May 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

The great 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.

The state of play: Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) warned of “massive confusion” after his stay-at-home order was thrown out Wednesday night by the state's Supreme Court.

  • 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.

  • President Trump called the ruling a win: "The people want to get on with their lives. The place is bustling!"

Between the lines: 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).

  • The state's reopening conflicts reflect national divisions that have only deepened with the pandemic.
The Dairyland Brew Pub in Appleton, Wisc. Photo: William Glasheen/The Post-Crescent via Reuters

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

  • 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: Evers 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.

Go deeper

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

About 40.7 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the coronavirus pandemic began, including 2.1 million more claims filed from last week.

Why it matters: Even as states reopen their economies, Americans are still seeking relief. Revised data out Thursday also showed U.S. economy shrunk by an annualized 5% in the first quarter — worse than the initially estimate of 4.8%.

Coronavirus still has a foothold in the South

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Overall, new coronavirus infections in the U.S. are on the decline. But a small handful of states, mainly clustered in the South, aren't seeing any improvement.

The big picture: Our progress, nationwide, is of course good news. But it's fragile progress, and it’s not universal. Stubborn pockets of infection put lives at risk, and they can spread, especially as state lockdowns continue to ease.

Mark Zuckerberg: Social networks should not be "the arbiter of truth"

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg argued on CNBC's "Squawk Box" Thursday that social media platforms should not police political speech, and that "people should be able to see what politicians say.”

Why it matters: Zuckerberg was responding to Twitter's decision this week to fact-check a pair of President Trump's tweets that claimed that mail-in ballots are "substantially fraudulent." Twitter's label, which directs users to "get the facts" about mail-in voting, does not censor Trump's tweets.