Empower Wisconsin | June 9, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Marathon County’s government is proposing a new ordinance to deal with COVID-19, including the use of ankle monitors to keep track of virus “violators.”
The Marathon County Board of Supervisor’s Health and Human Services committee last week passed the new COVID-19 “reactive” rules, and the executive committee is scheduled to take it up Thursday.
Marathon County Corporation Counsel Scott Corbett and Health Officer Joan Theurer, R.N., MSN, recently told supervisors that the proposed ordinance is not intended to be a “Safer at Home Order,” a reference to Gov. Tony Evers’ lockdown edict struck down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. They took great pains to say the ordinance is “targeted directly” to those who have COVID-19 and businesses and organizations that have workers who test positive for the coronavirus. They say it’s more about communication and education than punishment.
But the language, according to Corbett, includes several levels of quarantining, including what would in essence be a countywide lockdown banning “large gatherings.”
“We’re not making people stay at home or shutting businesses,” the attorney said.
Noncompliance, however, comes with some hefty penalties of “not less than $100 not more than $25,000 per violation.”
While the officials insist that the county doesn’t have the power to create criminal penalties, the ordinance notes the use of “quarantine guards” with police powers. That includes monitoring of violators. One supervisor in particular sounded excited about the prospects of using ankle bracelets because, “that tells where they are if they’re not at home.”
“So we talked about ankle bracelets for a person who again needs to be quarantined and who might very well violate that order. That could be a possibility,” Corbett said, adding it’s not something the county would do “on the first go-around.”
So who’s going to monitor the ankle monitors and watch the inmates in COVID jail? Apparently not the sheriff’s department.
“We have talked to the sheriff about possibly using law enforcement personnel for that, but that seems like a very time-consuming use of personnel and fairly inefficient,” Corbett said. The attorney quickly added that Marathon County Sheriff Scott Parks has been very supportive, that his department “would assist in enforcement of the ordinance.”
County officials also talked about the possibility of involving the courts and jailing those with COVID-19 who repeatedly break quarantine.
The penalties have some concerned about more government overreach.
“Do you believe it’s appropriate for Marathon County to require ankle monitoring devices for those who test positive for Covid-19?” asks a post on Open Wisconsin Now -Central Wisconsin’s Facebook page. “Quarantine enforcement measures, including jail time, posting a quarantine guard with police powers outside your home were recently discussed by some of our county board members.”
If the executive committee approves the measure this Thursday, the proposed ordinance would go to the full board meeting, slated for 7 p.m, June 18 at the county courthouse.
“We have been advised that public comment will be allowed, but you must contact the county clerk to tell her that you wish to speak,” the Facebook post notes.
Listen to the Marathon County Health and Human Services Committee’s discussion on the ordinance here. Discussion on the ankle monitoring begins at 21 minutes in.