County, City of Eau Claire Extend COVID-19 Orders
county rules now allow outdoor gatherings of up to 20 people
A day after the number of diagnosed coronavirus cases in Eau Claire County exceeded 100 for the first time, the Eau Claire City-County Health Department extended an order intended to slow the spread of the disease.
Health Department Director Lieske Giese said Wednesday afternoon that the previous public health order, which was set to expire at 11:59pm on Thursday, would be adapted and extended for another two weeks, through June 11.
“Our data right now is showing us that it’s important that we continue to control the spread of this disease,” Giese said in a media briefing. The new county order is largely the same as the one put in place on May 14, the day after the state Supreme Court overturned a statewide “Safer at Home” order on May 13. Among other things, the order encourages people to stay home as much as possible, mandates six-foot physical distancing in public places, sets limits on the occupancy of public buildings, and restricts the size of indoor gatherings to 10 people or fewer.
“Just because the legal status changed in the state of Wisconsin, it didn’t change the fact that we have a virus, a deadly virus, that has a lot of significant public health concerns.” –Eau Claire City Manager Dale Peters
However, the new order does include some changes. Most notably, outdoor public gatherings of 20 or fewer people will be allowed, as long as physical distancing is maintained. “The public health evidence that we are gaining ... is that the spread of the disease appears to be less in situations where physical distancing can be maintained and people are outdoors,” Giese said. (You can read a full PDF copy of the new order here or see a Facebook post outlining the new order below.)
As of Wednesday, 104 cases of COVID-19 had been diagnosed in Eau Claire County, and 77 of these individuals have been released from isolation, Giese said. Statewide, there have been 16.462 positive diagnoses and 539 deaths.
A day earlier, the Eau Claire City Council voted unanimously to again extend an emergency declaration enacted in March to give the city flexibility in the face of the pandemic. The declaration, which was scheduled to expire Tuesday, was extended until June 23.
City Manger Dale Peters said the emergency declaration – which was initially approved March 17 and was later extended in April – has allowed the city to take steps such as holding public meetings electronically, transforming part of Hobbs Ice Arena into a temporary homeless shelter, and supporting the countywide order issued by the health department.
“Just because the legal status changed in the state of Wisconsin, it didn’t change the fact that we have a virus, a deadly virus, that has a lot of significant public health concerns,” Peters told the City Council during a Tuesday afternoon meeting. “The legal and political process has left it to local officials to manage this, so here we are.”
Peters said local officials have taken a “practical risk-based approach that we believe will mitigate the personal spread and the community spread” of COVID-19.
For the latest updates on the Eau Claire community’s response to the pandemic, visit covid19eauclaire.org.