Local Officials Push Back on GOP COVID Proposal

“It undermines the ability of public health officers to keep us safe, and it politicizes health care,” says Dane County Exec. Joe Parisi.

By Will Kenneally

December 2, 2020 • South Central Region

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Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announces restrictions on gatherings of more than 50 people at a news conference March 15, 2020.

Officials in Madison and Dane County had sharp criticism for the package of legislation Assembly Speaker Robin Vos proposed Tuesday night, saying it is a political document rather than a plan.

“It takes health care decisions out of the hands of health care professionals and puts them into the hands of politicians,” said Dane County Exec. Joe Parisi. “It undermines the ability of public health officers to keep us safe, and it politicizes health care.”

The proposal would require the state health department to help fund more local public health workers, but also reduces the power of county health officers to issue restrictive gathering limits.

It also allows for the Legislature to have oversight on how federal dollars are spent and how a COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed.

“I think it’s ludicrous to propose that the distribution of the vaccine and who gets a vaccine be decided by the Legislature,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes Conway. “That just flies in the face of all common sense, and those are decisions that should be made by public health and health care officials.”

This comes as local health officials said they have seen a decrease in case counts in the state’s second-largest county in the past week—close to 50% the number of daily cases seen in mid-November.

“Public health has told us that our numbers have leveled off a bit, but I can’t help but feel that we are just in the eye of the storm and that we will shortly be facing a post holiday surge in cases that will send hundreds more to the hospital,” Rhodes Conway said.

The county’s public health director said November was the deadliest month in the pandemic for Dane County, with many of the deaths associated with assisted living and long-term care facilities.

Earlier in the week, Dane County also recorded the first death of a person under 20 in the state, who died of coronavirus-related pneumonia according to Madison365.

County public health director Janel Heinrich said her department would be looking to revise county health orders before mid-December, looking at continuing case counts and other evidence of the virus’s spread in the community.

“We will continue to make decisions to keep our hospitals functioning and to keep our community alive and well this holiday season,” she said.

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