Governor Evers Is Wrong To Extend Safer at Home

The Permanent Damage That Extending Safer at Home Order Will Inflict On Our Families, Friends And Neighbors Is Not Supported By Science Or Common Sense

We Need To Reopen Wisconsin Now 


(Madison) – In reaction to the surprise announcement that Governor Tony Evers was extending his shelter-in-place order, known as Safer at Home, to May 26th, the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy criticized the Governor’s decision and asked Wisconsinites to consider the science and the facts before agreeing to these further restrictions.

On April, 16th, Governor Evers issued a press release directing Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to the extend the Safer at Home order from April 24 to 8 a.m. Tuesday, May 26, 2020. This order, Emergency Order #28, imposes further restrictions on Wisconsinites and our way of life. The new order will force us to remain at home, cause our fellow Wisconsinites significant hardship, shutter an untold number of businesses that are already struggling and cripple Wisconsin’s economy.

Steve Fettig, Chairman of the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy Board of Directors, issued the following statement:

Governor Evers has not been honest with the people of Wisconsin regarding our COVID19 response since day one. His model predicting 22,000 inflected and up to 1,500 dead by April 8th was built on false data and was used to deliberately scare Wisconsinites and justify the unnecessary, one-size-fits-all, statewide shelter-in-place order. The order was supposedly necessary to stop the spread of COVID19 and prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed. Wisconsin has never experienced a surge because we are not New York City nor northern Italy.

While any loss of life is tragic, the COVID19 curve in Wisconsin has been flat for some time. We have plenty of beds available in our hospitals and our health care system is managing the treatment and care of the COVID positive population. Wisconsinites need to ask themselves, if Wisconsin has not experienced a surge, why is Governor Evers extending the statewide shelter-in-place order? If the true intent is to make sure that hospitals are capable of caring for the sick, we should be focusing our efforts on mobilizing people and removing barriers that otherwise restrict creative responses to the unknowns that may take place. 

We must consider the damage our COVID19 response is doing to our family, friends, and neighbors. Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites are out of work and countless small businesses have been forced to close. Entire families are seeing their lives ruined.

Unlike the average person suffering from these misguided edicts, the Governor’s staff and many state bureaucrats are insulated from the same pain that their fellow community members are enduring – struggling to pay basic bills, put food on their tables, and care for their children. Again, while the loss of life to COVID19 is tragic, the loss of jobs and loss of community has already had a much greater impact on the lives of our families than COVID19 itself. Wisconsin has never put elected authority ahead of its own people, why are we doing so now?

There is no evidence that the safer at home order has flattened the curve. By acting Secretary Palm’s own declaration on March 27, “the predicted cases of 22,000 deaths of 440 to 1,500 will not change by April 8th due to this safer at home order.” How can she make the claim that the order is and has flattened the curve when the numbers reported by DHS were already flat (and have stayed such)? 

The accurate statement would have been that the model acting Secretary Palm was using to make her projections is exponentially wrong and she and Gov. Evers issued the statement with no valid scientific reasoning. They made a mistake. And now, they are doubling down on that same mistake. Why? A leader would recognize these mistakes, take ownership, and change course. To date, we have seen none of that from our Governor, his cabinet, nor many in the Legislature.

A highly respected public policy analyst, Aaron Wildavsky, wrote, “The larger and more centralized the organization that seeks to predict the future, the longer it will take to get agreement, the fewer hypotheses it can try, and the more costly each probe is likely to be.” A state like ours, so blessed with innovation and enduring hard work is the best place for engaging in alternative hypothesis, testing new ideas, and allowing our community members to flourish.

To take the sledgehammer of authority and apply it without regard for the consequences it might have, shutting down innovation, and destroying entire communities is exactly the type of thing Wisconsin has always rejected. We have been on the forefront of many major movements in the United States. We found creative ways to support people in a time of need through government/private cooperation. We found new ways to educate our children through opening the doors to alternative schooling. We have fostered one of the most inventive and innovative medical schools and brought about new ways of treating disease and curing illnesses. We have resolutely said: if you have an idea, we’ll listen, and we’ll test it. 

Somehow, with the snap of a finger and the conjuring of a boogeyman, we have lost faith in our abilities to work around this problem and find new and novel solutions. The answer to COVID19? Shrink away, close our doors, and damn one another for daring to mingle, break bread, and play. Without community, without play, there is no innovation.

With routine medical care and other important health care procedures put off because of an imagined coming surge, this cancellation of basic, normal health care will have an unforeseen and devastating impact on our friends and neighbors. Nurses and other medical professionals are being furloughed because their facilities are taking only COVID19 patients and there are not enough patients to keep them working. In this time of extending the Safer at Home Order, why hasn’t Gov. Evers instructed the health care systems to reopen for regular medical care? It make no sense to lay off these hard-working and dedicated medical professionals when they could be working every day to keep the rest of Wisconsin healthy.

So, if the surge has been averted here in Wisconsin and our hospitals are still standing, we should be reopening Wisconsin right away so people can find a job and go back to work, not extend the heavy-handed statewide ban on life and work. We need to end Safer at Home now, not extend it to May 26th. 

If Governor Evers is unwilling to reconsider the extension order, Wisconsinites need to make their voices heard and let the Governor and our Legislature know that we will not let this stand. Remember: we grant Gov. Evers the authority under which he operates, not the other way around.

Anyone who cares about the well-being of their fellow Wisconsinites, anyone who cares about our great state, and anyone who cares about the Wisconsin we leave for our children and our grandchildren needs to speak up now. Gov. Evers’ and acting Sec. Palm’s edicts are destroying our future by putting predictions and guesses ahead of what we know to be the truth. We must fight for our future. We must fight for our Wisconsin. 

Winston Churchill, who witnessed over one million of his countrymen die in World Wars I and II wrote, “Nothing would be more fatal than for the government of states to get into the hands of the experts. Expert knowledge is limited knowledge: and the unlimited ignorance of the plain man who knows only what hurts is a safer guide, than any vigorous direction of a specialised character…If the Ruler is to be an expert in anything he should be an expert in everything; and that is plainly impossible.” This was a man who saw real, not imagined crisis. Even after dealing with the burden of so many deaths – the scale of which is completely unimaginable by us today – he was not willing to accept a form of government which expressed itself through a tyranny of experts. And, that is what we are now witnessing. Experts able to take away your rights at the slight mention of a possible crisis. They need not guarantee that harm will come, just the possibility that it will. 

No American has scorned risk. We have embraced it and we have conquered it better than any before us.

Reason’s Ira Stoll recently wrote, “The best plan for reopening America is one that sticks to American values—one that emphasizes freedom, competition, choice, and diversity, not one-size-fits-all compulsion or command-and-control authoritarianism. It’s a conception, outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, in which government’s role is protecting natural or God-given freedoms of individuals, families, businesses and religions, rather than turning them off or on a schedule, even in the service of public health.”

I cannot think of a better way of pointing the way forward. We are not witnessing nor participating in diversity. Gov. Evers is not protecting our rights. We are laying down and handing our rights over to technocrats like him who believe that they know better than us. This is not an American value and it certainly isn’t one that Wisconsinites believe in. Our focus should be on making sure people who get sick are treated and not mislead ourselves into thinking that we can abruptly stop the spread of the virus. We need not be afraid of one another in a time of crisis. We need to bind together, work together, and help everyone move forward.


Steve can be reached at The press release form of this column can be found here.