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No order placed in La Crosse County, businesses free to open

Kaitlyn Riley

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The La Crosse County Health Department announced Thursday it will trust its businesses and residents to continue working together to fight COVID-19 rather than put a local “safer at home” order in place.

On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Democratic Gov. Tony Ever’s “safer at home” order as invalid and made it immediately ineffective. Counties like Dane and Brown County quickly established a local order to encourage social distancing and limit nonessential business operations.

La Crosse County Health Department Director Jen Rombalski said the county is not prepared to be fully open.

“We should not need an order to do what is right,” Rombalski said. “What we do or do not do will impact others. We need to make sure our healthcare partners are ready for a surge.”

Four new Coronavirus cases were reported Thursday, bringing the county’s total to 44 cases with 32 recovered.

“There will be multiple peaks, and we don’t know how long this peak will last,” Rombalski said.

She encouraged residents to minimize contact with people outside of their households, minimize travel, wear a face covering in public, and wash hands frequently with soap and water.

Those businesses that chose to reopen were asked to protect their workforce and customers by following guidance documents available through the La Crosse County Health Department and Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

“The recourse is devastation from the disease,” Rombalski said. “Maybe you do not get fined or have to talk to law enforcement or the DA’s office, but what you do can impact the lives of individuals in this community. I don’t think any business owner has the negative intention to impact lives.

Although are no repercussions put in place for businesses who do not follow the guidance, the health department will be watching the situation closely to determine if they need to establish an order in the future to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We will take action,” Rombalski said. “We will do what is reasonable and necessary to prevent the spread of disease.”

The health department was approved for a testing site through the National Guard. It will be offered at the Onalaska Omni Center Thursday, May 21 from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in both radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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