Wisconsin Becomes the “Wild West”

Gov. Tony Evers Press Conference about Safer at Home order extension
Gov. Tony Evers announces his Safer at Home directive during a March 24, 2020 press conference. Evers’ order shuttering nonessential businesses is being attacked by opponents misusing the state’s COVID-19 projections.
Wisconsin Department of Health Services via YouTube

Governor Evers and his staff had created a seven-item criteria for what the state needed to do before beginning a phased opening of business and social institutions; six of those seven had been met.

Then the Supreme Court decided to throw it all overboard and, along with it, any chance of a measured approach to a potential calamity.

Within hours of that ruling we started seeing photos of crowded taverns. What possibly could go wrong.

I doubt that even the Republican legislators who brought suit against the state and insisted on being involved in policy making are happy about this state of affairs.

They had called for a six-day stay between a court ruling and implementation of that ruling. The political effect of such a stay would have been to force Evers to negotiate with the legislature and, basically, to give Rep. Robin Vos veto power over anything the governor wanted to do.

Which would be nice work if you could get it because Vos would get to call the shots and Evers would be responsible if anything went wrong. But the legislature couldn’t get it. Instead, the court ignored the request for a six-day stay, meaning the state is now wide open and it is going to be hard to blame Evers for anything other than trying to help people stay alive.

The ruling wasn’t a surprise. During the hearing, Chief Justice Patience Roggensack explained that an outbreak of the Covid-19 virus in Brown County was due to a flare up in a meat packing plant, not a transmission among “regular people.”

Apparently she believes that workers in a packing plan don’t mingle at a bar with “regular people,” after their shifts end, don’t buy groceries in a store or worship in a church.

The Tavern League of Wisconsin seemed jubilant, telling its members the doors are open, though covering its tracks by urging people to engage in safe practices.

The thing is, it’s pretty hard to drink beer when you’re wearing a mask. Nor has imbibing alcoholic beverages ever been known to increase a sense of caution in the imbiber.

We can’t really predict the results of all this, but we can do some guessing.

One guess is that restaurants and taverns in counties that permit will pretty much open up full-steam ahead. To fail to do so would put them at a disadvantage to competitors down the street.

Another is that someone, some place will be diagnosed with the virus shortly after eating in a popular restaurant and the result will be that people will not only stop eating at that restaurant but will become fearful of eating in any restaurant.

Evers’ emergency orders may have been controversial but they had the very real benefit of putting everyone on the same playing field and having a well-defined set of criteria for everyone to meet.

That’s all gone now. It is hard to imagine any of this turning out well.