Although last week’s public gathering at polling locations here could complicate matters, the combined exercise of personal responsibility and government restrictions have helped flatten the curve of this outbreak. 

It is not time to lift all restrictions. And personal vigilance will be needed for years. (You will see masks at stores and gatherings for quite some time.)

However, I think Governor Tony Evers must immediately outline a series of benchmarks that has triggered an ever-escalating easing of restrictions. His announcement on Thursday that he was extending the “safer at home” shelter-in-place order was made without the governor making any case for it, nor did he offer any vision for how it would end.

Show us plans, today. Let us know details. Trust us. 

I would imagine the benchmarks would include massive testing regimens and deployment of PPE to all first responders. 

For what it’s worth, I would not be opposed to a four-tiered designation by County so that some areas would be more ‘open’ sooner. Seems logical that these designations would be based on a formula of population density and hospitalizations. For example, Milwaukee would be in one tier, Waukesha, Racine, Kenosha and Dane in another and the rest of the state split into two other tiers based on population density. 

Personal responsibility and social distancing would have to remain vigilant even after movement restrictions are lifted. It will soon be time to ease up to resuscitate the economy. 

However, I couldn’t imagine any bar or restaurant in southeastern Wisconsin was going to be able to have a crowd of more than ten in one room anytime before June, even before the governor’s announcement of the “safer at home” order. Not much larger of a capacity elsewhere, frankly. Parks and golf courses should be open now, but access should be metered. 

I would have hoped schools could open in mid to late May. Even two weeks of semi normalcy would have been very important for kids and parents. 

But look at the South Dakota and Iowa clusters. Things can get real bad, really quickly, so there is a common interest in keeping our behavior and movement modified to some extent. It would be dangerous to lift all measures in a week or two. 

Yes, we have to ease up the restrictions eventually. But we need more widespread testing/monitoring and more PPE in the hands of first responders before any of that can happen. I also think that all employees who can work remotely should continue to do so to the greatest extent possible even if some restrictions begin to be eased. 

And we need to think ahead. We have to walk and chew gum at the same time. For example, we should re-evaluate the 2020-2021 school calendar in anticipation of the second wave. Perhaps starting school in August and having a longer Christmas break. Or trimesters with the middle term being virtual? I don’t have all the answers but I know we should be working together to anticipate issues. 

We will all benefit from more empathy and less anger. 

And we deserve more transparency and less partisanship from the government. 

This is far, far worse than the seasonal flu but it has not been as bad as feared—in large part because social distancing and isolation has slowed the spread. 

We can stand up for liberty and protect public health at the same time. This isn’t an “Us vs Them” battle. There is no “them.” It’s all of us versus the virus.

I want the economy and society in the United States open as soon as practicable. Some of these rules are/were dumb (golf courses closed, can’t buy seeds, window visits prohibited). But no matter how devastating the shelter at home orders are, let’s not lose sight of the fact that this virus isn’t just like the flu. It’s far, far worse. 

And if this runs a similar course as the 1918 Spanish Flu, which so far it has, this first wave could be more mild than what hits in fall.

The 1918 pandemic had several waves that didn’t conclude in the US until 1920. I’m not panicking and not trying to incite a panic with anyone. But flattening the curve is not the beginning of the end of this. It’s the end of the beginning. 

If this behaves similar to SARS or MERS it won’t be seasonal. So we need to plan as if we won’t have a lull. 

Everyone, including the government, needs to think long term. This is not like a hurricane where recovery begins a few days after the storm passes. Until there is a vaccine, it is likely waves will wash over us. Hot spots will flare up with devastating impact. 

While not as draconian as the lockdowns imposed in Wuhan, China, where this originated, sheltering at home is not practicable for 18 months. But we need to adapt almost everything we do. 

Plan, don’t hoard. Plan, don’t panic. 

From business operations to public education to religious services to supply chain management, we need to prepare for an 12-18 month period where we don’t have a vaccine. We need to keep society moving forward, maintain essential services and reignite stalled businesses while protecting public health. 

If I were a wizard, I would wave my magic wand and appoint former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson the Covid Captain and he would convene daily online meetings with the current governor, Republican and Democratic leaders, and representatives of business, industry and local government. 

The daily updates we need now are much more than ICU bed usage and PPE availability, although those are still very important. We need to know when and how we ease back into life. 

This is not an academic debate. This is not a partisan clash. We should look at this as World War III. 

We need visionaries to work together and leaders who are skilled communicators to rally people to meet the challenges before us. People are willing to make sacrifices and change our habits and invest in the effort to limit the impact of the pandemic. 

But we need to know how, why and when. 

Empathy and transparency should be the guiding principles for every elected official and business owner.

Brian Fraley is a public relations specialist and the President of Edge Messaging, as well as a former managing editor of RightWisconsin. This was adapted from a series of Facebook posts posted prior to Governor Evers’ announcement he is extending the “safer at home” order.