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Racine officials criticize judge who blocked coronavirus safeguards
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Racine officials criticize judge who blocked coronavirus safeguards

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RACINE — City officials clapped back at Judge Jon Fredrickson after his June 24 order stopped enforcement of the city’s coronavirus restrictions.

“This ruling is extremely troubling,” said Racine Mayor Cory Mason in a press release. “Local governments have a clear and longstanding ability and authority to enact ordinances to protect the health and well-being of our residents. That has never been more needed than now, in the midst of this pandemic. As mayor, my duty and obligation is to protect the health of Racine’s residents, and I will continue to seek ways to do that while this litigation works its way through the process.

“In the meantime, this judicial ruling leaves no protections in place for our community, putting all of us at increased risk. This means that all city residents must double-down on our own actions to protect ourselves, our families, our coworkers, and our neighbors from this virus: wear masks in public and practice social distancing. Wash your hands and use sanitizer. If you are sick, stay home. We are on our own for now, without the public health protections that were helping to keep the virus from exacting an even worse toll on our communities. Stay safe, Racine.”

This is the second time Fredrickson has ordered a temporary halt to Racine’s coronavirus restrictions. He first ordered a halt to “Forward Racine,” a set of restrictions put in place by Public Health Administrator Dottie-Kay Bowersox on May 26. And on June 24, Fredrickson halted the city’s ordinance that was almost identical to the Forward Racine restrictions. The ordinance was voted into law June 22, after the judge had put a stop to Bowersox’s order.

President of the Racine Common Council, John Tate II, also weighed in on the ruling.

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“Clearly the Common Council has the authority to pass ordinances to protect the public health and safety of our residents,” Tate said in the press release. “It is disturbing that at every level of government there has either been a failure to act, or direct opposition to reasonable and necessary precautions, seemingly driven by political or economic motivations instead of public health. This is a pandemic where more than 120,000 Americans have lost their lives. It’s undoubtedly an inconvenience to change our behavior in order protect public health, but I am guessing there are 120,000 families wishing we had done more and sooner.”

Alderman Natalia Taft said she was disappointed in the ruling.

“Public health isn’t partisan and it is our job as elected officials to work in the best interest and health of our community,” Taft said in the press release. “Decisions regarding public health should be made using a scientific approach with the most up-to-date and accurate data. The ordinance we passed empowered the Public Health Department to do just that, with well-defined metrics and timelines, as well as appropriate oversight by elected officials.”

Alderman Jason Meekma said times like this put everyone in “an impossible situation.”

“I stand by my decision to support the ordinance because I believed it was in the best interest of the health and safety of our residents,” Meekma said. “It is my most sincere hope that the members of our community will take it upon themselves to continue to put health and safety first. Please wear masks in public, give people adequate space and be sympathetic to the choices people are making to protect themselves.”

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