Wisconsin governor extends Safer at Home order; schools closed for rest of year

By  | 

MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has extended the Safer at Home order to May 26.

Gov. Tony Evers - April 10, 2019 (WBAY photo)

The order issued in response to the coronavirus outbreak was set to expire on April 24 in Wisconsin. On Thursday, the governor announced another month of Safer at Home, which restricts non-essential business and travel in the state.

CLICK HERE to read the Safer at Home order.

The extension means public and private K-12 schools will be closed for the rest of the year.

“A few weeks ago, we had a pretty grim outlook for what COVID-19 could mean for our state, but because of the efforts of all of you, Safer at Home is working. That said, we aren't out of the woods just yet,” said Gov. Evers.

The governor and state health officials say more needs to happen before the state can safely transition back to normal or it could ignite a new wave of infections. They specifically mentioned the need to develop a treatment and vaccine for the coronavirus and get more public testing.

"We are still not testing enough to facilitate the kind of contact tracing we'll need to do moving forward or know the true prevalence of COVID-19 in Wisconsin. We need a clearer picture of the situation, and the only way to take that picture is further scale up our testing capacity," DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said.

“As I've said all along, we are going to rely on the science and public health experts to guide us through this challenge. So, as we extend Safer at Home, I need all of you to continue doing the good work you've been doing so we can keep our families, our neighbors, and our communities safe, and get through this storm together,” Gov. Evers said.

Assembly GOP lawmakers say they are frustrated with the Governor's order and lack of a recovery plan.

"The governor can’t just keep extending the date, waiting for some new knowledge to appear. We need to hear from the economic and medical experts who support his continuation of the order as appropriate for Wisconsin's circumstances and not from more politicians," said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) in a joint statement on Thursday.

Protests are planned in Madison and other parts of the state by groups that want businesses reopened and the state to stop requiring healthy people to stay home. During a state health briefing Thursday afternoon, the governor said these groups have First Amendment rights to protest, but added he hopes protesters keep a safe physical distance from each other. He said if people ignore the Safer at Home order, the longer the public health threat remains and the longer Safer at Home needs to stay in place.

Gov. Evers said restarting the economy "isn't like flipping a switch, it's turning a dial."

The governor is allowing some businesses and operations to allow increased service. This includes:

Public libraries: Public libraries may now provide curb-side pick-up of books and other library materials.

Golf Courses: Golf courses may open again, with restrictions including scheduling and paying for tee times online or by phone only. Clubhouses and pro shops must remain closed.

Non-essential Businesses: Non-essential businesses will now be able to do more things as Minimum Basic Operations, including deliveries, mailings, and curb-side pick-up. Non-essential businesses must notify workers of whether they are necessary for the Minimum Basic Operations.

Arts and Crafts Stores: Arts and craft stores may offer expanded curb-side pick-up of materials necessary to make face masks or other personal protective equipment (PPE).

Aesthetic or Optional Exterior Work: Aesthetic or optional exterior lawn care or construction is now allowed under the extended order, so long as it can be done by one person.

The governor has also ordered safety practices for essential business:

Safe Business Practices for Essential Businesses and Operations: Essential Businesses and Operations must increase cleaning and disinfection practices, ensure that only necessary workers are present, and adopt policies to prevent workers exposed to COVID-19 or symptomatic workers from coming to work.

• Safe Business Practices for Retailers that Essential Businesses and Operations: Retail stores that remain open to the public as Essential Businesses and Operations must limit the number of people in the store at one time, must provide proper spacing for people waiting to enter, and large stores must offer at least two hours per week of dedicated shopping time for vulnerable populations.

• Supply Chain: Essential Businesses and Operations that are essential because they supply, manufacture, or distribute goods and services to other Essential Businesses and Operations can only continue operations that are necessary to those businesses they supply. All other operations must continue as Minimum Basic Operations.

The initial Safer at Home order was enacted on March 25. The governor's administration says at that time, Wisconsin was projected to have between 440 and 1,500 deaths from COVID-19 by April 8. When that date came around, the state had 99 deaths.

Since the Safer at Home order was issued, the state has seen a decrease in exponential growth in the number of coronavirus cases, according to Gov. Evers.

CLICK HERE to track the virus in Wisconsin.

“Before we lift Safer at Home, the steps of testing and more robust public health measures must be in place,” said Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “These steps will help us reduce the risk of a second wave of the virus. If we open up too soon, we risk overwhelming our hospitals and requiring more drastic physical distancing measures again.”

Shortly after Gov. Evers made his announcement, President Donald Trump tweeted that he was going to hold a news conference at 5 p.m. Central to "explain guidelines for OPENING UP AMERICA AGAIN!"

On Thursday, Midwest governors came together to announce a partnership to reopen the regional economy.

The Midwest governors are Gretchen Whitmer (MI), Mike DeWine (OH), Tony Evers (WI), Tim Walz (MN), JB Pritzker (IL), Eric Holcomb (IN), and Andy Beshear (KY).

Here is their statement:

“We are doing everything we can to protect the people of our states and slow the spread of COVID-19, and we are eager to work together to mitigate the economic crisis this virus has caused in our region. Here in the Midwest, we are bound by our commitment to our people and the community. We recognize that our economies are all reliant on each other, and we must work together to safely reopen them so hardworking people can get back to work and businesses can get back on their feet.

“Today, we are announcing that Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky will work in close coordination to reopen our economies in a way that prioritizes our workers’ health. We look forward to working with experts and taking a fact-based, data-driven approach to reopening our economy in a way that protect families from the spread of COVID-19.

“Our number one priority when analyzing when best to reopen our economy is the health and safety of our citizens. We will make decisions based on facts, science, and recommendations from experts in health care, business, labor, and education.

“We will closely examine at least these four factors when determining when best to reopen our economy:

• Sustained control of the rate of new infections and hospitalizations.
• Enhanced ability to test and trace.
• Sufficient health care capacity to handle resurgence.
• And best practices for social distancing in the workplace.

“Phasing in sectors of our economy will be most effective when we work together as a region. This doesn’t mean our economy will reopen all at once, or that every state will take the same steps at the same time. But close coordination will ensure we get this right. Over time, people will go back to work, restaurants will reopen, and things will go back to normal. We look forward to working together as one region to tackle this challenge together.”

Spreading the disease

The coronavirus is spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or breathes.

"These droplets can remain in the air and on surfaces for an extended period of time. When people breathe in (inhale) the droplets, or touch surfaces that have been contaminated and then touch their mouth, face, or eyes, the virus can make them sick," says the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

People infected with the virus can develop the respiratory disease named COVID-19.

COVID-19 symptoms and prevention

Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. CLICK HERE for more information on symptoms. Emergency signs include pain and pressure in the chest, confusion, trouble breathing, and bluish lips or face.

The CDC believes symptoms may appear between 2 and 14 days after contact with an infected person.

VISIT wbay.com/coronavirus for complete local, national and international coverage of the outbreak.

DHS recommends taking these steps to help stop the spread of the virus:

--Stay at home
--Limit your physical interactions with people
--Keep at least six feet apart from others
--Frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water
--Make essential trips no more than once a week
--Covering coughs and sneezes
--Avoid touching your face

Local and national health care providers are encouraging people to wear masks in public to avoid spreading the illness to others.