As Common Council considers increasing fines for COVID violations, could more orders be on the way?

MILWAUKEE (CBS-58) -- With the disturbing increasing coronavirus cases, increasing fines could be on the way for Milwaukee businesses not complying with COVID-19 rules. But as we see cases rise in the state, could more enforcement or orders be on the way in other local communities?

Mayor Barrett says the majority of the businesses are complying, but not all. 

"There’s no question that we have to raise the fine. We’ve heard reports of operators, venue operators that say, 'Well, I’ve got a $5,000, $6,000 event coming up. The fine's $500, I’ll just tack that on the cost.' That’s not what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to stop the spread of COVID-19," said Barrett. 

An ordinance approved by the city's Public Safety and Health Committee on Thursday, could increase the fines for business and would give the health department flexibility between $500-$5,000 per violation, up to $20,000. Violations can include lack of masks, social distancing or breaking capacity limits. 

"Will we consider further orders if necessary here? Absolutely. Do I have a time table for that? I do not have a time table for that," Barrett said. 

He says what he'd like to see more than anything is for the legislature to work with Governor Evers on a plan for the entire state. 

"I think the best course of action is to finally, as a state say, 'We are in this together and we are going to act together.'"

That's because there are different orders in place in Milwaukee than outside Milwaukee. 

"I don’t think it’s fair to residents, I don’t think it’s fair to employees, I don’t think it’s fair to businesses, to balkanize this state and have every municipality in Milwaukee County or southeastern Wisconsin have a different set of rules," Barrett said. 

"In a lot of cases, what happens is the rules we’ve been making have been very difficult to enforce. In Greenfield for example, the health department, for example is a very small staff, so passing ordinances about what people can do are very hard to enforce," said Darren Rausch, Health Officer for the Greenfield Health Department. 

Ann Christiansen, the Health Officer for the North Shore Health Department, said Tuesday that nothing is off the table, but that there are no active discussions at this point for mandating orders. 

"I think at the local health department level in the suburbs, we’re looking at orders more specifically, so applying the tools in sort of a specific context rather than blanket restrictions."


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