Gov. Tony Evers spoke at an online media briefing Thursday afternoon about the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision to strike down his “Safer At Home” order and throw the state into some good old fashioned chaos. Here’s what he said:
Good afternoon everybody, and thanks so much for joining us today.
Because of the good work you’ve been doing throughout this crisis—stay home as much as possible, practice good hygiene and social distancing, and wear a face mask in public if you’re able to—Wisconsin was in a pretty good place in our battle against COVID-19. We had reached almost all our gating criteria. On Monday we opened up 14,000 small businesses across the state, putting potentially 90,000 folks back to work in those industries.
Despite that good work by Wisconsinites across our state, who banded together and stayed home and stayed safe, Republican legislators have convinced four of our Supreme Court justices to throw our state into chaos. We saw it already last night when the Tavern League of Wisconsin urged its members to open back up, and people flooded the bars across the state. Instead of a comprehensive statewide approach to keep people safe, we’re seeing municipalities around the state chart their own course. That means you might have to follow a different set of rules from your neighbors across the street. If you own businesses in multiple locations or have employees who live in a different community than the one they work in, things are going to get very confusing, very fast.
Even with all this chaos, we cannot let the court’s ruling undo all the work we have done, and all the sacrifices Wisconsinites have made over these past few months. We need everybody to continue doing their part to keep our families, our neighbors, and our communities safe by continuing to stay safer at home, wear a mask in public if you can, practice social distancing, and limit travel. Because folks, the Supreme Court may have changed the rules for how we operate, but it sure the heck didn’t change how viruses operate.
This virus has killed more than 400 of our family members, friends, and neighbors, and thousands more across our state are sick. Because of the court’s decision, many more people could get sick and overwhelm our hospitals, but not if we stay the course and stay home. If you do not feel safe leaving the house, you should stay home. If you feel safe enough to go out to a store or a restaurant, but experience crowds or unsafe conditions that make you feel uncomfortable, you should go home. Just because Republicans said it can be a free-for-all, that doesn’t mean we have to throw good judgment out the window.
I have already heard from a number of individuals and businesses who say they plan on continuing staying at home. I’d like to read one message I received from a constituent in La Crosse, who said this:
“As for me and my household, we will continue to abide by the guidelines your office said, even if they are no longer required by executive order. While I miss going to church, I can still exercise my freedom of religion by practicing it safely at home. While I miss sitting down at a restaurant, I still have the freedom to enjoy my favorite restaurant food from carryout options. And while I love to bargain shop freely at secondhand stores, I can still do that safely and freely through online options, or with just five people in the store. You didn’t take away any of my freedoms, you’re helping protect them, and because of the good work and good freedoms that we have, if you’re not alive and healthy to enjoy them they mean nothing.”
I also heard from dozens of other folks, librarians, FedEx drivers, grocery store workers, cancer survivors like myself, healthcare workers, business owners, people from all over the state who support our efforts to stay safer at home, and are hoping that you will continue to stay at home also. Their lives depend on it.
Now it is more important than ever to make sure we are focused on keeping everybody safe, and especially that we consider those who are most exposed and vulnerable when we make decisions. We remain concerned and are working hard to keep people safe in our care, such as our healthcare facilities and correctional facilities, even though we understand how difficult it is right now for those individuals and their families. At this time we do not have any diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at our Wisconsin veterans homes, which we attribute to the good practices we had in place, and the protocols we added very early on. While the safer at home order is no longer in effect, in the interests of the health and welfare of our members and staff, our Wisconsin veterans homes will continue to follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control for our long term care facilities and nursing homes by limiting visitation. And I know that other long term care providers are making the same kind of considerations. This pandemic hasn’t gone away, and the threat to frail, older adults remains real and potentially dangerous. The Department of Health Services and the provider community are working hard to develop options and strategies to allow visitations to safely occur under certain circumstances and conditions. We all want visitations to occur and open up, but we don’t want to thoughtlessly threaten the lives of older adults.
I know that folks are eager to visit their loved ones and I understand that. I appreciate your patience and understanding, as we all try and make sense of the situation and find solutions that will keep your loved ones safe. We also need to be diligent in our effort to keep our workers safe. WEDC has a comprehensive set of guidelines that we developed in consultation with DHS, and I strongly urge every business to implement these best practices to ensure the safety of every workplace, in every community. Both customers and workers need to be confident in their safety. So we need everyone to be diligent and follow best safety practices so that we can continue to move our state forward, while keeping our neighbors, families, and communities safe and healthy.
Regardless of the political overtones of this Supreme Court decision, we still know what we need to do. As I said before, the virus hasn’t changed, and neither has a science. We will continue with our testing and contact tracing efforts around the state, and we’ll continue to ensure our critical workers have the equipment they need to do their job safely.
I urge anyone who needs a test that go get tested at one of our community testing sites and help protect your community and family from this virus. Let’s stay the course, Wisconsin. I know you’re up to this challenge.