Public Health

There are two new developments on the OSHA COVID-19 front to report.  First, yesterday, OSHA sent a draft of a new, mandatory, temporary emergency standard on COVID-19 to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.  Up to now, OSHA has not had a mandatory standard in place to deal with the coronavirus, relying instead on guidances it has issued and on the General Duty Clause for enforcement efforts. As soon as President Biden took office, he directed OSHA to determine whether a mandatory temporary emergency standard on COVID-19 was needed and, if so, to issue it by March…
Today, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling, held that the Governor is prohibited from declaring successive states of emergency in regards to the same enabling condition without legislative approval. This means that Democratic Governor Tony Evers is prohibited from issuing any new public health emergency orders as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic without the approval of the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature. The Court struck down Executive Order 105, and as a result, the statewide mask mandate has been eliminated. However, local mask mandates remain in place in counties, municipalities, on university properties, and on tribal lands…
On March 11, 2021, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced the next eligible group for COVID-19 vaccinations. The group, designated Group 1c, extends vaccine eligibility to Wisconsin residents ages 16 and older with certain medical conditions that have a greater risk of severe infection from COVID-19. Such medical conditions include, but are not limited to, asthma, cancer, heart conditions, hypertension or high blood pressure, obesity (body mass index (BMI) of 30-39 kg/m2), overweight (BMI of 25-29 kg/m2), and Type 1 or 2 diabetes. The full list of medical conditions is available at: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/vaccine-about.htm. Group 1c is more…
On Thursday, February 4, 2021, the Wisconsin State Assembly (“Assembly”) voted on a resolution to repeal the mask mandate. This vote came a week after the Wisconsin State Senate (“Senate”) voted on the same resolution to repeal the mask mandate. The same statute that gives the Governor power to create executive orders, also allows the Senate and the Assembly to repeal the orders by simple majority vote in each chamber. Republican lawmakers argued that Governor Evers exceeded his authority by issuing multiple emergency declarations during the pandemic which has allowed him to extend the mask mandate beyond the 60 days…
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued revised guidance with options for reducing the length of quarantine for individuals who are asymptomatic, but have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. While the CDC still acknowledges that the 14-day quarantine period provides the greatest protection from spreading the virus, they also recognize that a full 14-day quarantine period can be a burden for employers and employees alike. The CDC’s new guidance applies only to individuals who have been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive person, but are not showing symptoms. The new…
On December 2, the CDC updated its guidance for quarantining after exposure to COVID-19. The CDC still recommends a 14-day quarantine as the safest option, however, it has provided two acceptable alternatives to shorten the quarantine period depending on local circumstances and resources. Quarantine can end after 10 days without testing if no symptoms have been reported during daily monitoring. Quarantine can end after seven days if the individual obtains a negative diagnostic COVID-19 test result within 48 hours of day seven, and if no symptoms were reported during daily monitoring. Under both alternatives a person can discontinue quarantine only…
On Tuesday, November 17, 2020, Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) issued Emergency Order #10 (the Order). During the press briefings, the PHMDC consistently told the public and media that Order #10 prohibits indoor mass gatherings and limits outdoor gatherings to 10 people or less. The Order continued all of the prior restrictions, including a mask requirement for all individuals over the age of five (5) and limiting most businesses to 50% capacity. The Order further prohibits sports activities, competitions, group exercise classes, festivals, concerts, conferences and meetings. The Order went into effect at 12:01am on Wednesday, November 18,…
Last night, after his primetime address, Governor Evers issued Executive Order #94 which advises residents to stay home, take precautions if they have to leave their home, and encourages businesses to take additional steps to protect workers, customers, and the surrounding community. While the document is entitled as an “Order” there is no fine or penalty for failure to comply. However, Wisconsin employers should take note that failure to follow Evers’  workplace recommendations could lead to workers’ compensation, OSHA, and “Safe-place Statute” claims.  In addition, an employer who discharges an employee who complains that the order is not being followed…
Due to a sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin, Governor Tony Evers has declared a new public health emergency in addition to the previous emergency declaration made on July 30. This surge in cases has mostly affected people between the ages of 18 and 24, including those on college campuses and who have attended social gatherings. To address these concerns Gov. Evers also issued an executive order requiring Wisconsin residents who are five years old or more to wear masks or other face coverings whenever they are indoors or in enclosed spaces with people other…