Nearly a week after the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the extended Safer at Home order and reopened businesses across the state, Gov. Tony Evers’ administration on Monday reiterated the importance of social distancing in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm, who was named in the Supreme Court lawsuit brought by the Republican-controlled Legislature, said during a media briefing that, despite confusion caused by the high court’s decision, health recommendations are the same.
“We put together a strong plan based on the science of the virus and the fact that a gradual process is the safest way to reopen Wisconsin,” she said of the struck down Safer at Home order and its related Badger Bounce Back plan. “That has not changed. The science has not changed, nor have the recommendations of our public health experts.”
She listed off a series of questions Wisconsinites may have in the wake of Safer at Home restrictions being lifted.
Should people stay at home? “Our best public health advice is yes,” Palm said. “You are safest when you are at home.”
Is it safe to visit with friends? The recommendation is to meet virtually over the phone or a video call, Palm said.
Can you take trips outside the home? Yes, but Palm said the recommendation is to limit trips to the essentials, such as weekly stops to the grocery store and pharmacy.
Can you go out to dinner? Public health experts recommend continuing to order takeout and not dining in restaurants, Palm said.
“This virus remains very contagious, and our data and metrics tell us that we should limit our interactions with others to protect ourselves and our communities and to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Palm said
She added the state health department’s work during the pandemic will not change because of the Supreme Court’s ruling, and it will continue to focus on boosting COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.
New plan? Not looking good
Evers on Monday called on residents to make “good decisions” about staying home if possible and wearing a mask in public.
“I know that if we do it together, we can box in this virus and get back to our Wisconsin way of life,” the governor said.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, issued a joint statement last week after the Supreme Court’s ruling. They called on businesses to reopen using guidelines provided by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and for residents to continue social distancing and follow hygiene recommendations.
“This order does not promote people to act in a way that they believe endangers their health,” according to the statement.
Though the legislative leaders called on the governor to work with them on crafting new rules for the state’s COVID-19 response, an initial attempt to do so following the court ruling met with GOP resistance.
Evers’ administration on Monday withdrew a statement of scope for new emergency rules to replace Safer at Home. Such a statement is the first step in the state rulemaking process, along with a public hearing and approval by a legislative committee.
State Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, on Friday said the statement to reinstate parts of the overturned stay-at-home order was tantamount to circumventing the state Supreme Court.
Several Wisconsin counties implemented health orders last week, but some withdrew them after Attorney General Josh Kaul cautioned the court’s decision could affect local restrictions.
By the numbers
Here are the latest COVID-19 statistics in Wisconsin as of Monday, May 18, according to DHS:
12,687 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases, an increase of 144 from Sunday and over 2,200 more cases than a week ago.
144,502 negative test results
21 positive test results in Pierce County
48 positive test results in St. Croix County
Find more information about the pandemic and testing at https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/index.htm.