Women wave the American flag as vehicles circle the State Capitol Friday in Madison.
Women wave the American flag as vehicles circle the State Capitol Friday in Madison. (Photo © Andy Manis)


Calls to re-open Wisconsin as the COVID-19 case total tops 5,000 cases, 262 deaths

Roughly 1,500 people gathered at the Capitol in Madison Friday to protest the extension of the safer-at-home order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as the number of cases in Wisconsin increased by more than 300 to 5,356 and 262 deaths.

Waving American and ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flags, holding signs with messages from recalling Gov. Tony Evers to “I agreed to flatten the curve. Done. Now open the churches” and “Masked but not silenced,” scheduled speakers and protesters said the order should be lifted to let non-essential businesses reopen.

Protesters gather at the State Capitol in Madison to protest measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Protesters hold signs, Don’t Tread on Me and American flags at the State Capitol in Madison Friday. (Photo © Andy Manis)

Many said it is up to individuals to decide if they want to reopen their businesses and whether they want to go out to church, a bar, restaurant, park or any other type of business.

Had the safer-at-home order not been extended last week, it would have expired today. Instead, Evers and the secretary of the state Department of Health Services extended the order until May 26. There are a few exceptions.

The changes in this order include: allowing public libraries to provide curbside delivery and allowing golf courses to open with a few restrictions. Clubhouses and pro shops must remain closed and scheduling and paying for tee times must be done online or by phone.

Arts and crafts stores also will be allowed to make curbside deliveries for customers to pick-up materials necessary to make face masks. 

Protesters gather in Madison to advocate for the repeal of the safer-at-home order.
Armed protesters walk the perimeter of the Capitol Friday. (Photo © Andy Manis)

Companies that perform exterior construction or lawn care work may also get back to work, provided the work is done by one person per job. 

Republican lawmakers on Tuesday filed a suit with the State Supreme Court to block the extension of the order. None of the state’s top Repubican lawmakers were scheduled speakers or in attendance at the event. 

Amy Case from Rockford, Ill., said she drove to Madison to show support for lifting these types of orders. The governor of Illinois extended that state’s order Friday until May 31.

Case said she owns rental properties and has a job but a bulk of her income comes from crafting. She makes specialty wine toppers and personalized keychains. 

May is typically a big month for her, with craft fairs held across Wisconsin. This year, they have all been canceled. Because that line of income is considered direct sales, she said she is not eligible to qualify for unemployment. 

Protesters gather in Madison to protest the extension of the safer-at-home order.
Hundreds gathered at the State Capitol in Madison Friday to protest Gov. Tony Evers’ extension of the safer-at-home order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 until May 26. (Photo © Andy Manis)

Russ and Alyce Lachman traveled to Madison from La Crosse to voice opposition to the order. The city’s park director announced Thursday that the city’s three swimming pools would be closed this summer due to the virus. Splash pads and beaches are being prepared to open for summer, if it’s deemed safe to do so, according to the La Crosse Tribune

“Think about all the kids,” Alyce Lachman said. “What are they supposed to do all summer?”

Right now, there are 25 positive cases in La Crosse County and no deaths.

Russ Lachman was carrying a homemade sign that outlined the number of cases in western Wisconsin, which compared to other parts of the state are lower, with some having no cases.

Madison police officers wear gas masks as they monitor the hundreds of protesters at the State Capitol in Madison Friday.
Madison police officers wear gas masks as they monitor the hundreds of protesters at the State Capitol in Madison Friday. (Photo © Andy Manis)

He said the state should reopen rural portions of the state, as they do not have as many cases. 

When asked if he was concerned that COVID-19 has the most severe effects on the elderly population, Russ Lachman said, “Let me ask you a question: How many people died in Wisconsin from the flu last year? How about 1,600? Look into it.”

The true figure is about 10 times lower. The state Department of Health Services confirmed 167 deaths in the 2019-20 flu season compared to 262 this year due to the coronavirus in Wisconsin. 

He said measures taken to stop the spread of coronavirus are “all a big political scheme.”

“I would put money on it,” he said. 

“It’s just a big thing to get everybody scared, and it’s doing a damn good job,” Lachman said. He claimed “the left” is instilling fear in people because “they want a socialist state.”

Several scheduled speakers said hospitals are not overcrowded with COVID-19 patients, proving the virus is not as deadly or contagious as Evers and health officials claim. 

Madison Firefighters show support Friday for healthcare workers by driving by the UW Hospital.
Madison firefighters form a rig brigade Friday and drove around the UW Hospital, lights flashing and honking the horn in support of healthcare workers. (Photo © Andy Manis)

Angela Janis, a psychiatrist at a Madison hospital, stood near the steps of the Capitol, holding a sign that read “Please Go Home.”

A doctor holds a sign asking protests to go home.
Angela Janis is a psychiatrist with a hospital in Madison. She attended the counter protest in Madison silently asking protesters to go home. (Photo by Jessica VanEgeren)

Janis responded to the comment that hospitals are empty by saying that proves the safer-at-home order is working.

“We are flattening the curve,” she said. “That means we are doing what we need to be doing.”