“Stay at home if you can, especially if you are sick,” said Gov. Evers in a press conference on Friday afternoon, March 20. Evers gave the address with Andrea Palm, secretary-designee for the department of health services, and Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the Bureau of Communicable diseases.
Evers' announcement on Friday also included clarification on the mass-gathering ban issued earlier this week. Now, hair salons, day spas, nail salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors, body art establishments and tanning facilities have to close after 5 p.m. on March 20.
Public and private gatherings of more than 10 people were banned this week. This closed schools, churches and many bars and restaurants to the public. Other clarifications and changes to the ban included:
• Bars and restaurants can have carry-out sales of food and alcohol if allowed by local and state law.
• Laundromats can remain open
• Banks, credit unions and other financial institutions can remain open if they practice social distancing
• Grocery stores, farms and all parts of the food delivery system can remain open
• Any location where in-person absentee voting or polling takes place, except for sites at long-term care facilities or assisted living facilities
• All parts of the transportation system remain open to serve the economy
• Allied health professions, such as physical therapists, occupational therapists and acupuncturists, are not subject to the gathering ban
• Cafeterias in healthcare facilities may remain open to serve healthcare workers
• Media and news organizations can remain open to provide the public with vital information
Officials encouraged people to not go out for nonessential trips. “Only leave home if it is absolutely necessary,” Evers said.
Asked if shelter-in-place orders—like what was ordered in Illinois or in and around San Francisco, Calif.—would come to Wisconsin, Evers said it was unlikely.
“I believe we will be able to avoid that,” Evers said.
He said the fight to slow the spread of COVID-19 will not be easy, but state health officials were working hard to contain it. Following the personal hygiene practices—like frequently washing hands with soap and water, covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding touching your face—and maintaining social distancing—like avoiding gatherings and visitors in your home, staying home when able and maintaining 6-feet of separation when in public—were the best lines of defense.
COVID-19 presented a difficult situation that was likely to get worse before it got better, said Palmer. Most cases will be mild, but those with chronic health conditions and the elderly would be at most risk for serious cases or complications.
“There are things we can do to protect our neighbors and our friends—those at risk,” Palmer emphasized.
April 7 Election
Asked if the election on Tuesday, April 7, would be moved back, Evers said it would not. A few mayors in large Wisconsin cities called for the election to be postponed. However, Evers said he did not have the power to do that and state statute dictated when elections must be held.
Also, postponing it would mean that school board members, municipal positions and state offices would not be filled.
“We can’t afford to have any of those positions vacant for any period of time,” which would happen if elections were delayed, Evers said.
Poll workers—who may be retired, older residents—might wish to stay home. Evers said the National Guard may be called to help staff polling stations to keep elections open.