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Wisconsin’s Reasonable And Quieter Voices About Reopening Businesses

April 26, 2020

There has been a robust discussion over the past week concerning the manner and timing of allowing businesses in Wisconsin to again open their doors, turn on the factory lights, put placemats at restaurant tables, and get proper change in the cash register drawers.  Friday at the State Capitol there was a loud display from those who want to immediately start the economic engine, without regard to the medical situation, or the science that drives the government’s advice being given to the citizenry.

The New York Times summed up the mood from the protesters, and their distancing from data and science.

Those who protested on Friday said the broader set of facts mattered less than their personal experiences.

“You’re being told to sit down and shut up because your opinion does not matter and you have to listen to professionals,” Madison Elmer, one of the event’s organizers, told the crowd at the beginning of the event. “You know what, you shouldn’t ever stop questioning the professionals.”

But 48 hours later another set of voices emerged with a counter-argument. The Sunday newspapers were filled with the logic and reason that we must not lose sight of while making our way forward over the coming weeks at reopening our state.  Making sure that a gradual and smart opening of our state takes place will ensure that we do not risk infecting even more people, and sending our economy into a truly desperate free-fall.

Tom Still, the Wisconsin Technology Council president is always a must-read in the Wisconsin State JournalHis column this weekend was so logical and also so sorely needed to be read by all the folks who came to the isthmus last week in anger.

Businesses can reopen, but it doesn’t mean people will show up to buy things if they think it’s unsafe to do so. A reasonable measure of confidence will be required before people flock back to bars, restaurants or water parks.

One way to restore consumer confidence is through transparent, science-based plans that function much like scorecards, with regular updates people can follow.

Wisconsin may be headed toward such a system, with metrics that chart how well the state is performing in testing and other indicators such as hospitalizations, deaths and more. Testing is the biggest indicator because without more of it, public health officials, business owners and policy makers alike are shooting in the dark.

Meanwhile, the editorial board at the Journal reminded us of the progress we have made in fighting back against the virus.  They reminded readers that moving with caution in reopening is a reasonable path to follow.

Wisconsin still faces significant risk and challenges. As of Saturday, more than 5,600 people had tested positive and 266 had died from COVID-19 here. But don’t lose sight of all the progress being made to defeat this virus.

Meanwhile, the rank and file in Wisconsin understand the gravity of the situation.  In my small hometown of Hancock, there was concern the campground was going to open and with it a potential threat of having travelers spreading the virus.  It remains closed.  For all the hue and cry from some to reopen the state at once polling data shows the vast majority feel much different.

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll of 1,057 adults pretty much confirmed that perception when it was released Wednesday. About eight in 10 people surveyed in the poll, which is constructed to mirror the larger population within a 4% error rate, said they support measures requiring Americans to stay mostly in their homes and limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

Only 12% of those polled said restrictions where they live go too far. More than twice as many, 26%, said they don’t go far enough. About 61% chose the “Goldilocks” option, describing steps taken by government officials to control the spread of COVID-19 as being just right.

There are many hurdles and obstacles that need to be reckoned with as we maneuver through this historic crisis.  For instance, what did the Friday protesters who championed opening businesses think would happen to the young children in the homes of working parents, given that schools and child care centers are not open?  And what about the lack of required testing and tracing that will be needed to stem the increase of infection and also calm the fears of the customer base?  The very base that businesses require for solvency?

This blog has been steadfast with the medical community and governments who have placed the health and well being of citizens above the crassness of those who would turn state lights on at the next sunrise.   I trust that the data-driven leaders will remain committed to the best interests of the whole state as we continue to face and deal with a pandemic.

The reasoned and quieter voices found in the Sunday newspapers was the needed antidote to the sharp rhetoric heard on the Madison isthmus late last week.

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