Callahan petition asks Evers to “Open Up Wisconsin” as health officials emphasize Safer at Home order’s effectiveness
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor
WISCONSIN – Hours before Governor Tony Evers’ announcement of the extension of the Safer at Home order from April 24 to May 26, Lincoln County District 13 Supervisor and 35th Assembly District candidate Calvin Callahan released a petition asking Evers to “Open Up Wisconsin.”
“I’m sending a petition to Governor Evers to urge him to start easing restrictions of his stay at home order, and we need 1000 signatures to get it to the Governors (sic) desk, I need your help,” an April 16 email from Callahan’s campaign said. “Please add your name to the petition so we can open Wisconsin. Our small businesses are struggling, people need jobs, and families need food on their tables. Lincoln county (sic) has zero cases (of COVID-19), and in Wisconsin, things are looking up. Sign your name below, and let’s restart the economy!”
In a separate statement regarding the extension of the Safer at Home order, Callahan said workers, business owners students and the public need “a well-thought-out plan that starts to ease these restrictions under the stay at home order,” adding Evers “doesn’t give any clarity to when people will get their jobs back.”
According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, 262,794 weekly unemployment claims were filed for the week of April 5 through April 11. Over 22 million people have filed unemployment claims nationwide in April.
“Closing the economy and putting it on hold is dangerous and reckless leadership,” Callahan stated.
Callahan said he hopes Evers makes a plan that is specific to northern Wisconsin, “rather than a copy and paste plan for the entire state.”
Callahan declined to answer specific questions from the Tomahawk Leader regarding which types of small businesses the petition is asking Evers to reopen, if there is a timeline the petition is seeking for the reopening of businesses, if the statement “…and in Wisconsin, things are looking up” is based on any specific citable data, if he had spoken to health officials about the petition, or if he believed the potential economic benefits of reopening some small businesses are worth the potential health risks.
Health officials emphasize effectiveness, importance of Safer at Home order
Callahan’s petition comes as health officials say the Safer at Home order has been effective in limiting COVID-19 cases and deaths in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) said on April 14 that the Safer at Home order has been effective in “flattening the curve.”
“In epidemiology, the curve refers to the projected number of new cases over a period of time,” said correspondent Sam Meredith on www.cnbc.com. “In contrast to a steep rise of coronavirus infections, a more gradual uptick of cases will see the same number of people get infected, but without overburdening the healthcare system at any one time. The idea of flattening the curve is to stagger the number of new cases over a longer period, so that people have better access to care.”
There is no vaccine or medical treatment for COVID-19.
“Without effective treatments or a vaccine, the only way to slow the spread of COVID-19 is through non-pharmaceutical interventions that help us maintain physical distancing,” said DHS Chief Medical Officer and State Epidemiologist Dr. Ryan Westergaard. “The Safer at Home order has been our main intervention in Wisconsin, and we are beginning to see the results.”
According to the DHS website, www.dhs.wisconsin.gov, limiting physical contact between people is the only strategy to slow the spread of the virus, and that changing the strategy now “would result in a surge of cases.”
“Before changing policies, Wisconsin needs to develop the capacity to implement containment strategies across the state,” the DHS said. DHS Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm stated that the DHS will work through its statewide response to do so.
“These are critical next steps to prevent a future surge of cases,” Palm said.
Shelley Hersil, Lincoln County Health Department Director and Health Officer, said there have been discussions among public health departments regarding what steps would need to be taken before the Safer at Home policies could be safely lifted.
Hersil said health departments involved in the discussions agreed that in order to the lift the policies, access to COVID-19 testing must be made widely available, adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) must be supplied to healthcare workers and others in the community who need to care for those who have COVID -19, and there must be “adequate capacity for local and state health departments to rapidly follow-up with those who are sick, including contact tracing and isolation and quarantine, to prevent widespread transmission.”
“I understand the concern for small business and I am sure we all agree that we need to do this in a manner that will best protect the health and safety of those in our community,” Hersil stated. “We are so fortunate and grateful to those in our community who have been staying at home and implementing social distancing. It is a very challenging time for everyone but we do not want to lose what we have been able to accomplish this last month. We have made a lot of progress in these areas in the last month but much more needs to be done. Getting these recommendations in place will be able to get us through this challenging time so we can get back to normal sooner.”