Without a plan in hand to reopen business safely, city and county leaders met Thursday to come up with a plan after the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down safer-at-home orders.
“Dane County and Brown County already have prepared for this,” Douglas County Board Chairman Mark Liebaert said. “They were nervous, and they should be, they’re in the red zone. They have already passed their rule or resolution to stay in effect their stay-at-home order.”
Following the ruling, Liebaert said the sheriff announced that there would be no enforcement of safer-at-home orders.
“Everybody kind of thought that there was going to be six days until the order was up,” Liebaert said. “Well, the Supreme Court was kind of chastising everybody by saying, 'You weren’t prepared for us to rule on this. What are you, crazy?’ So, we didn’t have a plan in place.”
That changed Thursday morning when city and county officials met to discuss how to proceed after the ruling.
“The legislators aren’t going to address this, so it’s going to be left up to the counties,” Liebaert said.
The only exception is schools. The court did not strike down the section of the order that closed public and private K-12 schools, Superior District Administrator Amy Starzecki wrote in an email to the school community. She said schools will remain closed through June 30 and information concerning graduation, student material pickup and other information remains in effect.
All orders will come from Kathy Ronchi as the Douglas County public health officer, and the city and county will enforce those orders, Superior Mayor Jim Paine said.
“Businesses that are deemed nonessential will remain closed unless they adopt and follow reopening guidelines published by the WEDC,” Paine said.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. guidelines are published at wedc.org/reopen-guidelines and includes general and industry-specific guidelines for maintaining sanitation, hygiene and social distancing to protect the health of workers and customers.
“Most businesses should be able to reasonably adopt those guidelines,” Paine said. “There won’t be any gating criteria before they open. They just have to adopt them. They don’t have to sign any document telling us they are adopting them. They cannot open unless they follow those guidelines.”
Wisconsin had achieved most of its gating criteria for reopening the state before the Supreme Court issued its ruling blocking safer-at-home and was beginning to dial up to reopening.
For the next 14 days, there will be a ban on mass gatherings of more than 20 people, the full incubation period for the coronavirus, Paine said.
“We are not done with the outbreak until we go through two full incubation periods, so 28 days, with no new cases,” Paine said. “That’s how we know we are done and no new restrictions ever again.”
In addition to allowing businesses to reopen, Paine said elements of city operations such as reopening playgrounds and restrooms in city parks.
“If a place is too crowded, whether it be a business or a park, we will ask them to go somewhere else,” Paine said. “Particularly a business, support another business that may not be as crowded.”
Paine said the goal will be voluntary compliance with the ongoing restrictions; however, there could be consequences for those who refuse to comply, up to losing business licenses. If there is an outbreak associated with a public venue or business, he said that would be made a matter of public record.
In addition to reopening playgrounds, Paine said earlier this week the city did reopen the dog park, quietly to avoid attracting large crowds, and reopened the landfill for private individuals to drop off their waste.
Liebaert said the county is also planning to open bathrooms at the county’s parks and is likely to open camping sites soon, though whether showers at Lucius Woods would reopen was still up in the air.
“We don’t want big crowds at these sites,” Liebaert said.