Gov. Tony Evers approved a “safer-at-home” order Tuesday to restrict groups and travel during the COVID-19 outbreak; however, that doesn’t mean La Crosse County law enforcement will be pulling people over to check whether travel is essential, said La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke.
“I think it’s safe to say that this doesn’t give police the right to stop a vehicle. People could be going any one of the excepted locations,” Gruenke said Tuesday.
The order instructs everyone in Wisconsin to stay at home or at their place of residence except when doing certain activities defined as “essential.” Those who can’t stay at home are required to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others, consistent with the social distancing requirements.
People are allowed to go to the grocery store or gas station, to hospitals or other human service operations, or to work on any essential infrastructure. While playground equipment was closed by the order, people can still visit public parks to do things such as walk or bike, but group sports such as basketball, soccer and football are prohibited.
The order says that violation or obstruction of the order is punishable by up to 30 days imprisonment or up to $250 fine.
When it comes to how the order will be enforced, the La Crosse Police Department referred the Tribune to the district attorney’s office, saying it would take its lead from the county’s top prosecutor.
Gruenke said that people would not need proof they are going to an essential business, and police wouldn’t be pulling people over to check where they are going.
“As far as large groups of people, I think it would be limited to a large house party, or something like that for police to have a reason to stop them,” Gruenke said.
People who are homeless are exempt from the order and strongly encouraged to find shelter as soon as possible.
People whose homes or residences aren’t safe, including victims of domestic violence, are permitted to leave home and find a safe alternative location.
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