Appleton’s mayor expressed what a lot of people across Wisconsin had to be thinking last week after the state’s highest court struck down the governor’s stay-at-home order. The ruling left the state with a patchwork of confusing rules for limiting the spread of COVID-19.
“It is deeply frustrating and disappointing,” Mayor Jake Woodford said, “that the Legislature and governor will not work together, or even attempt to do so, in the interest of statewide health and clarity.”
It sure is.
Appleton, Dane County and more than a dozen local governments quickly adopted their own stay-at-home orders after the state Supreme Court tossed out the Evers administration’s statewide restrictions. But the legality of local restrictions is now in question. Appleton on Friday dropped its rules, while Dane County’s order is still in place.
The state Supreme Court should have at least allowed state and local officials a few days to prepare for the ramifications of the court’s 4-3 decision ending Gov. Tony Ever’s “safer at home” order. Top Republican lawmakers who sued the Evers administration had requested six days to work on rules to replace the governor’s order. The court was reckless in not granting that request. At least a few bars quickly filled with revelers, risking more outbreaks and a resurgence of COVID-19 just as the state seems to have it under control.
But it’s not the court’s fault that the governor and top lawmakers can’t work together for the common good. Nor is it the court’s job to set public health policy in Wisconsin. That’s the job of the governor and Legislature. So do your jobs, Gov. Tony Evers, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Adopt clear rules for the state moving forward. Do so now, so the novel coronavirus is contained.
To his credit, Gov. Evers recently announced safe practices for how all sorts of businesses could start to reopen. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. developed the smart standards. But they are guidelines, not rules.
The governor already was planning to let his statewide order expire May 26, and he’d been loosening his restrictions for weeks. Restaurants and bars could serve takeout and deliver. Parks and golf courses had reopened. Just about any business could sell its products curbside. And starting last Monday, retail stores were allowed to open to five customers at a time.
But some limits still make sense, such as stopping people from packing into bars. Preventing COVID-19 from spreading requires social distancing. Wisconsin citizens have succeeded at keeping the respiratory disease in check by mostly staying home, staying 6 feet apart in public, and wearing masks in stores.
Though the novel coronavirus has infected about 12,000 and killed 445 in Wisconsin as of Friday, the state had recently satisfied 5 of the governor’s 6 criteria for reopening. The good trends include a falling percentage of positive tests. Only 6%, which is 411 people, of the 6,469 tested Friday had COVID-19.
Wisconsin must remain cautious until better treatments or a vaccine are developed. The virus doesn’t respect county or municipal borders. The public needs reasonable and clear rules from the state. Please cooperate, Gov. Evers, Sen. Fitzgerald and Speaker Vos, to get this done.