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No statewide guidance for counties discussed during Gov. & GOP leaders meeting

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MADISON (WKOW) -- With Wisconsin no longer under the safer at home order, many local governments are looking for clarity on what they should do to help contain the spread of the virus. 

However, it could be a while until they get guidance from the state as Republican leaders said they support having local governments decide what’s best for their communities.

Governor Tony Evers said using that approach will cause chaos and confusion.

“Things are going to get very confusing very fast,” he said. 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald had a meeting over the phone with Gov. Evers Thursday, a day after GOP leaders won in court after the safer at home order was struck down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

GOP leaders said they prefer having local public health departments issue their own restrictions in battling the coronavirus pandemic. 

“When it comes to restrictions we truly believe those should be done on local bases and the county health departments have all the tools necessary to do those kinds of restrictions if they feel they're necessary in their communities,” Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke said to 27 News.

After people swarmed to bars across the state shortly after the ruling, counties such as Dane and Rock County implemented their own safer at home orders keeping businesses, restaurants, and taverns closed. 

Other counties are opting to give guidelines on how to safely open, and some nothing at all.

Under state law, local public health departments do have the power to put restrictions in place if they want to keep nonessential businesses closed during the pandemic. 

Gov. Evers doesn’t believe this approach is safe and doesn’t have confidant restaurants can reopen safely. 

“I think it will be very difficult....I believe it will create mass confusion that will exist without a statewide approach," said Evers. 

Rep. Steinke added without a statewide approach there could be a surge in new cases but believes the state can control the spread as long as our hospitals are not overwhelmed.

"There probably will be a rise in cases but the big thing we have to make sure hospitals can manage those cases and keep everyone safe in the meantime," said Steineke. 

So far, only a handful of cities and counties have put restrictions in place to keep some businesses and restaurants closed. 

GOP leaders have yet to introduce a statewide reopening plan in response to COVID-19.

Evers said he doubts that state would go back to plans such as his Badger Bounce back proposal to slowly reopening the economy.

Evers also urged Wisconsinites to still consider safety measure during the pandemic.

"The Supreme Court may have changed the rules for how we operate, but it sure as heck hasn’t changed how the virus operates," he said.

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Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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