Gov. Evers urges everyone to stay home in new executive order
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - “It’s not safe to go out, it’s not safe to have others over – it’s just not safe. And it might not be safe for a while yet.”
Gov. Tony Evers used a rare primetime speech Tuesday evening to detail the where Wisconsin stood in its battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and announce a new executive order urging people to stay at home as much as possible.
The executive order issues recommendations that include staying at home as much as possible, only leaving when necessary, such as for trips to work, or to go to the grocery store, or to refill prescriptions.
“If you have to leave your home, limit it to essential needs or errands. Please only leave your home if it’s absolutely necessary like going to the doctor, picking up prescriptions, grabbing groceries, or getting tested.,” Evers said.
Businesses are also encouraged to protect their staff, customers, and community with steps such as limiting staff and customers. It also recommends allowing employees to work remotely and when that is not possible, to ensure the companies follow safe business guidelines.
The governor’s office directed business owners and managers to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporate for advice on safety measures.
Importantly, the order said nothing about schools or limit what they can do.
Finally, when it comes to travel, the order strongly encourages Wisconsinites to stay close to home. It asks them to avoid heading to second homes or residences, if possible. It also points out federal guidance recommends people in this state don’t make any unnecessary trips to neighboring states.
“So, please, cancel the happy hours, dinner parties, sleepovers, and playdates at your home. And if a friend or family member invites you over, offer to hang out virtually instead,” Evers continued.
5,000 DEATHS POSSIBLE
Evers' speech comes on the day Wisconsin broke the records for new cases in a day, most deaths in a day, and most hospitalizations in a day, among other all-time highs. The Evers Administration warns though, it could get worse.
Numbers cited by the Evers Administration show while it took seven and a half months to reach 100,000 COVID-19 cases, it took just over a month to record the 200,000th cases. At the rate, coronavirus is spreading through the state, officials predict it could take less than three weeks to hit the 300,000 mark.
Evers pointed to a study from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation that finds 5,000 Wisconsinites could die from COVID-19 by January 1, 2021, if no further actions are taken to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“That means another 2,500 people who might not be with us on New Year’s Day,” he continued.
The latest statewide numbers from the Dept. of Health Services show the ever increasing rate of deaths being reported in Wisconsin.
FEDERAL HELP DWINDLING
Tuesday’s speech looks to be the beginning of a new multi-stage effort by the Administration. Evers said he plans to introduce more legislation intended to provide the resources needed to fight the pandemic, which he hopes the legislature will pass quickly.
But, while he’s proposing new state initiatives, Evers also expressed concerns about losing federal support. Noting that the money Wisconsin received as part of the $2 trillion CARES package passed earlier this year.
Among other efforts, the money has gone to supply more than 16 million in PPE, helped sanitize local communities, and expanded the state’s contact tracing capabilities, he explained.
“We’ve also assisted more than 26,000 small businesses, helped more than 12,000 households pay rent, supported more than 15,000 farms,” he added.
The money, however, runs out at the end of the year. So, Evers took a moment in his speech to ask Wisconsin residents to call their congressmember to ask them to support a new deal to help the state contain the virus' spread.
“As I stand here tonight, I’ll tell you that I’m hopeful—that we can beat this virus and we can rebuild and recover,” he added. “Anyone would be a fool to count us out.”
ECHOES OF ‘SAFER AT HOME’
While much of the latest executive order recalls Evers' original ‘Safer at Home’ order issued in March, the differences in language appear to reflect a different approach for the administration.
In the earlier mandate, it “ordered” people to stay home unless necessary. Non-essential businesses were “required” to cease activities and essential ones “shall” use technology to avoid meeting in person.
This time around, the order “recommend(s)” staying home. Businesses are “strongly encouraged” to take steps to protect their staff and customers.
In his speech, Evers “call(ed) on business leaders” when he urged them to expand work from home options, offer virtual services, and limit the number of people in offices facilities and stores. He also complimented the small businesses around Wisconsin for their efforts, referring to them as “important partners in this fight.”
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THE ‘SAFER AT HOME’ BATTLE
In Tuesday’s speech, Evers reflected on the original battle over ‘Safer at Home’ that targeted the extension of that order. He recalled that, at that time, they estimated it would save between 300 and 1,400 lives.
“We’ve now surpassed, in deaths, the number of lives we projected we would have saved months ago if we would have been able to keep safer at home and reopen safely. 2,395 Wisconsinites—mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends, and coworkers—have lost their lives,” he said.
At the time of the order, the entire state of Wisconsin had only ever recorded 457 COVID-19 cases. On Friday, Dane Co. had recorded 522 cases on that day alone.
Gov. Evers issued Executive Order 72 declaring a public health emergency and ordering the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to take the lead in the fight against the pandemic.
Less than two weeks later, the “Safer at Home” order went into effect, scheduled to end April 25. Under the order, people were directed not to leave their homes unless necessary.
“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,” Evers said in March.
However, a week before the order was set to expire, Evers extended it to May 26, and closed all schools for the remaining part of the school year. Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald criticized Evers' decision, saying that it reflects a one-size-fits-all approach" that does not consider how different parts of the state have been affected.
The State Legislature subsequently filed legal action in the state supreme court challenging the “Safer at Home” order. In a 4-3 ruling the court blocked Evers' extension, ruling the administration overstepped its authority when it extended the mandate do another month without legislator consultation.
On Tuesday, Evers called that verdict “a decision that hamstrung our ability to respond to this virus by using the tools supported by science and public health experts.”
Recounting the order, though, he added, “We must get back to the basics of fighting this virus just like we did last spring, and it starts at home.”
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