MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin topped more than 6,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday for the first time, setting a new record as COVID-19 continues to rage across the state.
Also on Friday, a state appeals court ruled that an order from Gov. Tony Evers' administration to limit how many people can gather in bars, restaurants and other indoor venues was invalid and unenforceable. The on again-off again order, first issued on Oct. 6, had not been in effect since an appeals court blocked it on Oct. 23.
The order, had it been in effect, was scheduled to expire on Friday. The appeals court said the order issued by Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm should have gone through the rule-making process, which requires legislative approval.
Evers issued the order as a way to curb the spread of the virus, which has been surging since mid-September.
"This is another blow to our state's response to this pandemic and our efforts to keep Wisconsinites safe," Evers said in response to the ruling. "We will continue challenging this decision, but the bottom line is that we can't wait for the courts to figure this out — we need Wisconsinites to stay home and mask up, and it has to start today. It's the only way we will get this virus under control and ensure our economy can recover."
On Friday, there were 6,141 new cases, an all-time daily high, and 62 more deaths. To date, 2,256 people have died from the virus. The seven-day average of new cases topped 5,000, more than five-times as high as it was two weeks ago, the state Department of Health Services reported. Wisconsin ranked third in new cases per capita over the past two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins.
Evers pursued the capacity limits as part of his strategy to combat the virus. A statewide mask mandate remains in effect, but it's being challenged by a conservative law firm and Republicans who control the Legislature. Evers has blasted Republicans for not convening the Legislature to take action on the virus since they last met in April.
The capacity limit rule was first challenged by the Tavern League of Wisconsin and the appeal was taken up by The Mix-Up Bar in Amery and Pro-Life Wisconsin, which argued that its ability to hold fundraisers indoors was hindered by the order limiting capacity to no more than 25%.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court also previously struck down Evers' "safer at home" order in May, saying it should have gone through the Legislature as an administrative rule.