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Bars See Crowds After Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down State’s Stay-At-Home Order

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  • After Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (D) extended the state’s stay-at-home order until May 26, the state legislature issued a legal challenge against that extension.
  • On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with the legislature, ending the order immediately.
  • Many businesses, such as bars, later reopened the same night and saw crowds of people packing into small spaces without masks.
  • This is the second time the Republican-controlled state legislature has used the Supreme Court to strike down Evers’ coronavirus-related orders.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down Stay-At-Home Order

People in Wisconsin flocked to bars Wednesday night, many of them crowding into small spaces while leaving their masks at home.

The sudden pilgrimage to bars began almost immediately after the state’s Supreme Court struck down Governor Tony Evers’ (D) stay-at-home order.

Last month, Evers’ administration extended the state’s stay-at-home order from April 24 to May 26. Shortly after that, the state’s legislature brought forth a legal challenge against the state’s health secretary, Andrea Palm.

In that lawsuit, lawmakers argued that such long-term decisions on citizens’ lives should be decided by the legislature—not just Evers’ administration.

In court, an attorney for Evers’ administration argued that state law gives the Wisconsin health department the authority “to do whatever is necessary to combat a novel, deadly, communicable disease like the one we’re facing today.”

Right away, though, the situation wasn’t looking good for Evers’ or his administration. The seven-member Court is made up of five conservative and two liberal justices. On top of that, the legislature that brought the lawsuit is Republican-controlled. 

In hearings last week, conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley compared Evers’ orders to Korematsu v. United States, a controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision during World War II to uphold Japanese internment camps.

“I’ll direct your attention to another time in history in the Korematsu decision, where the Court said the need for action was great, and time was short, and that justified—and I’m quoting ‘assembling together and placing under guard all those of Japanese ancestry in assembly centers during World War Two,” she said

Could the secretary, under this broad delegation of legislative power or legislative-like power order people out of their homes into centers where they are properly socially distanced in order to combat the pandemic?” she asked.

Even though the Court ultimately sided with the legislature, the decision was narrow with a 4-3 vote. That was because one of the court’s conservative judges broke to dissent with the majority opinion.

The Court’s justices wrote in the majority opinion that “in the case of a pandemic, which lasts month after month, the Governor cannot rely on emergency powers indefinitely.”

Still, the Court noted that it wasn’t challenging the governor’s power to actually declare emergencies. 

In their dissent, Justice Rebecca Dallet said, “This decision will undoubtedly go down as one of the most blatant examples of judicial activism in this court’s history. And it will be Wisconsinites who pay the price.”

Notably, the Republican-controlled legislature asked the Court for a six-day hold on its decision so they could negotiate stay-at-home orders with Evers, but the court shot that request down, reopening the state immediately. 

Bars Reopen to Crowds

To be clear, the Court’s decision only affects Evers’ executive order. Local municipalities can still issue their own stay-at-home orders.

In fact, at least five cities and counties have now announced they’ll be extending their stay-at-home orders, most of them until May 26th. That includes Brown, Dane, Racine, Milwaukee, and Kenosha counties. 

Many more cities and counties, however, are now free of stay-at-home orders. Because of that, many businesses started to reopen almost immediately after the decision was announced. 

Much of the coverage around reopened businesses seemed to culminate with bars, as many customers could be seen packing into small spaces. In these photos, masks are rarely or nowhere to be seen.

Bar owner Chad Ardnt told WISN that while he respects people’s decision if they don’t want to come back yet, he also said he decided to reopen because he hadn’t been able to pay his employees for two months.

In a separate interview, bar-goer Gary Bertram told WISN that it should be people’s choice where they want to wear a mask or socially distance.

“If people have an issue with social distancing, they should be able to be, you know, they can stay separate or stay home,” Bertram said. 

That logic goes against warnings from the majority of health experts who have noted that the spread of the coronavirus isn’t really that simple. That’s because the people who are going out to bars are also likely going to the grocery store and seeing family. They can then unintentionally spread the virus to people at those places even if other people are social distancing and only going out when necessary.

Evers Blasts the Court’s Decision 

As people flocked to those bars, Evers blasted the Supreme Court decision on MSNBC Wednesday night while speaking to Ali Velshi.

“Unfortunately, in this one fell swoop, four judges who didn’t really care what the statues talk about have thrown our state into chaos,” Evers said.

“We’re in the wild West, Ali,” he later added.

Taking a different tone, Wisconsin’s Speaker Robin Vos (R) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) said in a joint statement that they urged the Evers administration to begin working with Republicans to begin drafting guidance in case the state sees a surge of COVID-19 cases. 

“Wisconsin now joins multiple states that don’t have extensive ‘stay at home orders’ but can continue to follow good practices of social distancing, hand washing, hand sanitizer usage and telecommuting,” they added. “This order does not promote people to act in a way that they believe endangers their health. 

President Donald Trump backed the Court’s decision Thursday morning, saying on Twitter that Wisconsin “was just given another win.”

“Its Democrat Governor was forced by the courts to let the State Open,” he said. “The people want to get on with their lives. The place is bustling!”

The Court’s decision highlights the current relationship between Evers’ administration and the legislature, which has been described as “bitterly divided.”

The legislature previously sued Evers for trying to delay the state’s April 13 primary, and like the decision being seen now, the Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with the legislature.

Before Evers took office in 2019, the legislature voted to strip power from the governor’s seat following his election win. 

See what others are saying: (WISN) (The Washington Post) (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

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Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”

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  • Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot. 
  • So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.

Florida Requires Proof of Residency

Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.

Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it. 

According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents. 

Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers. 

Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited

Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north. 

“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)

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Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”

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  • Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
  • Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
  • Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.

Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. 

Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony. 

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”

Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.

“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”

Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing. 

“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  

That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”

Nation Impressed by Gorman

“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment. 

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”

Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration. 

Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation. 

Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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