By M.D. Kittle
David Yandel looks at the rising COVID-19 numbers — and the government mandates and restrictions accompanying them — with increasing anxiety.
Yandel, owner of Harbor Park Cross Fitness club in Racine, has lived this movie before.
The city’s overreaching health director, backed by the Racine’s liberty-stripping public health restrictions, forced “nonessential” businesses like Yandel’s fitness center out of business in the opening months of the pandemic. When the city finally allowed retailers, restaurants and service providers to re-open, they could only operate at drastically reduced capacity.
Yandel, who took the city and its health czar to court and (eventually) won, worries Racine’s big government machine will go back to its power-grabbing ways again in the sweeping name of “public health emergency.”
“I don’t think they really have a grasp on the severity of what they are doing to everyone else with their restrictions,” Yandel said. “They want to save people but the biggest concern is, at what point are you going to stop? At what point is it going to be too much.”
A lot of Wisconsin business owners and citizens are wondering the same, as fear and hysteria over the so-called delta-variant, and spikes in virus numbers in some places, put the brakes on America’s return trip to “normal.”
The usual liberal, sky-is-falling suspects have been quick to reinstate restrictions. States such as California and New York are pushing mask-wearing indoors or demanding government employees show proof of vaccination or be subjected to routine testing. President Joe Biden is demanding the same of federal government employees. COVID Joe’s home state, Delaware, is now recommending unvaccinated people get weekly COVID tests.
Milwaukee Alderman Robert Bauman has pitched a plan that mandates COVID-19 testing for all city employees not vaccinated.
“It’s time we act, this problem is serious, it’s all self-inflicted in the sense that the spread of this delta (variant) is largely a function of unvaccinated people who are just being defiant, acting out of ignorance,” Bauman told Wisconsin Public Radio. “I’m angry about it. We are jeopardizing the economic vitality of the region, there is the inconvenience of going back to masking. I have very strong suspicions that capacity limits will not be far in the distance.”
He told the news outlet large gatherings could soon be shut down.
For a lot of small business owners pummeled by Gov. Tony Evers’ lockdowns and local COVID restrictions for more than a year, it feels like deja vu. It’s only a matter of time, they fear, before unelected health czars move to restrict their businesses again — just as they begin to recover from the last round of shutdowns.
Capitol sources say they are hearing from a growing number of constituents concerned about what could happen to their businesses, their jobs, their liberties in these “delta variant” days. One legislative office tells Empower Wisconsin they’re hearing from health care professionals worried they will be forced to get the COVID-19 vaccine or lose their jobs.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled against the Evers administration’s overreaching and unilateral state-wide mask mandates, lockdowns and other public health restrictions. The high court struck down Racine’s broad health orders as it related to closing schools, too.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention again shifts the goalposts, it’s usually only a matter of time before the agency’s updated guidance is “blindly codified through mandates at the state and local level,” said State Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville). CDC late last month backtracked on its earlier guidance and now recommends people wear a mask indoors, whether they’ve been vaccinated or not, where there is “substantial and high transmission” of the virus. The agency also recommends masks for K-12 schools.
“At the state level, the Evers administration’s overreach has fortunately been reined to a large extent over the past 18 months. However, this does not rule out the possibility of DHS’ (Department of Health Services) overly-broad authority [see s. 252.02(3) and (6), Stats. and s. DHS 145.06, Wis. Admin. Code] being weaponized to impose baseless edicts on K-12 schools,” Stroebel wrote in an email to Empower Wisconsin.
As the past 16 months have taught us, Team Evers and local health officials have manipulated their declarations and orders to dodge court rulings.
“It appears several local governments have already responded to the latest CDC guidance by recommending the same practices that have failed to prevent the spread of the virus across the globe,” Stroebel said.
Last week, the city of Racine announced it is mandating masks in all city government buildings. Yandel wonders if it’s starting all over again, and whether overreaching governments will ever really be held accountable for breaking the law and ignoring the constitution.
“It’s upsetting. Even though we won, there’s no real consequence,” the business owner said. “It’s, ‘Oops. Sorry. We made a mistake violating people’s rights.’ They don’t get anything … What’s to stop them?”