Health Commissioner: Too soon to turn off utilities to 'non-essential' businesses following request

Posted at 9:42 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 23:18:26-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee's Health Commissioner is responding to calls for her to sign an order turning off the utilities to "non-essential" businesses that have defied the "Safer at Home" order.

In a letter, Monday, Alderman Khalif Rainey of Milwaukee's 7th District asked that the businesses that don't comply be given a warning first, but ultimately have their utilities turned off.

The move follows a similar one by the Mayor of Los Angeles who issued an order last week.

Rainey added, "I find it incredibly selfish and reckless for any non-essential business to continue to operate during the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency. The north side and the 7th District are at the epicenter of the city's COVID-19 outbreak, and by (population) percentage of virus spread, Milwaukee is unfortunately in the top eight in the nation, and numerous individuals from Milwaukee have already died of the disease. A non-essential business that stays open could be the source (unwittingly) of hundreds of new COVID-19 infections, and who knows how many possible deaths."

Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik said Monday afternoon, "we're phasing in different orders getting to the point of us having this stay at home order, and honing in on what's essential and what's not. We haven't had enough time yet to even go in that direction in my professional opinion. It all is very dictator-like to do something like that. It seems like that would be something you would do as a last resort. I just don't think we're there yet."

Both the Alderman and the Commissioner say community outreach should be stepped unto notify any businesses that may not be complying. Rainey did not give examples of businesses in his statement Monday.

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