State News

Evers reopens small businesses with restrictions

Evers' decision comes amid stark criticism from Republican lawmakers and business owners and a downward swing in confirmed new cases of COVID-19. 

Evers' decision comes amid stark criticism from Republican lawmakers and business owners and a downward swing in confirmed new cases of COVID-19. 

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

Effective immediately, Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday almost all non-essential Wisconsin businesses would re-open with restrictions as the state continues to enforce its Safer-at-Home order.   

Emergency Order #36, signed by Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm and carried out at Evers’ behest, will open “all standalone or strip-mall based retail stores to offer in-person shopping for up to five customers at a time while maintaining required social distancing practices.”

Drive-in theaters will also be able to open with limitations, such as not offering outdoor seating and not allowing customers to exit their vehicles to pick up food or use the bathroom. All essential and non-essential businesses must review guidelines for safe business practices provided by the Wisconsin Department of Economic Development as well. 

“In addition to added flexibilities and steps we have already taken for businesses, this is another disciplined turn of the dial that will allow Wisconsin’s business owners to safely get back to work and Wisconsin consumers to support their favorite local spots,” Evers said. “Both customers and workers need to be confident in their safety, so we need everyone to be diligent in following best safety practices so we can continue to move our state forward while keeping our neighbors, families and communities safe and healthy.”

Both store workers and customers are encouraged — not required — to wear masks, but they must stand at least six feet apart in adherence to social distancing. 

Around 14,000 businesses and 90,000 jobs would be affected by the new order, according to the Cap Times. More than 500,000 thousand unemployment claims have been filed since mid-March. 

The new mandate builds upon a previous order that reopened golf courses and enabled businesses to conduct curb-side pick-ups, mailings and deliveries, among other stipulations. 

Evers’ move follows a lawsuit filed by Republicans in the state Legislature attempting to block the extension of the 'safer-at-home' order until May 26 and remove powers from Palm to authorize similar decisions in the future. 

The pressure to re-open also emanated from anxious business owners whose lives have been disrupted from the COVID-19 outbreak. A recent survey that sampled a minute number of Wisconsin businesses indicated 35 percent of the enterprises would be forced to permanently close if the shutdown carried on for three months. 

As the number of new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus dipped below 200 — the lowest in two weeks — Evers said DHS and the Wisconsin National Guard would support two new community-based testing centers in Milwaukee and Madison. 

With over 10,000 confirmed cases and 409 deaths in the state, reducing the number of cases will play a pivotal role in the gradual rollback of 'safer-at-home' restrictions. 

“Increased testing and contact tracing are core elements of our Badger Bounce Back plan and are critical to slowing the spread and boxing in COVID-19,” Evers said. “I urge anyone who needs a test to go get tested at one of these sites and help protect your community and family from this virus.

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