Supreme Court order ends Safer at Home; here is how organizations are responding

Weston Family Dental post corona

B.C. Kowalski

Weston Family Dental post corona

Robyn Bretl scans a patient’s temperature at Weston Family Dental. The dentist office opened on Monday, two days prior to the reopening and has been seeing emergency patients during the shutdown.

On Monday, retail businesses that weren’t part of an enclosed mall were allowed to reopen after the governor “turned the dial” back on restrictions meant to curb the spread of the Coronavirus. 

Two days later, the supreme court took matters into its own hands and ended the Safer at Home order, even ignoring a request from Republican legislators to delay the decision a week so they could work with the governor on a new plan to reopen. 

How organizations have been responding has been a mixed bag. 

Marathon County Health Officer Joan Theurer urged Marathon County residents to continue safe social distancing practices, and for businesses to follow best practices outlined by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation re-opening guidelines.

North Central Health Care, where the second case of Coronavirus occurred, says it is maintaining restrictions on nursing homes, community group homes and its inpatient behavioral health hospital. 

Gov. Tony Evers says the Safer at Home order had done a lot to curb the spread of Covid-19, but the Supreme Court’s decision will “throw our state into chaos.”

Local Republican lawmakers last week lobbied in Wausau for a regional approach to reopening. Positive case rates in central and northern Wisconsin have remained low, according to data from the Department of Health Services.

A new report from the Badger Institute showed the state is losing $189 million every day in economic activity from the shutdown, and $5.1 million in Marathon County specifically.

Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg says she doesn’t currently have any plans to implement city Safer at Home measures as some communities have. City offices will remain closed for the time being, Rosenberg says. “If you are confused by what’s going on, you are not alone. We’ve been through a lot of chaos recently and I want to approach this in a methodical, fact-based, and lawful way,” Rosenberg says.

Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza posted a special “Mayor’s Minute” episode to say Stevens Point offices will remain closed. Wiza urged businesses to think about the safety of their customers and employees in making the decision to re-open, and in how they do it.

Weston Family Dental opened its offices on Monday in anticipation of the easing of the Safer at Home order, says owner Nick Bretl. The dental office has limited staff in the office and two dentists including Bretl work split shifts so only one dentist is in the office at any given time. Patients are screened at the door where their temperature is taken and they are asked questions about symptoms of Covid-19.

Robyn Bretl told City Pages that no one has been sent home because of showing symptoms – most people who aren’t feeling well call ahead to cancel, and Weston Family Dental is not charging any cancellation fees because they want people not feeling well not to come in.

The office is now scrambling to get patients booked while still maintaining social distancing measures. The office was closed for seven weeks and had to cancel 800 appointments in that time. They still stayed open for emergencies, something necessary with a base of 6,000 patients. One patient was a young girl with a sheared off tooth with a root exposed – Bretl says she went to four other dentists and were refused before Weston Family Dental took care of her.

The Bretls told City Pages they’ve received death threats at the office and had to shut down their Facebook and Yelp pages to because of negative comments. Nick Bretl has been critical of the shutdown on Facebook.

For many businesses, the sudden reversal wasn’t enough time to get ready for an opening, since businesses hadn’t ordered supplies, put employees on the schedule or otherwise been ready to open with such short notice. And many are still considering the Coronavirus threat.

At Whitewater Music Hall, co-owner Kelly Patterson Ballard told City Pages that they’d been planning on opening in some capacity on May 26, so the news Wednesday came as a surprise. Ballard says Whitewater staff will wait for some guidance from local health officials and if that is not forthcoming, will adhere to the WEDC phase I guidelines. “There is still a deadly pandemic to consider,” Ballard says. “We will function with safety as an absolute priority and science as our guide.”

Malarkey’s Pub and Townies Grill also says it plans to remain closed for the time being, according to a post on its Facebook page. “We are currently working with staff on menu options, health department with safety protocols, deep cleaning and will start talking with our distributors and reps to get the same quality of fresh food, beer and spirits we are known for,” the business wrote on Facebook.

La Taqueria is also among business not immediately opening their doors. According to a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page, “We feel that it would be irresponsible and detrimental to the safety and well-being of our staff and our loyal customers, to open without consistent guidelines from the Marathon county health department and strict internal procedures in place.”