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COVID-19 Update #13

 

Dear Friends & Neighbors,

It has been a confusing few days regarding the state’s response to managing the COVID-19 public health crisis. Last Wednesday night, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a 4-3 decision striking down the Safer at Home extension that would have shut down non-essential businesses until Tuesday, May 26. On Thursday, the Winnebago County Public Health Department joined several counties around the state including Outagamie and Calumet counties in issuing an order to keep the Safer at Home order in place until Wednesday, May 20.

However, the Winnebago County Health Department rescinded their order on Friday after receiving advice from their legal counsel. In the legal counsel's view, local governments do not have the authority to issue their own Safer at Home orders. You can read their press release HERE. Several cities and counties also lifted their orders on Friday, citing similar legal issues. You can view the most up-to-date information on the response of all of Wisconsin's 72 counties HERE.

 

The Justices’ ruling meant that all restrictions on businesses were lifted without any plan or measures in place for businesses or individuals to safely and responsibly reopen. The decision left it up to Wisconsin’s 72 counties and local municipalities to decide how to best manage their COVID-19 response — creating a patchwork of policies across the state. You can read more about the Supreme Court decision and its impact on Wisconsinites HERE.

 

Due to the great deal of confusion around the Supreme Court decision and its implications on local government's ability to issue Safer at Home orders, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul released a legal opinion. In it he said that local authorities can put in place provisions that "prevent, suppress, and control communicable diseases" and can "forbid public gatherings when deemed necessary to control outbreaks or epidemics." You can read his full legal opinion HERE.

 

There are no restrictions currently in place for Oshkosh. While the state has been successful in managing the spread of the virus to date, there remains considerable risk of transmission of the virus and the potential for an outbreak that could result in overwhelming our health care system. I am anxious to see businesses reopened and people getting back to work. But I also am aware that the economy won’t be able to fully reopen until we are able to safely control the public health risk and the public feels safe.

Even without a formal Safer at Home order in place, we should not stop acting in the best interest of each other. We are still in a public health emergency and, together, we can maintain the spirit of the Safer at Home order in our daily lives. We can continue to physically distance ourselves from others, limit the number of trips out of our homes, wear face masks, wash our hands regularly, and practice all of the other protective measures we’ve been taking for the past two months. 

For businesses that choose to reopen, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has crafted industry-specific reopen guidelines. I strongly encourage you to follow these guidelines, as they will allow your business to maximize the safety of your employees and customers. You can read the guidelines HERE. In addition, the Winnebago County Health Department has issued reopen guidance that includes best practices from WEDC, Centers for Disease & Control (CDC), and the Department of Health Services (DHS). You can view their guidance to businesses HERE.

 

It is unclear what, if any, new action the Governor and/or the legislature will take regarding implementing new rules that protect the public and allow the economy to continue reopening. Especially if there is a second wave or future outbreak. There is still so much uncertainty and so much that we don’t understand about COVID-19. What we do know is that we will be dealing with it for the next several years. Decisions about schools and universities, athletic events and concerts, and other things impacted by the presence of the virus will require thoughtful consideration.  

Since there is no effective treatment yet for COVID-19, public health experts and leading healthcare providers agree that best practices on social distancing, limiting larger gatherings, wearing masks, and washing hands remain the most effective way to keep Wisconsinites safe. We all have a role to play in slowing the spread of this virus and safeguarding the health of our family, friends, and neighbors. While I know this is a difficult time for everyone, we will get through this together. 

As always, if you have any questions or concerns regarding COVID-19, you can reach out to my Madison office at 608-266-2254, my home at 920-232-0805, or my email at Rep.Hintz@legis.wisconsin.gov.

Sincerely, 

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 If you have any comments regarding the subject of this E-Newsletter, please feel free to contact me.   


Rep. Hintz
State Capitol, Room #201 W
PO Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708

Toll-Free (888) 555-1234 or (608) 555-1234
Rep.Hintz@legis.wisconsin.gov|