COVID-19 UPDATES FOR COUNTY OFFICIALS

As issues continue to develop and change at a quick rate with COVID-19, the Coronavirus, we at the Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA) are working alongside Governor Tony Evers, the Administration, the National Association of Counties (NACo) and our general counsel, von Briesen & Roper, s.c., (von Briesen) to provide the latest resources and updates to assist county officials during this unprecedented time.

COVID-19 Daily Update: 4.14.2020

April 15, 2020

COVID-19 DAILY HEALTH UPDATE
(Information from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) current as of 1:00 p.m. Central, Tuesday, April 14, 2020)

Total people with negative results: 37,997 (+1,228)
Total people with positive results: 3,555 (+127)
Hospitalizations: 1,049 (+56) or 30%
Total deaths: 170 (+17)

ASSEMBLY PASSES AB 1038 TODAY: “STATE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC”
This afternoon, the Wisconsin State Assembly passed Assembly Bill 1038 (“State Government Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic”) with bipartisan support. The Wisconsin State Senate will take up the legislation tomorrow and it will then be sent to the Governor for his signature.  

The bill makes a number of changes to state law including changes to unemployment insurance, licensure requirements, employment regulations, and more. Items of particular interest to counties include, but are not limited to:

  • Easing of current law restrictions relating to the re-hiring of WRS retirees
  • Providing immunity protections for counties and county staff
  • Allowing counties (by resolution) to approve waiving interest and penalties on late property tax payments if paid prior to October 1, 2020
  • Allowing temporary credentials for former health care providers and for health care providers from other states
  • Changes to worker’s compensation insurance

STATE AND COUNTY OFFICIALS REINFORCING THAT ROADWAYS REMAIN OPEN TO OUT-OF-STATE AND IN-STATE TRAVELERS
To help dispel rumors, officials with the Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA) and Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) want to clarify that state roadways and borders remain open to in-state and out-of-state travelers.

Under Governor Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order, motorists are asked to avoid “non-essential” travel throughout the public emergency period. State Patrol and county sheriff’s departments continue to enforce traffic laws as usual but are not pulling over vehicles with out-of-state plates or other motorists just to ask about the purpose of their trip.

Q & A FOR COUNTY RESTRICTIONS OR BANS ON CAMPGROUNDS AND ATV/UTV USAGE
Summer in Wisconsin means getting outdoors with a wide range of recreational activities. Camping and using all terrain/utility terrain vehicles (“ATV/UTV”) are just two of the favorite summer activities that draw people to Wisconsin’s many recreational destinations. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many counties have expressed concerns regarding the influx of tourists to their counties for summer activities, especially when tourists may come from areas that have a high number of reported COVID-19 cases.

Emergency Order #12, the Safer at Home Order (“EO #12”), was issued on March 24, 2020 and orders people within Wisconsin to stay at home, with certain exceptions, including the ability to engage in “Essential Activities.” “Essential Activities” include types of outdoor recreation with certain restrictions. While EO #12 included visiting state parks as “Essential Activities” in outdoor recreation, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to present new challenges, including increased risks of exposure due to high use of popular state recreational areas. In response, Governor Evers ordered the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”) Secretary to close 40 state parks, forests and recreational areas effective April 10, 2020. The DNR already closed campgrounds in state parks and recreational areas through April 30, 2020.

The Wisconsin Counties Association and its general counsel, von Briesen & Roper, s.c., have received many questions regarding a county’s ability to restrict or prohibit certain recreational activities, particularly campgrounds (both public and private) and ATV/UTV activities. Our general counsel has prepared the Q & A below to provide information related to a county restricting or completely closing campgrounds and ATV/UTV activities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the particular issues facing counties during Wisconsin’s summer recreation season.  

This information should be reviewed carefully with corporation counsel to ensure county compliance with other applicable laws and regulations.

NACo OUTLINES PRIORITIES TO CONGRESS TO BATTLE CORONAVIRUS
NACo outlined its top priorities last week in a letter to Congress as Capitol Hill leaders mull a fourth stimulus package to help the country dig out from the mire of the coronavirus pandemic.

Counties across the country are facing economic shortfalls as COVID-19 breaks budgets related to battling the virus. Local governments have projected an unanticipated $23 billion budget impact in the first two weeks of the coronavirus pandemic alone, according to a report out by Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA).