MADISON — Wisconsin's Safer at Home order will go into effect at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
It is to remain in effect until at least 8 a.m. Friday, April 24.
“I know the COVID-19 outbreak has been difficult and has disrupted the lives of people across our state. Issuing a Safer at Home order isn’t something I thought we’d have to do and it’s not something I take lightly, but here’s the bottom line: folks need to start taking this seriously,” Gov. Tony Evers said in a Tuesday statement.
“Each and every one of us has to do our part to help slow the spread of COVID-19 so we can flatten the curve to ensure our doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers have the opportunity to do their important work. Let’s all do our part and work together,” the governor said .
If social distancing and Safer at Home are not followed, thus making it easier for the virus to spread unchecked, Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said that data models show 22,000 Wisconsinites would have COVID-19 by April 8.
That many cases at one time would put a strain on, and possibly overwhelm, health care providers, state officials said.
Dr. Ryan Westergaard, an infectious disease expert with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said Tuesday that as many as 20% of those who have COVID-19 are being hospitalized in the state; an increase up from Westergaard's prior 10% estimate, which he shared Monday.
Wisconsin has fewer than 11,100 hospital beds in total, according to the American Hospital Directory. So, if about 2,000 people needed to be hospitalized from COVID-19 alone, many if not most hospitals in the state would be overwhelmed with that many new patients at once.
Racine County's two primary hospitals, Ascension All Saints Hospital in Racine and Aurora Medical Center in Burlington, have 263 and 55 beds, respectively.
As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, the state had 457 confirmed cases, including five in Racine County, a number that had remained stable for a couple of days.
Under Evers' order, all nonessential travel, with few exceptions, has been banned. All nonessential businesses have been ordered to close, with employees still able to work from home when possible.
The order said that "Individuals do not need special permission to leave their homes, but they must comply with this order as to when it is permissible to leave home."
Wisconsin residents are still allowed to leave their home to perform "tasks essential to maintain health and safety," which includes getting food or other supplies, picking up medicine or seeing a doctor. They can also leave home to care for family members "or other vulnerable persons" in other homes.
Most parks across the state will remain open, but all physical playgrounds are to be closed. Fees have been waived at all state parks and trails, including the Richard Bong State Recreation Area in westernKenosha County.
Flatten the curve
To avoid further spreading the novel coronavirus, which had killed five people in Wisconsin as of Tuesday, the public is advised to do the following:
- Avoid social gatherings with people of all ages (including playdates and sleepovers, parties, large family dinners, visitors in your home, non-essential workers in your house);
- Frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water;
- Covering coughs and sneezes;
- Avoiding touching one's face; and
- Staying home.
Evers has been criticized by state Republican leaders for saying Monday that he would issue "Stay at Home" the next day, with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, saying that the governor had acted quickly and without consulting the Legislature before making the order.
On Friday, the governor had said he didn't want to make the order, but has now changed his mind. On Tuesday, Evers said: “Late last week, I said I didn’t think we’d need to go to a Safer at Home order. That was something I didn’t think we needed to do, and it’s not something I wanted to do. But I have said, all along in this process, that this is a fluid process that I would listen to the science and public health experts to make the best decision possible for the people of this state.”
But State Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, on Tuesday again applauded the state decision to issue the "Safer at Home" emergency order. In a statement, she said: "There’s no way around it, the weeks ahead will be a difficult time for all of us as we self-isolate with our households and wait out the COVID-19 storm. But in the face of COVID-19, we all must sacrifice together, so we can protect our vulnerable neighbors and essential workers who can’t stay home."
Wisconsinites are ordered to stay at home or at a place of residence, with the following exceptions:
- Those whose homes are unsafe (or become unsafe) as the result of domestic violence are both “permitted and urged to leave their home.”
- It is allowed to go outside to walk pets or to get exercise, while still maintaining 6 feet of distance between yourself and others. However, “Individuals may not engage in team or contact sports such as by way of example and without limitation, basketball, ultimate frisbee, soccer, or football, as these activities do not comply with Social Distancing Requirements.
- To take care of others, such as family members or friends in other households.
- To pick up medical supplies/medication
- To seek emergency services/seeing a doctor or behavior health care professional; although the order advised that “Individuals should rely on telehealth options whenever feasible.”
- To acquire necessary supplies and services, which include food/groceries, gasoline, propane, pet supply, sanitary/sanitation products
- To go to work, but only if that work is considered “Essential Business or Operations”
Work and business exceptions
Following are listed the private business operations that are considered to be “essential”:
- Stores that sell groceries and/or medicine, including food banks, food pantries, convenience stores and produce stands, as well as sellers of alcoholic beverages. However, these locations must close “all seating intended for consuming food” and close any self-service operations, such as buffets and salad bars and beverage stations.
- Restaurants are still permitted to offer takeout and delivery service; customers may only enter establishments to pick up their orders and pay for it
- Bars are still permitted to allow takeout, but cannot offer delivery
- Wineries may still deliver wine if they have “wine shippers’ permits”
- Child care facilities may remain open, but the children of health care staff should be prioritized, followed by the children of other essential workers
- Transportation of food and beverage
- Production of food and beverage
- Charitable and social services organizations can remain open
- Funerals, weddings and other religious entities may remain active, but must limit gatherings to no more than 10 people
- Media — including newspapers, television and radio outlets — may remain active
- Gas stations and other businesses needed for transportation can remain open
- Banks and other financial institutions
- Hardware and supplies stores
- “Critical trades … including but not limited to plumbers, electricians, carpenters, laborers, sheet metal, iron workers, masonry, pipe trades, fabricators, finishers, exterminators, pesticide application, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff, operating engineers, HVAC, painting, moving and relocation services, forestry and arborists
- Post offices and other shipping/delivery/logistics services
- Laundromats, dry cleaners, etc.
- Businesses that provide products that allow others to work from home
- Health care and public health
- Human services
- “Essential infrastructure”
- Any business or worker included on the “U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)” list related to “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers”
- Suppliers for essential government functions
- Transportation, including airlines, taxies, transportation network providers (i.e. Uber and Lyft), vehicle rental services, etc.
- Home-based care and services, such as those for seniors or those with disabilities
- “Professional services,” including attorneys, insurers, real estate and accountants; although they are still advised to use virtual meetings and work remotely
- Hotels and motels may remain open, but must close swimming pools and exercise facilities, and must prohibit guests from “congregating in lobbies or other common areas”
- Educational staff may continue to work “for purposes of facilitating distancing learning” and, at higher educational institutions, may continue “performing critical research”
For advice as to whether an operation should be considered an “essential function,” consult the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation at wedc.org/essentialbusiness
Travel that is considered “essential” includes:
- Any travel related to other “essential” operations, as included in the governors order
- Travel to care for others, such as the elderly, children and “other vulnerable persons.”
- Travel to and from educational institutions, but only for the purposes of retrieving materials related to distance learning, receiving meals, “or any other related services.”
- Traveling to return to a place of residence
- Travel as required by law enforcement or a court order, such as transporting children so as to abide by a custody agreement
Governmental work exceptions
Following are listed the governmental operations that are considered to be “essential”:
- Police/Law enforcement
- Emergency medical services
- First responder training academies
- Building inspectors
- Emergency management personnel
- Emergency dispatchers
- Court personnel, jurors and grand jurors
- Corrections personnel
- Hazardous materials responders
- Child Protection and child welfare personnel
- Housing and shelter personnel
- National Guard and military
- Others who work for or support the above operations
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