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(608) 266-5780 | State Capitol, Room 307 West, P.O. Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708 |


La Crosse County Health Department

Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Center for Disease Control and Prevention


State Capitol
Room 307 West
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708

(608) 266-5780

Toll Free:
(888) 534-0095


Friends and Neighbors, 

I hope you all have remained well, practiced social distancing, and checked in virtually with loved ones and neighbors these past few weeks. Wisconsin continued to make great progress increasing testing capacity, acquiring more personal protective equipment (PPE), and amplifying contract tracing efforts. The Governor’s Badger Bounce Back Plan outlined the significance of these responsibilities for safely reopening the state. 

Despite incredible efforts by Governor Evers and the Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to implement a scientifically-sound plan that prioritized the public health needs of our state while also safely reopening businesses, Republican leaders challenged the Safer at Home Order in the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. On Wednesday, the State Supreme Court invalidated the Safer at Home Order, with the exception of school closures, thus voiding the Governor’s Safer at Home order and permitting all activities to resume in Wisconsin. 

It’s important to note, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court decision was about process—not about whether the science states it’s safe to reopen Wisconsin. The ruling does not change the science, and we cannot let the ruling undo all the work we have done and the sacrifices we have made over the past two months. We must proceed cautiously forward and prioritize the health of all Wisconsinites while we combat this global pandemic.

General guidance remains the same:

  • Stay at home if you are sick
  • Stay at home if you are able
  • Minimize close physical contact with those outside of your household
  • Minimize travel, especially to areas considered “viral hotspots” within and beyond our state borders
  • Wear a fabric face covering if you must be in public
  • Maintain 6-foot distances with others whenever possible
  • Minimize congregating in groups of any size
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
  • Avoid touching your face

Please continue reading for additional details on La Crosse County Health Department’s recent efforts, safety guidance for businesses, increased testing efforts, and more.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns. I will continue posting frequent updates and helpful information on the Rep. Jill Billings Facebook page. You can also contact my office by calling (608) 266-5780 or emailing me at Rep.Billings@legis.wi.gov. 

Best Wishes, 

Jill Billings
State Representative 
95th Assembly District

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The Wisconsin Supreme Court Decision, What’s Next?

This week’s Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling, ended a statewide approach to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. This has already led to a patchwork of policies across the state as cities and counties scramble to implement individual orders that will protect the health of their local residents. The Supreme Court decision, however, does allow the DHS to create a rule, with some legislative oversight, that will provide procedures on how the department can address this public health emergency.

A major part of the lawsuit brought before the Wisconsin Supreme Court was regarding whether in establishing the Safer at Home extension (Emergency Order #28), the Department of Health Services (DHS) should have followed rulemaking procedures under Wisconsin State Statute ch. 227. State agencies create rules to guide implementation of state statutes that an agency oversees or to establish procedures for the agency to follow. The rulemaking process allows for legislative oversight of the rules that the agency develops. 

The Supreme Court decision makes it necessary for DHS to develop an emergency rule, rather than an emergency order, to address the ongoing public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Developing an emergency rule has legislative oversight and time for public hearing and comment. Therefore, even in a streamlined “emergency rule” process, implementation can take weeks. 

The DHS began the emergency rule process yesterday, releasing the first step in this process, the “scope statement”. You can read the scope statement of the proposed rule here. As stated in the scope statement the DHS’ objectives of the proposed emergency rule are to balance two complementary objectives: “(1) ‘boxing in’ COVID-19 to limit its spread to healthy Wisconsinites; and (2) reopening and support of the Wisconsin economy without creating undue risk of spreading the virus and thereby causing additional long-term economic disruptions.”

Only the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) has oversight authority of the agency rulemaking process. It is likely that this committee will engage in this process. 

The Badger Bounce Back Plan

As you may recall, on April 20th, the Evers Administration began executing the Badger Bounce Back plan. It provided a detailed, staggered approach to opening businesses, based on when certain scientific data points (gating criteria) and safety measures (state core responsibilities) were in place. On May 13th, Wisconsin had met 5 of the 6 criteria. Much of this plan was based on the federal Government’s guidance for states to re-open.

Although the Safer at Home Emergency Order has ended, the Wisconsin Department of Health will continue tracking our state’s progress on the gating criteria and ensuring the state core responsibilities that were outlined by the Badger Bounce Back Plan. This includes tracking symptoms, cases, and hospital data, as well as our state’s testing, tracing, and tracking capabilities. Public health experts have agreed that meeting certain gating criteria and state core responsibilities are critical to prevent a future outbreak or resurgence of COVID-19. 

You can see the updated progress Wisconsin is making on meeting the gating criteria by visiting the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) criteria dashboard here. However, the data is likely to fluctuate in the coming days and weeks as more people leave home, travel, and interact with others at varying degrees. 

For your knowledge, the gating criteria tracks symptoms, cases, and hospital data. The gating criteria is as follows:

  • SYMPTOMS: Downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) reported within a 14-day period AND downward trajectory of COVID-19-like syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period
  • CASES: Downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period 
  • HOSPITALS: Treat all patients without crisis care AND robust testing programs in place for at-risk healthcare workers, with decreasing numbers of infected healthcare workers

The core state responsibilities are working to properly contain the virus through widespread testing, tracing, and tracking of the virus. The goals of the state core responsibilities are:

  • Testing: Provide that every Wisconsin resident who has symptoms of COVID-19 can get a lab test.
  • Tracing: Increase the state’s contact tracing efforts by hiring 1,000 additional staff to make sure everyone is contacted and has what they need to safely isolate and quarantine.
  • Tracking: Building on systems used to track influenza, we will track the spread of the disease and report on the Wisconsin Gating Criteria and other related metrics to keep everyone informed about how we are doing.

Guidance Issued by the La Crosse County Health Department

While the La Crosse County Health Department is not issuing a local stay-at-home orders like some other Wisconsin counties, they are strongly urging all businesses and residents to take a stand against COVID-19. La Crosse County Health Department explains that our county is not ready to return to business as usual: a complete return to pre-COVID function will result in a dramatic rise in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, and could necessitate future prolonged shutdowns. Such events would cause widespread devastation to both our community and our economy. Similar to the Governor’s Badger Bounce Back Plan,  La Crosse County outlines metrics to inform when our community will be ready for a widespread reopening. The status of La Crosse County metrics as of May 13:


To assist with meeting the necessary metrics and adequately preparing for a widespread reopening, the La Crosse County Health Department is urging all businesses, customers, residents, and visitors to do all of the following:

  • Stay at home if you are sick
  • Minimize close physical contact with those outside of your household
  • Minimize travel, especially to areas considered “viral hotspots” within and beyond our state borders
  • Wear a fabric face covering if you must be in public
  • Maintain 6-foot distances with others whenever possible
  • Minimize congregating in groups of any size
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
  • Avoid touching your face

Businesses are further reminded to follow the guidance documents available through the La Crosse County Health Department (ie-business toolkit) and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). More information on the WEDC guidelines is available below.

The La Crosse County Health Department reiterates that just because the Safer at Home Order has been invalidated does not mean COVID-19 is not a concern anymore. I urge all businesses to take action to protect their employees and customers. We do not need an order to follow the science and do the right thing for the greater good of the community.

Best Practices and Safety Guidelines are Available for Wisconsin Businesses

The Governor and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), in consultation with the Department of Health Services (DHS), Department of Tourism, Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), and industry experts and associations, released a series of publications to keep businesses informed of best practices and tips for their industry. There is general guidance available for all businesses to follow, as well as guidance specific to the following industries:

With many businesses in different parts of the state reopening, it’s important that they follow these guidelines to curtail the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of both their workers and patrons. 

La Crosse to Provide Free Testing Next Week

The Badger Bounce Back Plan calls for increased testing capacity in our state, and due to the efforts of the Evers administration, Wisconsin can now provide a test to everyone who needs a test. The Governor and DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm set an aggressive goal to increase testing capacity in Wisconsin to 85,000 tests per week. By utilizing public-private partnerships, the state increased the number of labs performing COVID-19 tests to 51 labs. We now have the infrastructure in place to accomplish the goal of administering 85,000 test each week.

To improve the availability of testing in Wisconsin communities, the DHS is working with local health departments to establish community testing sites. Testing at these sites will be provided at no cost, but please note, some locations may require a doctor’s note or appointment to receive a test. La Crosse County received final approval for a National Guard Testing Site earlier this week. This testing event will take place on Thursday, May 21st from 11am-7pm at the Omni Center in Onalaska. The site offers free testing to anyone with symptoms, no matter how mild. The goal is to test 400 people at the event. A media release with more information is available here

Additionally, Gundersen Health System announced that a COVID-19 drive-up testing site is now available at their South La Crosse Campus.  

State’s Health Care Workers and First Responders Encouraged to Submit N95 Respirators for Decontamination and Reuse

In an effort to increase the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) in our state, the Governor’s administration recently acquired the Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System™. The system is ready for use to decontaminate the N95 respirators of healthcare workers and first responders. It can decontaminate up to 80,000 N95 masks on a daily basis, and the masks can be decontaminated up to 20 times without degrading their filtration performance. The Battelle decontamination service is being provided to Wisconsin health care organizations and professionals free of charge. 

In addition to the Battelle System, UV decontamination sites are already in place in much of Wisconsin (Brown, Dane, Kenosha, and Sawyer counties), and with capacity to service N95 masks and other types of PPE, such as face shields, gowns, and aprons. 

Further, the Governor’s administration continues to acquire PPE through the following channels: (1) the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA); (2) the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS); (3) procurement; (4) donation; and (5) buyback programs. On April 30, Wisconsin received a delivery of 230,000 N95 respirator masks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), providing a much needed boost to the availability of PPE for distribution in the state.

Efforts for Federal Legislative Action Continued

I am hopeful that the State Legislature will meet to further address the needs of our state due to COVID-19. As mentioned in a previous E-Newsletter, Wisconsin Act 185 was signed into law on April 15, 2020. This bipartisan legislation was a good first step in providing some immediate relief to Wisconsinites and capitalizing on the availability of federal funds; however, we must do more to address this public health crisis. My Democratic colleagues and I signed on to a letter urging Assembly Speaker Vos to take further legislative action to address the needs of small businesses, frontline health care workers, child care providers, farmers and agriculture producers, health care costs, housing, K-12 education, UW students and campuses, tourism, and upcoming elections. The Speaker has yet to call the Assembly into session to address these pressing issues. 

Knowing that there has been no industry left unaffected by this public health crisis, I continue to advocate for federal aid to assist in our state’s recovery. My most recent efforts include signing onto two letters requesting additional support from the federal government for K-12 schools and higher education. Due to anticipated shortfalls in state revenue, the Learning Policy Institute project predicts that Wisconsin will lose 11.7% of its public school teaching positions, resulting in over 7,000 teaching positions being cut. In regard to higher education, the University of Wisconsin System announced that it is expecting to lose approximately $170 million in revenue from just the spring semester due to COVID-19, and that is only expected to increase. Our public schools and higher education system, like many other industries, must be supported. We need more action to ensure these institutions have the resources they need moving forward. 

Updates from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) recently announced two pilot programs to safely address the backlog of demand that the Department is currently experiencing. Beginning on May 11, expired driver licenses can now be renewed online and 16- and 17- year olds can obtain their probationary driver license without completing a road test. More information from the WisDOT on these two pilot program is available below.  

Online driver license renewal
Due to COVID-19, approximately 80,000 people whose driver license expired have received an extension to renew. Those extensions, with late fees waived, expire July 25, 2020. This pilot program allows many customers to renew their driver license quickly and easily online at wisconsindmv.gov/renewDL

Please note, renewing online may not be an option for everyone. While the deadline for a REAL ID has been extended one year to October 1, 2021, customers wanting a driver license that is REAL ID-compliant will need to visit a DMV Customer Service Center. Without a REAL ID designation on a driver license or ID, travelers will need another form of identification, like a passport, for domestic air travel after October 1, 2021.

Road test waivers for 16- and 17-year-olds
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) typically conducts approximately 2,100 road tests per week. Nearly 65 percent of these tests are for people under the age of 18, with 98 percent passing their road test on their first or second attempt. Wisconsin also has a Graduated Driver License (GDL) law that places strict expectations on drivers under 18. The GDL requirements have improved safety and will remain in place. 

Road tests may be waived for 16- and 17-year-olds who complete the required training and have their parent or guardian sign the road test waiver. The waiver is not mandatory, and parents who opt to have their young driver take a road test at a DMV may schedule that appointment online. The DMV estimates that there is a current backlog of 16,000 road test requests; 10,000 of those are eligible for the road test waiver.

Moving? Tips to Stay Safe While Moving

As spring semester comes to a close for UW-La Crosse, Viterbo, and Western Technical College students, so do many rental leases. This means there will be an increase of traffic in the area with students moving in and out of their rental home and apartments. The La Crosse County Health Department has issued unique guidance for those who may be moving and for those who reside in an area that have a high number of student rentals. Please view the La Crosse County Health Department’s press release for advice on how to stay safe during this time.