Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ order enforcement up to La Crosse County Health Department

La Crosse law enforcement won't actively enforce Evers' new order, La Crosse County officials ask for voluntary compliance
Emergency Order Enforcement

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Gov. Tony Evers’ new order requiring masks and limited crowds indoors went into effect Thursday. The new order will last until Nov. 6.

However, much like past mandates, enforcement of this order will not come from La Crosse law enforcement.  Rewind back to the August 1 mask mandate or back to the end of March when Safer at Home was put into effect.

What became clear is how foggy the rules were, and who would be responsible if people chose to not to follow the guidelines? Wisconsin’s Supreme Court battle ultimately eliminated Safer at Home in a case settled along party lines.

Evers’s new order limits indoor capacity in certain buildings to 25 percent of the facility’s capacity. Face coverings are also required indoors like past months.

“It’s only temporary and hopefully this will get us moving our numbers the other direction instead of increasing,” said Tim Gruenke, La Crosse County District Attorney.

The responsibility of enforcement does not fall on La Crosse Police or the La Crosse County Sheriff’s Office.

Officials from both law enforcement agencies, along with Gruenke say that responsibility falls on the La Crosse County Health Department. Gruenke said they hope community members voluntarily comply with the order.

“If the numbers keep going up we have to do something to keep people safe, and keep this from spreading to more and more people,” Gruenke said.

Those who do not comply with the state order could face a fine of up to $500. The health department would refer any citations to the La Crosse County District Attorney’s office.

La Crosse County Health Educator Maggie Smith said in a statement on behalf of the health department, “There are two steps to enforcement and it involves both the municipality and county to complete the process. We have been working with business owners in the community throughout the pandemic, and continue to educate them about following the Governor’s order. In cooperation with the local municipality law enforcement, we will be doing enforcement.”

Gruenke said these rules are important to getting back to normal routines in the future.

“I think there are a lot of people that feel that they don’t need to comply with this, and they still want to go out and they still want to mingle with others,” Gruenke said. “I understand that, but we’re facing a pandemic and if we’re not going to get a hold of this quicker it’s only going to get worse.”

Ever’s Emergency Order 3 does not apply to schools, government spaces, or places where there is protected speech such as political rallies or religious gatherings.