(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s largest group for small businesses doesn’t discern any "protection" in Gov. Tony Evers plan to name businesses that have been connected to coronavirus cases.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses on Tuesday said the governor’s proposal to name names, instead, will hurt small businesses across the state.
“The release of the names of small businesses with reported COVID cases will punish struggling Main Street businesses in communities across Wisconsin,” Wisconsin's NFIB State Director Bill G. Smith said. “We are deeply disappointed Governor Evers feels he needs to take this action even when hard working small business owners are doing everything they can to keep their employees and customers safe.”
Evers and the state’s Department of Health Services have compiled a list of businesses, shops, restaurants and other places that have been connected to a positive coronavirus test. The list is not a definitive list of places where people got the virus or of hot spots, however. Rather, it is a list of places where employees physically visited before or after a positive test. That means if someone contracted the virus at home, their employer could still be on the list. It's the same thing for a business that kept infected workers from returning to work.
Smith says that makes the list little more than another way to scare people into staying at home.
“Releasing this list is essentially telling the public these small businesses are unsafe and the public should not go there anymore,” Smith said. “The governor’s actions will only send our economy back into a tailspin while hurting our job creating and economy stabilizing entrepreneurs.”
The governor’s office says there is a public health benefit to allowing customers and workers to know more about the coronavirus.
A Waukesha County judge last Thursday blocked the governor from releasing the list.
Evers has considered releasing the list several times since July, but has always backed down.
The judge’s order stopping the release is set to expire Wednesday.
NFIB says if the list is released, even for a short time, the damage will be irreparable.
“Identifying the names of small businesses that had employees or customers who tested positive for COVID-19 gives the false impression that the employees or customers got the virus at their place of work or at a small business location – when that is impossible to know,” the NFIB said in a statement. “The information could also expose small businesses to greater liability for frivolous lawsuits.”
Wisconsin’s largest business group, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, is also opposed to the list. WMC led the legal challenge that stopped the list’s release last week.