(The Center Square) – The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty on Monday asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to strike down Dane County’s public health order that limits get-togethers in people’s homes.
“The latest order from the health department in Dane County illustrates why a single, unelected and unaccountable health official should not be allowed to rule unilaterally by decree,” WILL President Rick Esenberg said.
Dane County’s order bans “mass gatherings” at any property in the county. It also limits outdoor gatherings to just 10 people. The order, however, allows bars, restaurants and shops in the county to remain open with some limitations.
Dane County’s public health director, Janel Heinrich, justified the order by saying gatherings and get-togethers are spreading the coronavirus.
“A quarter of people testing positive, regardless of risk factor, indicated they attended a gathering or party in the past two weeks. These proportions have remained stable – in the past month, as cases have reached record high levels, the percentage who report attending a gathering has not changed,” Heinrich wrote when she issued her order last week. “The implications of gathering today, even in a small group, are different than they were earlier in the pandemic – the risk is higher because there is more COVID circulating.”
Heinrich said 675 coronavirus positives have been linked to gatherings in Madison and Dane counties. She includes cases from assisted living facilities, health care facilities, offices, the University of Wisconsin’s football team, and childcare services in her county.
Esenberg said, once again, WILL’s challenge has nothing to do with questions of what should be done to control the coronavirus. He said their challenge is all about making sure the people’s representatives are the ones making those decisions.
“COVID-19 should be taken seriously. But these decisions must be made by the local governing body,” Esenberg said. “Banning private family gatherings just before Thanksgiving, while allowing Black Friday shopping, makes little sense.”
Esenberg is also challenging the order’s ban on all sports activities, regardless of size or scope.
WILL is suing on behalf of Gymfinity, which is a Fitchburg-based gymnastics center. WILL describes the company as taking every precaution to keep its athletes safe.
“Gymfinity illustrates the irrationality of the current order. It operates a large, 18,000 square foot gymnastics training center and has taken extensive precautions to operate safely. They have established a rigorous screening protocol including a questionnaire, temperature checks, and hand washing. Inside the facility masks are required at all times and social distancing is enforced everywhere possible,” WILL said in a statement. “Due to these efforts, Gymfinity has not had any COVID-19 cases linked to the gym, yet Emergency Order #10 shuts down most of its business while allowing restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and other retail establishments to remain open.”
Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square. Reposted with permission.