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Capital City Sunday: Reopen Wisconsin, Workers’ compensation law & domestic abuse services

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The push to reopen the state is gaining momentum as hundreds carry out protests across Wisconsin urging Governor Tony Evers to reconsider extending his safer at home order.  

The order is in effect until May 26, but bars and restaurants believe they can open their doors by taking safety measures to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

President of the Tavern League of Wisconsin Chris Marsicano sent a letter to the governor outlining their safety precautions to reopen safely on May 1, claiming it would protect employees and customers. 

“You have these big box stores are open and have all these people in the aisle, we think as smaller venues we can control our crowds better and take safety precautions to keep people safe,” said Marsicano. 

This effort comes as Republican leaders in the legislature are asking the state Supreme Court to block the safer at home extension by filing a lawsuit against Evers and his top health secretary.

The governor lashed out against Republicans, predicting if they win in court, more people will die.

COVID-19 LAW IMPACT ON FIRST RESPONDERS

Police and firefighter groups say a new state law makes it too difficult for first responders to get workers' compensation benefits if they’re exposed to COVID-19 while on the job.

This was part of the coronavirus relief bill approved by the legislature and signed by Evers. 

One group frustrated by the provision is the Wisconsin Professional Police Association.

WPPA Executive Director Jim Palmer said the last minute change now requires a first responder to prove they contracted COVID-19 which he says it difficult because most people don’t experience symptoms for days. 

“It’s unreasonable, it’s unfair, it’s a slap in the face, or more appropriately a cough in the face,” said Palmer.

DOMESTIC ABUSE HOTLINES

As Wisconsin nears its second month of the safer at home order to slow the spread of the virus, people's homes may not be a safe place for those living with domestic violence and abuse. 

Shannon Barry, Executive Director of the Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS), said their helpline is seeing fewer calls, which she calls alarming. 

“It’s concerning to me because there may be a lot of folks who just don’t have the option of having a private, confidential space in their home if they are at home with their batterer to reach out,” said Barry.

Service providers across the state have had similar patterns. Many victims of abuse aren’t calling for help because they are not leaving the house. Barry said while the 24-hour helpline call volume is down, law enforcement is seeing an increase of reports of domestic abuse. 

“We have seen a significant increase in the number of referrals we get directly from law enforcement,” she said. “As this order continues there’s a lot more stress and anxiety that may be resulting in more serious incidents.”

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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