Madison has issued 57 warning letters and six citations in a little under a month for alleged violations of the governor’s “safer at home” order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, including for several parties near the UW-Madison campus and to people “cruising” or racing the streets in souped-up cars.
Fifty-five of the letters from the city attorney’s office are to individuals and pertain to some 15 to 20 parties or other gatherings between April 6 and Sunday. Thirteen of the people who received letters are listed as living on Langdon Street — home to the university’s Greek Row — although the city attorney’s office redacted all of the individuals’ exact addresses.
Others are listed as living on streets on or near campus, but letters were also sent to people living in Mequon, Glendale, the village of Oregon, Adams and Roslyn Heights, New York, suggesting that people traveled to Madison for parties.
Two businesses also received warnings: Tabby and Jack’s, for allegedly providing pet grooming, and Hovde Properties, for allowing people to use a fitness area at its high-end apartment complex, Ovation 309 at 309 W. Johnson St.
The April 22 letter to Tabby and Jack’s says the governor’s order does not deem pet grooming essential unless it’s done for health reasons, but Tabby and Jack’s owner Michelle Lonergan said the business had never been open for grooming since the first “safer at home” order was issued and that the city’s letter stemmed from a misunderstanding. She said the business opened up for curbside grooming on April 29, as allowed under a revised version of the order signed April 16.
The April 14 letter to Hovde notes that fitness centers were ordered closed under the governor’s order.
Hovde chief financial and operating officer Randy Guenther said “we did not violate any orders,” and the letter was a result of the company asking if one of its employees at a time could use the center. He said the center was not open to the public or residents and is now entirely closed.
Police also issued $376 tickets to five male motorists, including two juveniles, for creating a public health nuisance on April 17 or 18 after they allegedly gathered in groups to race or cruise some of the city’s main thoroughfares. And on May 2, a man was cited with a misdemeanor for refusing to break up a 1-year-old’s birthday party on the city’s East Side.
The police officer who responded to the duplex on Hermina Street where the party was held said there were some 25 to 30 people there and that one of the hosts provided a false name and accused police of targeting them because of their race.
Two businesses and 11 individuals, including the coach of the Madison West High School football team, were also issued “safer at home” warning letters last month.
Ten of the letters sent to individuals also appeared to concern house parties in Downtown residences, while West coach Brad Murphy was accused of hosting a informal practice with about 15 boys.
Murphy has declined to comment on the incident, but two West parents said it was an informal pickup game organized by players after a former teammate, Khari Sanford, was arrested for murder. The Madison School District has closed an investigation into the incident and said no rules against off-season contact with players were broken.
JoAnn Fabric received one of the earlier letters for allowing curbside pickup in violation of an earlier version of the “safer at home” order, and Foster Funeral and Cremation Service received one for hosting large gatherings.
A JoAnn Fabric spokeswoman said at the time that the company provides the health care supply chain with fabric for masks and that “Wisconsin is the only state, in fact, to order us to remain completely closed.” Such stores have now been allowed to open for curb-side pickup.
Foster president Bryan Foster later said the “safer at home” rules had not been made clear to his business.
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