Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway criticized the recent lawsuit opposing Emergency Order #10 that challenges the order on its procedural basis.
Emergency Order #10 was issued by Public Health Madison & Dane County Nov. 17 following a 292% increase in county cases since early October. This order prohibited in-person, indoor gatherings with any non-household members.
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With the order in place a little over a week, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed a lawsuit on behalf of Gymfinity and two Dane County residents, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The group claims there was a procedural issue with how the order was rolled out and questioned the legality.
Gymfinity owner Jason Orkowski said in a phone interview to The Badger Herald that the order impacts businesses disproportionately. Orkowski said though this order seriously impacted Gymfinity, it made exceptions for bars, restaurants and churches.
“The order affects certain businesses and leaves other businesses completely unaffected,” Orkowski said. “For example, we are being forced to close down even though we have a very rigid COVID response.”
Orkowski said the gym’s regulations were strict before they had to close. He said they checked temperature, washed hands, separated children’s personal items, sanitized equipment immediately and often, social distanced and always required masks.
Rhodes-Conway released a statement Tuesday addressing the legal challenge by Orkowski. She said PHMDC relied on science and data to guide the order’s provisions and all previous health emergency orders.
Rhodes-Conway called to “put aside partisan, ideological” attacks to better the community’s prevention efforts in the statement.
“Our public health infrastructure was designed to keep us safe in exactly this kind of situation — and yet it has been subjected to a constant barrage of legal challenges that seem hell-bent on endangering the public, sowing discord and doubt, and undermining science,” Rhodes-Conway said in the statement.
Orkowski said he received a lot of criticism for filing the lawsuit, with many saying he did not care about regulations or keeping people safe. He first said he did not want to make the issue political because it is not his concern — rather, he said his main concern is whether the order is fair to all businesses.
PHMDC Communications Supervisor Sarah Mattes said in an email statement to The Badger Herald that the organization stands by the order.
“Our job is to protect the health and safety of Madison and Dane County residents, and we will continue that mission on the foundation of science and data,” Mattes said in the statement. “We are confident that Order #10 is legal under the statute.”
PHMDC will not comment further on the issue as it is litigated, according to Channel 3000.
Orkowski said he agreed health is important, but claimed the order was not regarding people’s health because it was inconsistent in how it treated small businesses.
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He estimates his business will lose $40,000 in revenue due to the order, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Rhodes-Conway said the persisting legal challenges continue to subvert public health efforts.
“These lawsuits are irresponsible and unconscionable in a time when COVID-19 infections are skyrocketing and Wisconsinites are dying every day,” Rhodes-Conway said in the statement.