Wisconsin Counties Lifting Local Safer-At-Home Orders Ahead Of Schedule

Brown, Green Counties Reopening Due To Legal Concerns

A pedestrian wears a face mask while passing by an open coffee shop
A pedestrian wears a face mask while passing by an open coffee shop as residents remain indoors despite the lifting of many restrictions to stop the rise of the new coronavirus Tuesday, May 19, 2020, in Denver. David Zalubowski/AP Photo

More Wisconsin counties have rescinded safer-at-home and emergency orders ahead of schedule. That means there are no legal restrictions on personal or business activities, but all counties are encouraging people to practice social distancing, wash their hands frequently and wear face masks when in public spaces.

Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the Evers administration’s statewide stay-at-home order that was set to expire Tuesday, May 26.

The ruling allowed for county officials and local municipalities to manage the COVID-19 pandemic in their respected communities. However, it caused confusion for many counties and residents as rules and guidelines changed across the state.

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Brown County

Brown County issued its own order immediately following the Supreme Court ruling only to lift it two days later. The county order was set to expire Wednesday.

Brown County public health officer Anna Destree said in a press release the order wouldn’t stand in a legal battle.

“Based on research conducted during the last 24 hours, and on consultations with outside legal counsel, Brown County Corporation Counsel is now of the opinion that the legal basis for the Order is likely not strong enough to withstand legal challenge,” Destree said.

Destree said Brown County’s Public Health Office is continuing to focus on testing efforts, quarantine guidance, and educating the community on how to control the spread of COVID-19.

Door County

Door County rescinded their order Tuesday.

Door County public health manager Susan Powers issued the order a day after the Supreme Court ruling and it was set to expire Wednesday. Instead, the order was lifted a day early because county officials have found the right route for the community, said Door County administrator Ken Pabich.

Pabich said the original order was put in place to allow county health officials time to react to the state Supreme Court ruling and create a plan to move forward.

Door County is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Wisconsin. Pabich said tourist should know the county is being proactive in providing a safe environment.

“We are hoping that Door County can be kind of the model of how to stay open and find that balance, you know that cliché of a win-win situation,” Pabich said. “From our standpoint we hope we can find that point where it’s a win for the businesses but also a win for the tourist.”

Green County

Green County’s emergency order was lifted Monday after being in effect for four days. Green County public health officer RoAnn Warden issued the order the day after the state Supreme Court ruling, and it was to remain in effect until Tuesday, May 26.

Warden said in a press release that the Green County District Attorney’s Office and Corporation Counsel advised the county’s emergency order “may not be enforceable under current County ordinances.”

“While the order has been lifted, the virus is still here,” Warden said. “Numbers locally and in Wisconsin continue to grow. We strongly encourage everyone to follow recommended best practices for individuals, businesses, and community groups.”

Warden said she hopes businesses look at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.’s recommendations on how to safely reopen.

Rock County

Rock County’s stay-at-home order will be lifted five days ahead of schedule. The county issued the order the day of the Supreme Court ruling, keeping in place the state’s stay-at-home order in the community until Tuesday, May 26. The order will now be lifted Thursday.

Rock County administrator Josh Smith said in a press conference Tuesday that not all Rock County officials agreed with re-opening, but they are aware communities can’t be under orders forever.

“Soon we are going to have to trust each other to make the right decisions on physical distancing and other measures to keep us all safe,” Smith said.

Milwaukee And Suburban Communities

The city of Milwaukee introduced a plan last week to reopen some businesses, but the city still has a safer-at-home order in place with restrictions until further notice.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said during a press conference Wednesday that dropping restrictions and lifting orders does not mean the pandemic has ended.

“I think we would all agree that if we were to remove all restrictions and see a huge spike in the following two or three weeks, that it would put us back from where we want to be,” Barrett said.

Eighteen of Milwaukee’s suburban municipalities are moving ahead with reopening Friday. Businesses in those areas will be allowed to open with guidance from their local health departments.

The suburban municipalities issued an order last Thursday and it is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. Thursday.