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Local governments working on when to order business closings

Brad Williams

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Who gets to decide when a business has to close because of a public health emergency? 

Wisconsin is still trying to set down rules, with some bars, stores, and other businesses closing for a second time after a spike in coronavirus. 

La Crosse County administrator Steve O’Malley is on a statewide commission laying out standards for getting businesses to temporarily close shop, and he told the county board last week that the ability to enforce closings at the local level is still in question.           

Public protests and a state Supreme Court ruling led to the reopening of businesses around Wisconsin in May, after weeks of closure to limit the coronavirus, but sudden rises in COVID levels have forced some La Crosse area businesses to close again. 

For now, the health department does have some authority to order closings because of illness concerns. 

At a board meeting last week, supervisor Rick Cornforth asked how much power the board might have to regulate business, compared to the health department.

“I’m getting a lot of feedback from constituents,” said Cornforth. “There’s a concern that we’re all just sitting around on our hands, while the health department’s doing a great job of reporting the numbers and educating the public.”    

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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1 Comment

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    Randy Hubert

    June 22, 2020 at 6:38 am

    Guidelines do not close businesses. If you do All stores including Walmart. Give out guidelines. This isn’t China.

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