Monday, April 20, 2020

How to get Wisconsin reopened. And how not to.

After some Koched-up dimwits got loose over the weekend complaining about Governor Tony Evers and DHS Secretary Andrea Palm's decision to extend the state's Safer at Home policy, Evers responded with a set of guidelines explaining what it would take to get more industries reopened in the state, and in how to step up the state's fight against COVID-19.

To start, Evers' plan would use numerical data to determine if the state should open up, saying that the state needed to show a consistent decline in new cases as a % of tests over a 14-day period.
These metrics and progress on Core Responsibilities will be evaluated regularly and guide decisions about when Wisconsin is ready to move from phase to phase. They are based on the Federal Gating Criteria and Core State Preparedness Responsibilities found in Guidelines for Opening up America Again that was issued by the White House on April 16, 2020. These metrics will be applied on a statewide basis as this highly infectious virus knows no county boundaries and can easily spread from regions with high prevalence to regions with low prevalence.
Keep that "easily spread from high prevalence to low prevalence regions" concept in the back of your mind for later.

Right now, we are not seeing a decline in new cases in Wisconsin. In fact, our rolling 7-day average of new cases has slightly increased over the last few days, after making progress in the week before.

The next part of Evers' plan involves a sizable increase in testing.
Every Wisconsin resident who has symptoms of COVID-19 can get a lab test. Results will be reported to the patient and state or local public health within 48 hours of collection. To achieve this, our goal is 85,000 tests/week or approximately 12,000 tests/day.
It's a big goal, given that the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports that we have been testing between 1,350 to 1,800 Wisconsinites a day over the last week.

As part of the testing plan, there is an initiative by Madison's Exact Sciences to process 20,000 tests a week. It also includes collaboration with the Wisconsin National Guard, as well as Wisconsin companies Epic, Marshfield Clinic and Promega to get more tests done and reported quicker. We'll see where the numbers go in the next few weeks.

The other two steps in Evers' plan using more state staff to trace people who have tested positive and others they may have been in contact with, and it also includes tracking the information on a public dashboard.

While Evers was announcing this information, other business groups and the GOP politicians they support were insisting that Wisconsin should remove the Safer at Home restrictions regardless of what the state's data might say. And some have plans of their own, including how the state's Tavern League wants to allow people to head back to the bars. They released a list of conditions that bars and restauarants could follow in order to expand service beyond curbside pick-up (if they’re open at all).
· Effective May 1st
· All employees required to wear masks and gloves
· Practice social distancing of 6 feet
· All tables 6 feet apart
· No tables of more than 6 people
· Reduce on premise capacity by 50%
· Outdoor eating and drinking with 6 feet distancing permitted
· No salad bars or self-serve buffets
· Eliminate paper menus
· Eliminate all table condiments

Fits the Tavern League plan. Except for those condiments

50% capacity still feels high, and it’s still likely too much to ask to let a large number of bars reopen in 10 days when we’re still seeing cases rise by more than 150 a day in the state, and over 70 people dying in each of the last 2 weeks. But at least the Tavern League isn’t living in Fantasy-land and understands that even if we do remove the Safer at Home restrictions, bars and restaurants are not immediately going to be able to go back to the way they ran in February.

I’ll contrast the Tavern League's proposal with another “reopen Wisconsin” plan that came out in the last 2 days. This time it was GOP State Reps Amy Loudenbeck and Mike Kuglitsch with their suggestions on removing Safer at Home.
We are also suggesting alternatives to some of the more extreme decisions the administration has made. Personally, we believe that all businesses are “essential” since they represents someone’s livelihood. We understand that some may need to modify their operations (with engineering controls or changes to policies and procedures) to reduce the risk of transmission from COVID-19. We also realize some businesses may not be able to demonstrate they can operate safely, and may not be able to reopen right away and some may understandably choose to voluntarily close for a while.
OK, who decides if businesses can’t “demonstrate they can operate safely” if there are no restrictions that deal with the COVID-19 breakout? So, you’re going to have to determine what those rules are, and if the Republicans aren’t going to do that (and they won’t), then it’s up to the Evers Administration to figure it out, now isn’t it? So that’s a “step up or shut up” for you guys in the Assembly GOPs.

And as for "all businesses are essential", when did Republicans become the sensitive snowflakes that asked for everyone to be understanding of other people lived and worked?

The next suggestions from Reps Loudenbeck and Kuglitsch have some nice words, but are half-baked at best.
We understand COVID-19 poses a real threat to public health. If Governor Evers lifts the “Safer at Home” order in two days or two week or two months, we believe many Wisconsinites, especially vulnerable populations and people with underlying health conditions, may still choose to shelter in place or self-quarantine, limit their activities and travel, and do whatever they need to do to keep themselves and their families safe. We respect their decisions to do so.

Government can provide guidance, but ultimately we must allow individuals to decide when they feel confident and safe to reenter society. A one-size fits all solution is impractical in a state as large and diverse as Wisconsin.
There are two flaws here.

1. How are you going to “respect” people who logically decide that it is best for their health to self-quarantine or stay at home to take care of their families? Are you going to give them extra unemployment benefits after the $600 a week benefit goes away? Are you going to make it easier for them to get health care by expanding Medicaid?

Are you going to give them tax credits or other benefits if they choose to be a caregiver to someone in their family that is sick and/or vulnerable? Are you going to expand child care to make it easier for them to go back to work while their kids are out of school? Are you going to protect them and make it illegal for them to lose their jobs if they decide to stay at home?

Again, the WisGOPs need to “step up or shut up" when it comes to showing if they think this type of work is "essential."

2. “One-size fits all” is in place because otherwise what likely will happen in many places is “race to the bottom”. If one area opens up its bars and restaurants to full service, and allows people to crowd in as much as possible, they can get an unfair advantage over other areas that don’t allow such behaviors. This would be like going back to the old days of the mid-late 2000s when some parts of the state allowed smoking in bars and restaurants, and others didn’t. That was bad enough when it was smoking, and only the people at the smoking bar were endangered.

But as Evers alluded to, what’s worse in the Age of COVID 19 is that the virus could/would be more likely to be spread in those towns with the open, crowded establishments, some people from out of town might drive up to those towns instead of their more restrictive hometowns. Not only does that person have a higher chance of picking up the virus due to those less-safe behaviors, but then he or she drives back to the more-safe town and then comes into contact with others.

Then add in the fact that tourist season is starting up soon, and ask yourselves how smart is it to have a much looser restriction on the stay-at-home laws than nearby states. That make for some high-risk gambling, and unlike Vegas, where few others get hurt if you choose wrong, a bad choice by an asymptomatic carrier could mess up a lot of people and places.

An entirely clean and local crowd, I'm sure

Which goes to one of my biggest complaints with the “Open the Economy” Astroturf that is going on. You do not live on an island. You affect others. And it is the selfishness of recklessly opening the economy (for what, by the way?) that puts the rest of us at risk.

Worse, it increases the chances of more people being infected, businesses shutting down again because of a lack of workers and/or customers, and having to wait even longer for more aspects of life to return to normal. So it’s stupid along with being selfish. But when have 21st Century Republicans ever looked at the big picture or at any time horizon past the next few days of story lines?


  1. Nice summary of the conundrum we are living and a savvy move by Evers to adopt the Trump team initiatives that the Reps now have to decry. Solution? Reps will make their Supreme Court force a May 12th open and God help us if anything ever spreads to the Dells or to the Chain-0-Lakes or to Minocqua or....wherever there are minimal medical facilities. Good Luck all!

    1. The GOPs really don't have any plan other than stamping their feet and whining about anything Evers might do. And they think they can trick enough rubes to deflect the blame off of Trump and onto the Dems.

      As you mention, what happens if things open up in rural Wisconsin, and someone asymptomatic either lives there or travels there, which results in it spreading in the community? Or if there is an outbreak at a workplace, like we're seeing at the meat plants in GB and in Walworth County.

  2. I'm never going to get to leave my home.

  3. Recall Roggensack.

  4. Where are the very rich people in Wisconsin right now?

    It has to be 10 years of tax breaks for them now, why is that money not going to trickle down to everyone after just a few weeks of a pause of just a part of the economy?

    It seems like after such a "booming economy" that there should be plenty of "strong economy" scraps of the Republican good times floating around to last for some time, so what is missing here?

    1. Good question. Maybe that "booming economy" was never so great, eh? Especially for non-rich Wisconsinites.

      It seems a small price to ask to have the rich and corporate to give back some of their gains and bailouts to help the many who are struggling today.