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What could be next for Wisconsin as COVID-19 cases trend upward

Posted at 9:36 PM, Jun 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-29 22:36:50-04

(NBC 26) -- COVID-19 cases have been trending upward for the last several days.

Across the nation, some states have tightened restrictions due to coronavirus. NBC 26 reached out to Wisconsin state lawmakers to learn more about what we could expect to see in Wisconsin if we continue to see an increase in cases.

Rep. Jim Steineke said the number of cases increasing is a concern and something they are taking seriously. He said they have to look at the data, particularly the hospitalization rate. A main reason for the 'Safer at Home' order put in place in March was to make sure hospitals were prepared to handle a surge in cases if necessary. Steineke said they wanted to make sure hospitals weren't overrun. He said right now, they're seeing hospitals are not being overrun even with the increased cases.

"Remember, positive tests just means that somebody has contracted the virus, but it doesn't necessarily mean they're showing any symptoms or that they're ill enough to require hospitalization. It's just a positive test. And what we're seeing is most people have very mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, so there's really no need to shut down the state if that continues to be the cases. But if hospitalization rates all of a sudden start to go off the charts, then different decision are going to have to be made, but they're probably going to be made more on a local or regional basis if there's hot spots in the state," explained Steineke

As for what the decisions might be, Steineke said he believes the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision was clear that the state doesn't have the authority to close every business or a majority of them in the state or the authority to quarantine people who haven't been exposed to or contracted the virus.

Rep. Amanda Stuck referred to Wisconsin as being "paralyzed" at the moment.

"We have a legislature that really isn't functioning because we have leaders in the Assembly and Senate that really don't want to work with the governor to try and find a solution. So because Republican leadership did sue the governor's office, he really doesn't have the power to do much to try and put in some sort of either safety requirements or look at what we can really doing to help people because it really stripped him of any power to really take meaningful action. So at this point, I don't know that we're in a good spot where our government is really set up to respond and put safety measures in place should we decide that they are needed," said Stuck.

She added that there are legislative steps could be taken but said Republican leadership isn't willing to do so.

Steineke said that while we might not see a shut down, locally, we could see measures being taken like mask requirements. He said under current statutes, local health departments have the ability to quarantine those who are ill, do contact tracing, and make sure those who have been exposed don't go out and expose others. Stuck, on the other hand, said after the Safer at Home order was shut down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, local governments were concerned about what to tell residents and what practices and guidance are best for businesses to follow. She said she believes there needs to be consistent statewide or even federal guidance.

Brown County held a media briefing Monday afternoon. Brown County Corporation Counsel David Hemery said that while the public health officer does have authority to issue orders, enforcement is often difficult. He said they have to make sure there are ordinances in places so people are held accountable if they aren't complying.