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Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling called Governor Tony Evers‘ extension of the Safer at Home order an “overreach” and enforcing the order would not be a priority.

Instead, Schmaling would focus on “keeping the roads safe” and protect citizens from “criminal activity.” He believes doing so would have “dire lifetime consequences for businesses, homeowners, and families,” according to a press release.

He also pointed out that Wisconsin law charges the Governor and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services with the authority to make and enforce rules and orders about protecting the public during a health crisis. But they can not supersede Constitutional rights.

“I took an oath to uphold the constitutional rights of our citizens, and I can not in good faith participate in the destruction of Racine County businesses or interfere in the freedoms granted to all of us by our Constitution,” he said. 

Read more: Symptoms of COVID-19

Still, Schmaling urged state health officials to focus on making a workable plan that allows for businesses to operate. Racine County announced Thursday that ith would form a task force to make recommendations on how best to reopen businesses.

“I have all the confidence in Racine County business owners that they can make the appropriate adjustments in the way they operate during this difficult time to accommodate for the safety of their employees and guests,” he said.

Racine Public Health Director Dottie-Kay Bowersox called Schmaling’s comments about Evers’ Safer at Home order “concerning and alarming.”

“The actions come in response to the best available science and data from the CDC and local public health officials,” Bowersox said. “The fight against COVID-19 is not over, and how we respond in the coming days, weeks, and months will determine whether or not we will be successful.”

Bowersox added that Schmaling’s actions added confusion, and that imposes “unnecessary risk” for residents.

“The economic hardships of employers and their employees are clear and definitive,” she said. “They are understandably facing challenges that cannot be easily mediated and/or sustained long term. However, ensuring the health and welfare of all community members is an essential duty of all public servants, which honors those we have lost or who are struggling at this time.”

COVID-19 cases increase, but not as severe as projected

In a press conference held Thursday, Evers told reporters that the extension allowed the state to beef up the infrastructure needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). Additional testing is expected to occur in long-term care, prisons, and jails, and assisted living facilities where outbreaks may happen. It is set to expire on May 28.

“A few weeks ago, we had a pretty grim outlook for what COVID-19 could mean for our state, but because of the efforts of all of you, Safer at Home is working. That said, we aren’t out of the woods just yet,” said Gov. Evers. “As I’ve said all along, we are going to rely on science and public health experts to guide us through this challenge.”

The number of known cases is less than the models indicated. The state predicted there would be between 440 and 1,500 deaths by April 8. As of April 17, the state reported 205 deaths and 4,045 cases, of the 46,410 people tested. That represents about .8 percent of Wisconsin’s 5.82 million population.


In Racine County, eight people have died from the COVID-19 (novel Coronavirus), and 163 people have tested positive.

Still, there is a stark difference between how the virus spread before the Safer at Home Order and now. The rate of new cases doubled every 3.4 days before the Safer at Home order being issued. Since then, it has slowed down significantly and now doubles every 12 days.

But the number of known cases is under-reported. Now that testing has increased, which means those numbers will likely rise, said state health officials.

Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the state, but mapping out the exact amount of cases has been difficult. 

“One hundred cases are much better than 1,000 cases that are being seen in other states. But it’s probably not low enough for us to feel confident that there’s not a fair amount of community spread in multiple areas of the state,” he said.

Because of the limited amount of testing being done, Westergaard believes the state is only capturing about 10 to 20 percent of the actual cases.

Per CDC guidelines and DHS recommendations to hospitals, however, testing was restricted to health care workers and people requiring hospitalization. That policy changed Thursday after healthcare clinicians were told they can now test people experiencing mild symptoms.

Health officials have voiced concerns that the spread of the virus could mean more significant numbers of people will need medical care. If that happens, hospitals will not be able to deal with a higher volume of patient care. The term flattening the curve refers to fewer people contracting the virus and having less of an impact on the state’s healthcare system.

Read more: Evers extends Safer at Home order

Republican Legislators blast Evers over Safer at Home order

.Republican Legislators, including House Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Sen. Van Wanggaard also blasted Evers’ decision to extend the Safer at Home Order until May 26.

“I have largely withheld my public criticism of Governor Evers’ ever-changing and inconsistent Stay at Home order out of respect for the office and the unprecedented time we are living in. But the greater than month-long extension of his Stay at Home Order requires that stop now,” Wanggard said in a press release. “The extension of the Stay at Home order is a symptom of a misguided one-size-fits-all approach by Governor Evers that the facts on the ground do not support.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R- Kaukauna) said that their offices had been flooded with phone calls from business owners voicing frustration with Evers’ extension. The order goes too far, the press release reads.

“While everyone shares the goal of protecting public health, the governor’s order goes too far. The Safer at Home order’s main intent was to flatten the curve, which we have successfully done to this point, not devastate our families,” Vos said.

State Republicans plan to correct the issue through legal and legislative options because the order gave no metrics, measurable goals or a clear plan to reopen.

“The governor can’t just keep extending the date, waiting for some new knowledge to appear,” he said. We need to hear from the economic and medical experts who support his continuation of the order as appropriate for Wisconsin’s circumstances and not from more politicians.

With the COVID-19 crisis changing daily, Vos pointed out that Evers wanted to purchase 10,000 ventilators but placed an order for 1,500.

“The prevailing model out of the University of Washington has substantially scaled back predicted impacts repeatedly in recent days,” Vos pointed out. “The hardest-hit city in the nation, New York City, is expected to reopen on May 15. These rapidly changing data points leave in question what indicators the governor is using to continue the extension of an order, which is having far-reaching economic and human impacts in the state.”

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.