HUDSON -- The first Friday after Wisconsin reopened saw downtown overwhelmed, with large crowds, open containers and a 50-person fight, according to Police Chief Geoff Willems.
“It was crazy,” Willems said.
Only a few bars opened up the weekend of May 16, three days after the state Supreme Court struck down the Safer at Home order. With Minnesota still closed, neighboring residents flooded across the border into Hudson.
“Everybody from Minnesota was chomping at the bit, not to throw Minnesota under the bus, that’s just what it was,” Willems said.
The turnout, beyond even the usual pre-coronavirus amount, led the Hudson Police Department to double enforcement on weekends, day and night. Now seven or eight officers are on duty at a time.
“We all learned our lesson pretty quickly,” Willems said.
It seemed to work. Memorial Day Weekend still saw large crowds, Willems said, but no major problems.
“I think that other restaurants and things opening up downtown helped spread that out a little bit,” he said.
St. Croix County and the city of Hudson don’t have any mandated orders in place, so officers are focused only on standard enforcement.
“Quite frankly, they wouldn’t have the time to enforce the social distancing thing because of the amount of people that are in town from all over the country,” Willems said.
Officers have seen people from Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, he said.
“It appears everyone is driving to Hudson, Wisconsin,” Willems said.
He does have some concern for his officers, who are dealing with increased exposure. If one got sick, it could spread through the department with double enforcement, Willems said. That hasn’t happened yet.
Officers do have access to equipment, including gloves and masks. They have not been ordered to wear the masks regularly, but are told to do so when dealing with someone who is symptomatic.
“In a dynamic situation, it’s pretty hard to say, 'OK just everybody stop, I have to deploy my PPE,'” Willems said.
While opening up brings problems, Willems said law enforcement will deal with it.
Willems urged people who don't feel safe going out yet to stay home.
“Nothing says they have to go to a restaurant or bar,” he said.
For those who do, he advised taking it easy and understanding a lot of people will be out.
“Exercise some patience, and common sense,” he said.