A Real Halloween Threat
by State Sen. Jeff Smith
Halloween is typically a time we enjoy spooky things. We find ways to get scared, whether it’s a haunted corn maze or horror flick. This year, however, it seems like we’re living in a scary movie with no clear happy ending in sight. What’s even scarier is we don’t have the leadership to help us through this horrific time.
In the beginning of the year, we watched COVID-19’s rampage through countries like China and Italy. In America, the President downplayed the seriousness of this crisis, predicting we wouldn’t be as affected here.
By mid-March it became obvious, after seeing New York hit by the virus that we needed to take precautions here in Wisconsin. Governor Tony Evers wisely announced measures to keep us “Safer at Home” to try and avoid a serious spread. Around the same time, our frontline health workers worried they weren’t properly prepared for what might be coming, especially with a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment. We also saw businesses laying off thousands of workers, which quickly overwhelmed Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance system.
In mid-April the Legislature passed the COVID-19 Relief Bill, which allowed Wisconsin to accept the CARES Act funding from Congress. This was the first and only time Republican lawmakers acted on COVID-19 prevention efforts.
On April 21st, Republican lawmakers ran to the State Supreme Court to rescind the “Safer at Home” order, claiming individual freedoms were being trampled by a public health order that was in place to protect us. An hour after the Supreme Court overturned the “Safer at Home” order, we saw taverns full of patrons celebrating their ‘freedom’ to spread this highly-contagious virus.
After the Supreme Court ruling, local health departments were forced to scramble and pull together their own plans, even though there was another court case to limit local governments’ ability to act. Fortunately, a federal judge struck that suit down on July 21st and allowed local jurisdictions to implement and enforce their health plans.
During the end of July, we experienced widespread COVID-19 cases in rural counties. COVID-19 positives were soaring among young adults. Governor Evers announced Emergency Order #1, requiring face coverings over our nose and mouth while in public, indoor places. Despite the dangerous spike in cases, the Majority Party refused to call the Legislature into session to focus on additional COVID-19 relief.
Throughout September, with students returning to campus and our state experiencing COVID-19 fatigue, Wisconsin saw yet another spike in cases. To protect one another, Governor Evers issued Emergency Order #3 to limit indoor gatherings to 25% of capacity. On September 23rd Republicans finally met in the Capitol, but it wasn’t in the interest of the Wisconsin People – they met to hear campaign rhetoric for President Trump from his Secretary of State. Around this same time, Republican lawmakers vocally supported efforts by a conservative think-tank to sue the Governor to end the mask requirement in Wisconsin. Fortunately, the judge struck down their attempt, citing the Legislature’s ability to put an end to Governor Evers’ emergency order. Republicans continue shelling out taxpayer money to fight against popular, commonsense public health policy, when all they have to do is convene the Legislature and vote them down. Republican lawmakers have cost taxpayers more than $400,000 on legal assaults against the Governor instead of putting together a plan to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Last week, lobbyists challenged Emergency Order #3 in court, ultimately winning their case. At the same time, Republican lawmakers on the Joint Committee for Review on Administrative Rules took the first step to strike this emergency order down, all the while having no plan to ensure the safety of Wisconsin residents.
Most recently, on Monday, October 19th a judge restored Emergency Order #3, which will go a long way to helpWisconsin slow the spread of COVID-19.
It’s been 6 months since the Legislature passed the COVID-19 Relief Bill. Wisconsin is the nation’s hotspot for COVID-19. As of October 16th, we’ve had 166,186 positive cases and 1,574 people die from COVID-19. Governor Evers is doing what he can to stop the spread – we are long overdue for legislative Republicans do the same.