Gov. Tony Evers and local officials shed light on a state order Evers signed Tuesday, March 24 in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

The order directs people living in Wisconsin to stay at home; closes places of amusement such as bowling alleys, theaters and playgrounds; orders nonessential businesses to cease operations; and restricts travel to essential trips starting at 8 a.m. Wednesday, March 25. The order runs through 8 a.m. April 24 unless a new order supersedes it.

Bars and restaurants can continue to operate with take-out and delivery on food and carry-out sales on alcoholic beverages, under the order. The measure also defines essential businesses as those that provide health and safety, necessary supplies and services, food and beverage production, transportation, financial and professional services, hardware and supplies, critical construction trades, shipping and delivery services, charitable and social services, child care, laundry services, supplies to work from home, home-based care and professional services.

During a media briefing Tuesday, Evers urged businesses to contact the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation at wedc.org/essentialbusiness if they aren't certain whether the services they provide qualify as essential.

“Late last week, I said I didn’t think we’d need to go to a safer at home order,” he said. “That’s something I didn’t think we needed to do and not something I wanted to do. But I said all along through this process that this is a fluid process and that I would listen to the science and the public health experts to make the best decision possible for the people of the state.”

The goal of the order is to manage the virus and prevent further spread to keep the health care system from being overwhelmed, Evers said.

As of Tuesday, Wisconsin had 8,237 negative tests and 457 positive tests for COVID-19. Five people have died from the illness.

Models show that Wisconsin could have 22,000 positive cases of COVID-19, with estimates of 440 to 1,500 deaths by April 8 if the state doesn’t act, said Andrea Palm, secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

“This means thousands of Wisconsinites would need hospitalization, and we would exceed our current hospital bed capacity,” Palm said.

With that information in hand, the governor said he wants to avoid such a scenario.

“That means we are going to have to act quickly to keep people safe,” Evers said. “That’s what’s going to be the bottom line for me, keeping people safe.”

Evers said people don’t need special permission to leave their homes; they can still go outdoors, walk the dog, get necessary health care and medicine, and get groceries and other supplies they need. However, if people do leave their homes, he said they will have to stay six feet apart from other people and practice good hygiene.

Mayor Jim Paine urged the public to cooperate with the order during a press conference Tuesday.

“That order expands some of the restrictions of the previous order,” Paine said. “But largely … the overwhelming message is stay at home whenever possible. There are a number of essential businesses that will stay open. People can travel to those essential businesses.”

Superior Mayor Jim Paine speaks about the “Safer at Home” order during a press conference outside of Old Main on the UW-Superior campus Tuesday afternoon March 24.  (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior Mayor Jim Paine speaks about the “Safer at Home” order during a press conference outside of Old Main on the UW-Superior campus Tuesday afternoon March 24. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

He said the goal, however, is to minimize crowds in public spaces.

“Locally, we will enforce this order, but we are asking for voluntary compliance,” Paine said.

Ultimately, the police department and elected officials want people to be responsible, Superior Police Chief Nicholas Alexander said.

“Obviously, the governor’s message is stay at home,” Alexander said. “If you look at our history, both the country and the world, pandemics and other epidemics that we’ve had, social distancing, self-isolation, those are some of the most beneficial strategies that society has taken.”

Superior Chief of Police Nicholas Alexander speaks about policing Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” order during a press conference outside of the police station in Superior Tuesday afternoon March 24.  (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior Chief of Police Nicholas Alexander speaks about policing Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” order during a press conference outside of the police station in Superior Tuesday afternoon March 24. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

However, people traveling won’t be pulled over to determine if the trip they are taking is essential; that will be assumed, Paine said.

Paine said the goal of enforcement of the order in Superior will be to educate, but if voluntary compliance isn’t achieved with education, it could result in penalties.

The order can be enforced by local law enforcement with up to 30 days imprisonment and a $250 fine.

Limiting contacts to five people total — not five people at a time — will help stop the virus from spreading, Palm said.

“We need you to be in physical contact with as few people as possible,” Palm said.

She encouraged people to stay in contact by telephone or through FaceTime or Skype for the time being.

Evers asked Wisconsinites to comply with the order to keep everyone else safe.

“I recognize that this is a difficult time for our state and country,” he said. “At the end of the day, we are all in this together, and during the most difficult times, we are called upon to remember our Wisconsin values of kindness, compassion, empathy and respect. And to that end, I am going to ask for your help, not only toward these values but to do your part to keep your friends and your family, and most importantly our health care workers and communities safe. We need people to take the safer at home order seriously.”

Businesses deemed essential by 'Safer at Home' order

  • Bars and restaurants — take-out and delivery on food, carry-out sales on alcoholic beverages
  • Businesses that provide health and safety
  • Necessary supplies and services
  • Food and beverage production
  • Transportation
  • Financial and professional services
  • Hardware and supplies
  • Critical construction trades
  • Shipping and delivery services
  • Charitable and social services
  • Child care
  • Laundry services
  • Supplies to work from home
  • Home-based care and professional services

What you can do under the 'Safer at Home' order*

  • Leave your home without permission
  • Go outdoors for exercise or to get fresh air
  • Walk the dog
  • Get necessary health care and medicine
  • Shop for groceries and other supplies

*Practice social distancing when you leave your home, staying six feet apart from other people; and practice good hygiene — wash your hands with soap and water frequently, avoid touching your face, cover coughs and sneezes, stay home if you're sick.

As a public service, we've opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status.