Dane County has released a reopening plan for the end of its Safer at Home order, which was imposed last week, several hours after the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned Gov. Evers’ statewide safer at home order.
The plan, titled Forward Dane, takes into account nine different metrics the county must meet before it can begin reopening.
Those goals are centered around the ability to handle growth in cases, the capacities of local healthcare infrastructure, and the ability to contain infections once they occur.
Janel Heinrich is Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County. She says PHMDC came up with some of those metrics, while others were part of Governor Evers’ Badger Bounce Back plan.
Currently, the county is meeting five of the nine outlined goals.
And, effective tomorrow, Dane County will allow businesses to prepare to reopen and loosen some restrictions.
The new plan also removes all restrictions on travel, opens tennis courts and disc golf courses and removes a criminal penalty for violating the order.
According to Heinrich, there’s currently no precise timetable for when the county will move to phase one of reopening.
“Effective tomorrow morning we will be in the preparation phase. We would hope that the data will continue to progress in ways that might allow us to move out of that phase sooner rather than later,” she said.
The reopening plan comes as several counties throughout the state rescinded their stay at home orders. All of the orders were passed in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision. Kenosha, Manitowoc, Outagamie, Winnebago and Brown — which currently has the second highest case rate of any county in the state — have all repealed their orders.
County officials cited a fear of legal reprisal as their motivation for repealing the short-lived orders.
On Thursday, the Wisconsin Counties Association issued a statement calling the legality of the local safer at home orders into question. In a post on their website, the association wrote that the county level orders may also be invalid in the eyes of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
But, in an opinion letter issued Friday, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul wrote that counties and cities are legally permitted to issue their own safer at home orders. Kaul says that last week’s Supreme Court’s decision overturning the safer at home order only applies to the state and does not apply to local public health orders.
Dane County’s move comes as Governor Evers has hit another roadblock in creating a coordinated, statewide approach to the pandemic. On Friday, Republican State Senator Steve Nass, of Whitewater, rejected a new proposal from the Wisconsin DHS that would mimic much of the overturned Safer at Home order.
As part of its opinion striking down the order, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that public health orders must go through a rulemaking process. The process gave a GOP-controlled committee, chaired by Nass, veto power over any new statewide public health orders issued during the pandemic.
Speaking in a press conference earlier today, Governor Evers said that, after the rejection, his administration has given up on a statewide effort.
“They didn’t want to do anything on a statewide basis, period. They didn’t want any more restrictions, period. What we’re left with is what the Supreme Court decided. I’m not saying this is the end of the conversation process, but as it relates to the rulemaking process, it’s not worth our time. We already know where they stand and they control that process,” he said.
Despite Evers’ plans to drop a coordinated statewide approach, Ryan Nilsestuen, Chief Legal Counsel for the Governor’s office, says the administration will provide legal counseling to counties who have adopted their own safer at home orders.
And the Governor’s office is also providing a reopening template for local public health officials.
“Those are the types of outreach and efforts we’ll be continuing to do. With the Supreme Court ruling, local public health officials have been on the front lines of this since the very beginning, but now they’re on the legal front lines as well,” he said.
(Photo c/o Chali Pittman)