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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

Flanders Realty Group

home : opinions : opinions
June 1, 2020

5/22/2020 7:29:00 AM
The Northwoods is open for business

This weekend, as is customary for Memorial Day weekend, a steady stream of visitors and second-homeowners will be pouring in to the area.

Seasonal homeowners will be preparing their properties for the summer. Visitors may not find the full array of activities and venues they are used to, but there will be plenty still. Restaurants are opening up, and so are bars, and a pent-up people are already taking advantage.

All are welcome. There is caution to be had and precaution to take, to be sure, but it is our hope the worst of the surreal is behind us now, as life slowly returns to normal.

A couple of thoughts as we head into the weekend.

The first is that, in Wisconsin, our constitutional institutions have worked. Thanks to the state Supreme Court, the Northwoods is open for business, and just in time for the summer season.

So let us reiterate for those who are still unclear: There are no lockdowns or restrictions in Oneida County.

The Oneida County health department has issued guidelines, some very reasonable and others very onerous, but businesses can choose what precautions to take or not to take, and, as should be the case in a free society, customers can decide what is best for them when choosing whom to patronize.

We trust business owners and the people to choose responsibly.

But think for a moment about what the Supreme Court did and how important its decision was. The court's decision did not merely save countless small businesses from disappearing forever and did not merely prevent unemployment and suffering from going even higher - as important as those are - but the court also freed us from unconstitutional oppression.

When the court ruled Gov. Tony Evers' plan, issued though his bureaucratic minion Andrea Palm, to be invalid, unlawful, and unenforceable, the court was saying what most of us thought: The government lockdown that banned us from churches, prohibited us from free travel, and stripped us of our constitutional right to freely assemble was indeed an abuse of government power of the highest order.

It is troubling that in this country a state government could lock us down so illegally and easily in the first place, but it is comforting the people could still fight back and prevail using our elected representatives and our constitution and its safeguards.

The second point, though, remains troubling. Our local authorities in Oneida County, including public health officer Linda Conlon and the Oneida County officials who fashioned the latest "guidance" for reopening, have exposed just how far out of touch they are.

The restrictions, with a few exceptions, are every bit as burdensome as those Evers wanted to put into place, and, if actually followed, would/will have devastating social and economic consequences.

We agree with Oneida County supervisor Bill Liebert, who called on Tuesday for a quicker reopening, and who rightly pointed out that many small businesses that operate on a small margin simply can't limit customer capacity to 25% and survive.

Business simply doesn't work that way, but we should expect no better from government officials who live in a bubble.

Mr. Liebert also took issue with reporting on the pandemic, alleging that in other states the data has and is being manipulated to make the virus look worse than it is. We'll look at that issue in a later edition, but the point leads to one inescapable fact: in places that were locked down but no longer are, the world has not ended.

In fact, just the opposite. In Georgia, which has completely reopened, hospitalizations have dropped by a third in the past two weeks to the lowest number of patients hospitalized since hospitals started reporting data on April 8.

Georgia is not an outlier. In example after example, places that did not lockdown or have reopened are doing no worse than places that did lock down, and in many cases are doing a lot better.

The point is, the dramatic lockdowns simple haven't been justified either constitutionally or from a public health perspective.

To be sure, Oneida County officials are quick to tell us that their guidelines are just guidelines and carry no force of law, but the message is unmistakable: Either conform to the guidelines or you will have blood on your hands when the inevitable surge comes, killing people and overwhelming our hospitals.

Again, let's be clear: No hospitals in Wisconsin, including in Milwaukee, have been overwhelmed.

Then, too, as of today in Wisconsin, there have been 467 deaths, if the statistics are to be believed. Of those, 43% have occurred in patients aged 80 and over, and 70% in patients aged 70 and older, while 43% were in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and 46% were in group home settings, meaning prisons and homeless shelters and the like in addition to long-term care facilities.

Assuming the death totals are correct - a big assumption - the statistics show a disease fatally impacting narrow segments of the population. Yet, instead of focusing on those population groups, the authorities have wreaked havoc over the entire population, ruining many more than 467 lives in the process.

Former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson has a phrase for the apocalyptic headlines and reports that continue to forecast doom and gloom even with real data showing that doom and gloom is not the case. He calls it "panic porn."

And that's exactly what Oneida County's restrictive guidelines are. They are panic porn in that they base unjustified recommendations on unjustified and indeed demonstrably wrong data and projections.

They are panic porn in that they are a form of virtue signaling for those who do follow them and shaming of those who choose not to follow them. They divide our population into good and bad, into evil and ethical, and you know who is who. Wink, wink.

The guidelines show us the disconnect between our Oneida County officials and reality.

This disconnect was demonstrated profoundly by Oneida County public health officer Linda Conlon, who, in her issuance of her guidelines on May 15, proclaimed that the Supreme Court decision "leaves the state of Wisconsin in a state of chaos with local health departments working to protect the community."

We take great offense at such bureaucratic arrogance. First off, the community is capable of taking care of itself, without being dependent and relying on a massive health bureaucracy. We think we know better than Linda Conlon what's right for our families and our businesses.

Second, the Supreme Court's decision may have left bureaucrats in a state of chaos, but it did no such thing for the people of this state. Indeed, the court decision freed us from the shackles of Conlon's bureaucracy, it fashioned order by requiring that rule-making procedures be followed; and it restored constitutional rights and due process, by which chaos is tamed through democratic certainty.

When people try to impose their will and way with an incurable arrogance, they end up only exposing their incurable flaws. Such is the exposition going on now in Oneida County.

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