Oneida County issues reopening guidelines for businesses
Star Journal Report
Oneida County has come up with some of the first plans in the Northwoods for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic following the State Supreme Court’s ruling that overturned Safer at Home.
During a remote meeting May 15, Oneida County Board Chair Dave Hintz, Regional Economic Development Director Jim Rosenberg and County Health Director Linda Conlon addressed members of the business community about what is next.
Rosenberg said the Supreme Court ruling essentially extended the Safer-at-Home order by handing it off to the local governments.
“I don’t really recommend doing this, by the way,” Rosenberg said. “I think it makes it confusing for people and it might send people from Three Lakes over to Eagle River because you have different rules or whatever.” The broader the rules can be, the better, he added, saying that would “even the playing field.”
Hintz credited the Onward Oneida County task force, made up of eight county board members, the health director, law enforcement and others, for drafting a letter sent to Gov. Evers that outlined steps the group wanted to take to open the county. Now that the Supreme Court’s ruling opens the state, Hintz told listeners, “It’s difficult to make the right decisions about what should open, how it should open and how it should be controlled.”
Ultimately the county chose to follow fairly closely the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) guidelines and recommendations.
“I applaud businesses who have made plans strategically and in compliance, thinking smart and trying to do the right thing,” Hintz said, adding that the country is still in the middle of a pandemic, “and we have to take appropriate actions whether we are doing it personally or as a business or as a govt and we’re all trying to do that and work together and mitigate the damages.”
Conlon, the county health officer, said her department’s obligation is to protect the health of the county and protect the health of visitors. “At the same time we also understand the need for businesses to reopen,” she added.
Friday afternoon Conlon released a set of guidelines, for a “strategic phased approach to the ‘re-opening’ Oneida County.” This approach is necessary, she said, to prevent, suppress and control COVID-19 in the county.
In a press release, Conlon wrote, “Be smart and continue to practice the guidance that has been shared over the last eight weeks. Maintain physical distance; avoid gathering in the groups, use good personal hygiene. Do not go to work, the store or anywhere if you feel ill. Consider wearing a cloth face covering when in public.
“Local businesses will now play a big role in protecting customers and staff.”
The task force made available a tool kit for businesses.
Rosenberg noted that the reopening guidelines do not have the force of law.
“But customer expectations don’t have the force of law either, but they impact greatly on how customers are going to react to you,” Rosenberg said. “Is this business looking out for my safety, is it safe to go in there? And so I think that it’s important to pay attention to best practices now.”