Some small retailers in Wisconsin can open for in-store shopping starting today, May 11, 2020, under an emergency order signed by Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm.

Emergency Order No. 36 allows standalone and strip-mall based retail stores to open to up to five customers at a time, while continuing to practice safety recommendations in the Badger Bounce Back plan. The order only pertains to the sale of goods, and does not include barbers, salons or other service providers deemed non-essential in the statewide Safer at Home order.

The order also allows drive-in theaters to reopen with restrictions, such as customers remaining in their vehicles except to get food or use the restroom.

  • The state issued a frequently asked questions document on the order here. Read the full order below:

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Monday's announcement came as a welcome surprise, said Mary Claire Olson Potter, president of Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau.

"(Businesses) have worked very hard to pivot how they market and work with their customers," including online sales, delivery and curbside pickup, she said, adding business owners she talked to Monday afternoon were excited about the option to begin letting shoppers back into stores.

She thanked the Hudson-area community for supporting small businesses during the pandemic.

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Secretary-designee Missy Hughes said the order was an important next step for the economy and the state’s 14,400 small retailers shuttered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Giving the opportunity for these businesses to re-enter into the marketplace brings back about 90,000 jobs as those come back online,” Hughes said Monday during a media briefing.

WEDC is a public-private agency created in 2011 by former Gov. Scott Walker to promote business growth in the state. WEDC in partnership with state officials and industry groups last week published a series of brochures for businesses with guidelines for safely reopening. They are available at https://wedc.org/reopen-guidelines.

The recommendations include:

  • Making sure that employees who are sick don’t come to work
  • Curtailing business travel whenever possible
  • Promoting telecommuting or other work-from-home arrangements
  • Making sure employees have access to sanitizers and personal protective equipment when appropriate

The order is the latest “turn of the dial” toward a gradual reopening of the state economy under Badger Bounce Back, Gov. Tony Evers said Monday.

"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," he said in a news release.

Monday’s announcement came as the Wisconsin Supreme Court was considering a lawsuit by the Republican-controlled state Legislature to overturn the statewide Safer at Home order, which was extended until May 26. Oral arguments in the lawsuit were heard last week.

State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, in a statement Monday said Emergency Order No. 36 was "confusing" and called for a greater reopening of the state economy.

By the numbers

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers in Wisconsin as of Monday, May 11, according to the state health department.

  • 10,418 lab-confirmed cases (an increase of 199 cases from Sunday, May 10)
  • 108,033 negative test results
  • 1,846 hospitalizations (18% of cases)
  • 409 deaths
  • 13 positive test results in Pierce County
  • 29 positive test results in St. Croix County