WMC outlines 'Back to Business' plan to reopen state

Published: Apr. 24, 2020 at 9:36 AM CDT
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Wisconsin's chamber of commerce

opening businesses starting May 4.

That's three weeks sooner than is called for under Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' stay-at-home order designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce released its plan Friday.

“The focus is on getting the workplace and getting the economy back moving again,” said state Senator Chris Kapenga, who supports the ‘Back in Business’ plan.

Scott Manley, the Executive Vice President of Government Relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, says the plan focuses on safely reopening businesses and prioritizing public health.

“We think that every business would be allowed to open safely under this model,” said Manley.

The plan requires businesses to input information about the business, such as location and industry type.

“The thought with this approach is that there’s enough safeguards built into the algorithm that all businesses would be able to open safely as long as they comply with the mitigation steps,” Manley explained.

From there, the algorithm calculates a risk score of either minimal, moderate, or substantial.

Once a business is classified with a certain risk level, there is a number of precautions businesses would be required to take to stay open.

Those requirements range from social distancing customers to providing personal protective equipment for employees.

The system also takes medical data from the Department of Health Services to examine a locations hospital capacity and infection rate.

“The overall goal is to ensure that the healthcare system has the ability to treat every sick person in a timely manner,” said Kapenga. “The model is built to ensure that happens.”

Bill Fonti, the CEO of Ashley Furniture Home Store and Furniture and Appliance Mart, says he’s willing to do whatever it takes to reopen his stores.

“We have to get Wisconsin back to work here soon in the safest possible manner,” said Fonti. “I hate to see what could happen.”

Fonti says he’s had to close his stores and layoff employees, which worries him for the future of retail.

“It’s been absolutely brutal for all of us who are sitting out there with retail stores,” he said. “I get how we all want to be able to create jobs and not lose jobs.”

It came hours before protesters were expected to converge on the Capitol to call for reopening the state. Evers' current order closing most nonessential businesses runs until May 26.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce say they presented the plan to the Evers administration on Thursday evening.

Governor Evers released a statement to NBC15 saying he appreciates the work that went into the plan and will reach out to business owners.

“I am glad that the business community agrees with me that we have to approach this like we are turning a dial, not flipping a switch,” said Evers.