Lawsuit filed against head of Public Health Dane County madison over emergency order requiring virtual start to school year

Sarah Gray:

A lawsuit was filed in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court on Tuesday arguing that Janel Heinrich, the Public Health Officer of Madison and Dane County, does not have the legal authority to keep children home from school.

Public Health Madison and Dane County issued Emergency Order #9, which went into effect Monday. It orders all Dane County schools to begin the 2020 school year virtually for students in grades 3-12. That includes private schools, many of which had intended to reopen to in-person classes.

The order says “At issue is whether one unelected official has the power to order children to ‘stay home’ from school whether or not they are sick, or to prohibit them from gathering in-person with other children to receive a religious education.”

The petitioner in the case is Sarah Lindsey James. Within the order she is identified as a Fitchburg single mom, who enrolled her two children at Our Redeemer Lutheran School saying “she believes that it is essential that her children’s education take place ‘in-person’ and ‘together with others as part of the body of Christ.’” It says her children began in-person learning Wednesday.

The order asks the Supreme Court to end Emergency Order No. 9, and prevent Heinrich from creating any other orders that would close private schools or restrict private gatherings. The court has asked Heinrich to respond by 4 p.m. Friday.

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees).

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 


The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

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