Empower Wisconsin | April 15, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Facing public outrage, the Evers administration has reversed a directive aimed at ending “window visits” at the state’s nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
It’s the second time in less than a week Gov. Tony Evers or his team has had to revoke or “clarify” an order robbing Wisconsin residents of precious liberties amid the COVID-19 outbreak. And the Democrat’s spokespeople again were forced to dance around the truth, insisting the governor didn’t know about the restriction or didn’t support it.
Earlier this week, the Board on Aging and Long Term Care issued a notice that banned visits through the windows of nursing care facilities, closing off even glass-divided contact between residents and their loved ones.
“Do not visit anyone face to face, either in a long-term care setting or outside in the community. Due to recognized spread in long-term care settings and the Safer at Home Order, this now includes making ‘window visits’ at any nursing home or assisted living community,” the order stated.
State Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) said she heard from several concerned and frustrated constituents. She said the outrage from the public showed government bureaucrats went too far — again.
“A lot of these people in nursing homes are at the end of their life, and their loved ones and family members are all they have left. To take that away is cruelty. I don’t know how else to say it,” Felzkowski said. “The lack of compassion was staggering.”
An Evers spokeswoman told NBC15 that the strict restrictions did not reflect the administration’s position on the issue. But the edict was issued under the auspices of the Department of Health Services.
In its retraction, the Board on Aging said the original directive was a response to “numerous accounts” of individuals “kissing through a screen, hugging through an open window and not maintaining social distancing.”
It’s the latest botched power play from an administration that has grown quite comfortable using the pandemic to strip civil liberties.
Last week, Evers was forced to issue a clarification on clearly DHS-guided orders to shut down outdoor, drive-up services for places of worship — just days before Easter and Passover celebrations.
Lakeview Church in Stoughton was told by the Dane County Department of Health that it would have to cancel its drive-in service for Easter Sunday. Church pastors said that directive came from the state health agency.
Lakeview, like other churches across the state, eventually got clearance to put on their services.
“When Gov. Evers changed his mind about changing his mind, we announced this afternoon that we would put it back on. The people are excited,” said Pastor Andrew Fuqua last week.
“When we first got the news (of the cancelation) it didn’t make any sense at all. Jesus isn’t quarantined,” the pastor said, adding that he was amazed by the outpouring of support from people who reached out to their representatives to assist us.
Same goes for the restrictions on nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
While the need to keep Wisconsin’s most vulnerable populations safe from the COVID-19 outbreak, restrictions on common-sense interactions were a bridge too far for many.
“There’s an amount of panic, an amount of fear out there, but there’s also people worried about being shamed if they don’t adhere to these kinds of policies,” Felzkowski said. “I have an 87-year-old constituent whose son is in hospice. She told me that she felt ashamed that she was breaking the law just because she wanted to see her dying son.”
Board on Aging and Long Term Care retraction:
Our Memo providing recommendations regarding “window visits” in Long Term Care communities was an attempt to respond to numerous accounts we have received of individuals visiting long-term care residents outside of the windows, yet having contact such as kissing through a screen, hugging through an open window and not maintaining social distancing. This was also in attempt to respond to concerns for residents with dementia who are confused when visitors they do not know may be looking inside their windows or visiting at nighttime. We did not intend to recommend prohibiting allowed essential activities such as waiving to a resident through a closed window or providing care essential to someone’s health and safety. We apologize for any confusion.