Where Wisconsin could be without a Safer at Home order

By: - March 24, 2020 4:23 pm
Gov. Tony Evers explains his Safer at Home order during a COVID-19 briefing via phone on 03/24/20.

Gov. Tony Evers explains his Safer at Home order during a COVID-19 briefing (photo by Melanie Conklin)

Tuesday’s briefing by Gov. Tony Evers and his COVID-19 team focused on the Safer At Home order set to take effect at 8 am on Wednesday and its ramifications on businesses and residents and other details.

His message remained that people should stay home unless necessary and “we need to have folks limit their interactions to the same people” to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

No potlucks, no play dates and no dinner parties,” he stressed.

Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm described it as among the only ways to contain the virus.

DHS head Andrea Palm at the 3/24/20 COVID-19 briefing

“The only tool we have is physical separation from each other,” said Palm. “I implore you to stay at home. We have to stop this virus from spreading any further. Limiting your contact to less than five people will help do that.  Not five people at a time, but five people total.”

Asked by a reporter who his five people are, Evers divulged that his circle is even smaller — his wife Kathy and his staff assistant. 

The COVID-19 numbers have not changed dramatically since yesterday. Palm reported 457 positive tests (up from 416 yesterday), 8,237 negative tests and no new deaths, which remain at a total of five deaths in Wisconsin.

Palm painted a dire picture based on modeling from other locations, saying that without the emergency order and other actions, Wisconsin could be facing 22,000 people sick and anywhere between 440 – 1,500 deaths by April 8 — just two weeks. 

The governor also continued to get many questions on the elections, in particular whether Wisconsin should go to an entirely mail-in election.

Evers and his chief legal counsel Ryan Nilsestuen reiterated the “vote now by voting absentee” directive, but indicated they are looking at options to make voting more accessible and to resolve specific issues. For example, Nilsestuen mentioned the problem of absentee ballots needing a witness when people are in isolation.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Commission is where businesses should go if they want to know if they are deemed to be an essential business under the stay-at-home order, but are not listed explicitly on the public list. It is also where they should go if they want to appeal a listing as non-essential. However the website was overloading and crashing on Tuesday. 

The state’s unemployment office has also had problems dealing with the volume of requests. “We had a whole bunch of people who called yesterday morning,” Evers said, but things are back in order, which he said required redeploying people from a variety of other areas in government to keep up with the workload. He said that right now, “it’s my belief we have the resources in place,” but noted growing them will be a continual project to keep up with demand.

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Chief Medical Officer with the Dept. of Health Services answers questions during a COVID-19 briefing via phone on 03/24/20.

Palm and Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Wisconsin’s chief medical officer, noted that we are social beings and this outbreak is causing illness beyond COVID-19 as isolation wears on people.

“Social isolation can be toxic for people,” said Westergaard, “it can make people feel awful.” 

“Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you are feeling overwhelmed,” added Palm. She said anyone who wants to speak to a crisis-trained counselor should call 800-985-5990 OR text TALKWITHUS to 66747.


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Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.