or in part, are pending across the country. But they're mostly failing, Axios' Sam Baker reports:

  • Wisconsin’s high court is the only one to strike down an entire stay-at-home order.
  • Courts in Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania have sided with those states’ governors, allowing their stay-at-home orders to stand.
  • Even lawsuits targeted at narrow, specific parts of states’ orders mostly failed, with some exceptions. Different courts in different jurisdictions have reached different conclusions about restrictions on religious gathering, for example.
  • And judges have rebuffed some restrictions that targeted abortion providers.
  • Overwhelmingly, though, the trend is for courts to uphold governors' orders, even highly restrictive ones like Michigan's and California's.

What's next: The Wisconsin governor announced that his administration is working toward a new administrative rule for managing the crisis, a process he had warned could take weeks and might lead nowhere, AP reports.

  • A notice made clear the new rule will mirror Evers’ earlier recommendations.

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The Dairyland Brew Pub in Appleton, Wisc. Photo: William Glasheen/The Post-Crescent via Reuters
2. Virus rips small businesses in swing states
Data: Census Bureau./ Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New findings from the Census Bureau paint a bleak, detailed picture of how coronavirus is hitting small businesses, Stef Kight writes.

  • Majorities of small businesses reported revenue declines, cuts to employee hours and requests for federal aid.

Between the lines: In a presidential election year, four big battleground states — Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania — are among the states where small businesses report being hit hardest.

  • Michigan's small businesses have taken the biggest hit of any state, with 65% saying the virus had a large negative effect on their business.
Data: U.S. Census Bureau. Cartogram: Axios Visuals

Thomas Sullivan, vice president of small business policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, tells Axios the survey reflects what he's hearing.

  • "There have been more calls of sheer desperation in the last two weeks than in the last two months," Sullivan says, choking up as he describes his conversations with small business owners.
  • "I'm not talking about equity ownership or cashing in 401(k)s. I'm talking about food stamps, cutting down to one meal a day, not knowing if someone will have access to pay this month."

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3. Reopening 101
Photo: Jon Elswick/AP

The CDC finally released long-delayed reopening guidance for schools, workplaces, camps, childcare centers, mass transit, and bars and restaurants.

  • The six one-page "decision tool" documents use traffic signs and other graphics to tell organizations what they should consider before reopening.
  • The CDC planned a document for churches, but that wasn't posted, AP reports. The White House raised concerns about recommended restrictions.

See the checklists:

  1. Restaurants and bars
  2. Workplaces
  3. Child care
  4. Schools
  5. Youth programs and camps
  6. Mass transit

🍟 In a sign of reopening complexity, McDonald's issued a 59-page guide for franchisees, urging them to close public soda fountains or deploy a staff member to monitor them, The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription).

4. Picture of the week
Photo: Travis Long/The (Raleigh) News & Observer. Licensed by Axios

In Raleigh, demonstrators with weapons and flags paraded outside a Subway restaurant last weekend as North Carolina began loosening restrictions.

5. Where hospitalizations are falling
Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, Harvard Global Health Institute. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Coronavirus hospitalizations have declined in many states — another indication that social distancing has been effective, Axios' Bob Herman reports.

  • Why it matters: Hospitalizations are an important metric to watch to gauge the severity of the outbreak, especially because testing shortfalls have skewed some other measurements.

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6. Focus group: Why the virus is keeping some Iowans with Trump

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump has called himself a "wartime president" — and that idea is sticking with some Iowa swing voters who think he should be the one to see this through, Alexi McCammond writes.

  • These focus group participants say they're less focused on national politics and more plugged in to what's going on in their region, consuming mostly local news and getting information from their governor.
  • Not a single participant had watched a Joe Biden virtual event or heard anything from him beyond a tweet.

At our (virtual) Engagious/FPG focus group, we heard from eight voters who flipped from Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016.

  • Two of the voters said they plan to vote for Biden.

Reality check: Polls show more Americans disapprove of Trump's handling of the coronavirus than approve, and more than half of Americans say they're very concerned about the economy right now.

7. Farewell to the greatest era of globalization
Courtesy The Economist

The pandemic will politicize travel and migration, and entrench a bias towards self-reliance, The Economist writes:

  • "This inward-looking lurch will enfeeble the recovery, leave the economy vulnerable and spread geopolitical instability."

Keep reading (free).

🛍️ 8. Stat du jour

"Roughly 100,000 stores are expected to close over the next five years — more than triple the number that shut during the previous recession — as e-commerce jumps to a quarter of U.S. retail sales from 15% last year, UBS estimates."The Wall Street Journal

9. Maintaining dignity for the dead
Photograph: Philip Montgomery for The New York Times

In this weekend's N.Y. Times Magazine, Maggie Jones, with haunting photography by Philip Montgomery, writes about funeral homes, overwhelmed with bodies, struggling to fulfill their mission to grieving families:

As the Bronx has changed over generations, so have the Farengas’ clients — in addition to Italians, Irish and Puerto Rican families, Nick and Sal work with families who are Albanian, Guyanese, Nigerian, Indian and Vietnamese. The brothers know all about Irish wakes and large Italian funerals but also that Albanians sometimes ship the dead home, to be buried in their ancestral ground. Many Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists hold ceremonies at crematories where they witness the body being placed in the retort, as the cremation furnaces are known.

Keep reading.

10. 1 smile to go: Dining with dummies
Photo: Steve Helber/AP

At the Michelin-starred Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Va., mannequins at every other table provide social distance ahead of a May 29 reopening.

  • The dummies, in 1940s-style attire. are already theatrically staged at the inn, tucked in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains about 90 minutes west of the other Washington, AP reports.
Photo: Steve Helber/AP

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