In light of the growing restrictions to help curb the spread of COVID-19, Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ urged residents to see the glass as half-full.
She acknowledged the inconvenience of directives such as Gov. Tony Evers' newest travel restrictions, but also the necessity of them.
"Today I saw my first robin — a sign that spring was here," Happ said. "With the arrival of spring, we would typically see kids on spring break, their jackets on the ground, playing on the playground at Stoppenbach or Riverfront parks. With spring, we would usually see the never-ending lines at Frostee Freeze or Wedl’s Hamburger Stand, or people enjoying the warmer weather on the back deck of Rock River Pizza and so many other wonderful local restaurants.
"But we aren’t going to be able to see that for a while, and with good reason," she said. "It’s just not safe. The safety and health of our citizens due to this pandemic must be the primary focus at this time.”
She noted that public health violations under Chapter 252 of the Wisconsin Statutes can result in the arrest, quarantine and even criminal prosecution of violators, although Happ emphasized that the goal of these laws is compliance, not punishment.
“Local law enforcement and the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office are committed to supporting the recommendations of public health officials.," Happ said. "I hope that everyone in our community will follow the public health orders so that enforcement of laws relating to violations of these orders will not be required.”
She stressed that public safety is the primary objective of these statutes and their enforcement, noting, “The overriding goal is to get people to voluntarily comply with public health actions such as quarantine and isolation orders, because voluntary compliance mitigates the spread of COVID-19.”
While Happ remained optimistic that citizens would follow these public health orders, she noted that if local law enforcement is presented with a violation by a business or an individual, it will evaluate the necessity of arrest or prosecution and will be guided by the recommendations of public health officials and the risk to the public due to the violator’s actions.
Meanwhile, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office will remain open with reduced staff to conduct all necessary office operations and hearings as required by statute and consistent with recent Supreme Court and Jefferson County directives in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Attorneys and staff will be available to answer calls and e-mails from citizens, law enforcement and victims during regular business hours.