Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday, Oct. 6, directed the head of the Department of Health Services to issue an executive order capping indoor gatherings at 25% of the total occupancy of many public rooms and buildings.
The directive goes into effect 8 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 8, and goes until Nov. 6, according to a news release. The occupancy limit pertains to ticketed events and spaces open to the public such as stores, restaurants and other businesses.
Schools, churches and health care settings are among a list of exemptions, according to the order.
- The order and list of exemptions can be viewed here.
“We’re in a crisis right now and need to immediately change our behavior to save lives,” Evers said in a statement. “We are continuing to experience a surge in cases and many of our hospitals are overwhelmed, and I believe limiting indoor public gatherings will help slow the spread of this virus. Folks, we need your help and we need all Wisconsinites to work together during this difficult time. The sooner we get control of this virus, the sooner our economy, communities, and state can bounce back.”
DHS reported 3,132 additional COVID-19 cases in the Badger State on Thursday — a new one-day record — as well as 9 deaths.
The executive order came a day after a St. Croix County judge heard arguments in a lawsuit from a conservative law firm challenging the Democratic governor's emergency declarations and statewide mask mandate. The judge's ruling on a motion for immediate injunction was pending this week.
The Tavern League of Wisconsin announced it was reviewing the governor's latest order to determine if it complies with a state Supreme Court decision in May that struck down the Safer-at Home order. In the meantime, the trade organization cautioned its members that violations of the order are subject to a $500 fine.
The National Federation of Independent Business in a statement Tuesday warned the governor's order threatens an already weakened state economy.
“The overreaching order will not only result in a loss of jobs for those employed by small business but set Wisconsin’s economy backwards," NFIB State Director in Wisconsin, Bill G. Smith said. "We cannot afford to punish small business right now. Thousands across the state of Wisconsin are in danger of closing. This new order will likely mean many of them will have to close their doors for good.”
Evers on Tuesday also announced $100 million to support small businesses negatively effected by the pandemic. The funds include an additional $50 million for “We’re All In Grants" launched by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation in the summer. $10 million was marked to support privately owned movie theaters, according to a news release.
“The unfortunate reality is this: the disease activity level of COVID-19 in Wisconsin is so high that going to a gathering puts you at very high risk of exposure,” DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said. “We know gatherings are a key way this virus spreads, so we must act to limit indoor gatherings to stop the spread, reduce illness, and save lives.”
DHS offers these safety recommendations:
- Stay home whenever possible;
- Wear a mask;
- Wash your hands frequently;
- If you have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19, get tested;
- Get the flu shot to help reduce the strain on healthcare systems responding to the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Challenge misinformation and talk to friends and families about the importance of these safety precautions.