The Bayfield County Health Department imposed a countywide restriction on public gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the wake of an outbreak following a wedding in Washburn.
The Red Cliff Community Health Center and Bayfield County Health Department said in a news release that four new cases had been traced to a wedding held at the Harbor View Event Center Aug. 29.
Since then more positive cases in Red Cliff have been reported, bringing the total up to 14 as of Tuesday, and one case has come out of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Indians.
The Red Cliff tribe had issued a “Stay-at-Home” mandate and ordered the closure of non-essential businesses within Red Cliff reservation boundaries until further notice.
Shortly thereafter, Bayfield County Health Department, citing the county’s older populations and other residents who are medically vulnerable, issued its moratorium on planned or unplanned gatherings of more than 100 people in certain locations.
Local health officers may forbid public gatherings when deemed necessary to “help prevent the spread of contagious, communicable diseases if done out of necessity and within reason — or what is considered reasonable,” Bayfield County Public Health Officer Sara Wartman said. “For my local decision making, I often try to compare this pandemic to outbreaks of meningitis or whooping cough (pertussis) and look at the situation to see if we would be doing something similar for those diseases. All three of these — COVID, pertussis, meningitis — are Category I illnesses.”
The penalty for violating the public gathering order, which remains in effect until Dec. 4, will not be less than $200 or more than $500 for each violation.
Government steps to battle the spread of COVID-19 — such as instituting “Stay-at-Home” orders, face mask mandates and social distancing — have been fraught with controversy and lawsuits have been filed.
Gov. Tony Evers saw an extension of his “safer-at-home” order rescinded when Republican legislative leaders sued, saying the governor had no authority to issue a second health emergency to address the same crisis without legislative approval, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court back them up.
Another order from Evers issued July 30 requiring people to wear masks has been challenged by three individuals from west-central Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, the conservative law firm representing the trio, said Evers does not have the legal authority to issue a statewide mask mandate. The suit was filed Aug. 25, and Evers’ order expires Sept. 28 if it is not struck down.
Meanwhile counties continue to hold free COVID-19 testing sites to help gauge the spread of the pandemic.
On Tuesday the Wisconsin National Guard announced it had helped collect more than 445,000 specimens for COVID-19 statewide. Teams continue to operate across Wisconsin supporting local health departments and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services with testing efforts and will be operating from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Hayward Wesleyan Church, 10655 Nyman Ave. To expedite testing pre-register at register.covidconnect.wi.gov.