La Crosse County issues advisory limiting public gatherings

Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 5:08 PM CDT
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In La Crosse County four deaths in two days are blamed on COVID-19. That’s why the health department there is doing some it has avoided since the pandemic was declared by issuing an advisory.

The goal of the La Crosse County Health Advisory is simple--discourage people from going to places they are more likely to get sick.

The focus: poorly ventilated, crowded, indoor locations where people have to shout when talking.

County officials say it’s a necessary action as COVID cases and deaths increase.

“The death total is now 18,” said Jen Rombalski, La Crosse County Health Department director. “The majority, but not all of them being in long-term care facilities and settings.”

This is the first advisory health department director Jen Rombalski has issued.

It’s in effect until further notice.

During the early months of the pandemic, the department did not issue any orders as it wasn’t sure it had the authority to do so.

La Crosse County Administrator Steve O’Malley participated in a statewide committee to understand that power.

“We do have authority through the health officer ordinance and through administrative rule on individual cases [and] on individual sites,” O’Malley explained. “Whereas the larger question was about blanket authority.”

“The health advisory is not in itself enforceable,” Rombalski added. “The health department will enforce the requirement for the 25 percent maximum capacity through a step-wise approach.”

The county is enforcing through three steps.

First issuing this advisory. Second, it says it will issue individual orders to businesses who are not complying.

“Step three is issuing a citation, if it’s necessary, to a specific business that is not complying with the order,” Rombalski said.

That violation could lead to a $500 fine--something the department hopes to not collect.

“We are not seeking out violations, we are not seeking out citizen complaints, we’re not looking to give citations,” Rombalski stressed. “We really want this to be as voluntary as possible.”

The health department acknowledges limited capacity can be hard on business, however, it also says when large gatherings cause outbreaks the quarantine process also has an impact.

To read the health advisory, click here.

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