Wisconsin Governor Loosens Some Restrictions, Allowing More Businesses to Reopen

Businesses that can offer contactless services will be allowed to reopen

closed business sign

Dog groomers, upholsterers, lawnmower repair shops and other nonessential businesses that can offer contactless services will be allowed to reopen in Wisconsin, the latest loosening of a stay-at-home order designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday.

Starting Wednesday, outdoor recreational rental businesses, such as boats, golf carts and kayaks, can also reopen, along with self-service or automatic car washes. They must operate free from contact with customers.

“This order means that every business across our state can do things like deliveries, mailings, curbside pick-up and drop-off, and it’s an important step in making sure that while folks are staying safer at home, they can also continue to support small businesses across our state," Evers said.

Meanwhile, a cluster of cases led to the closure of the JBS Packerland meatpacking plant in Brown County on Sunday. Brown County Health Department spokeswoman Claire Paprocki said Monday that 255 employees at the JBS plant had tested positive for COVID-19. There were also 130 confirmed cases among workers at the American Foods Group plant in Green Bay and another 17 employees of sausage maker Salm Partners in Denmark, about 20 miles away. Those plants remained open.

The JBS Packerland plant employs more than 1,200 people and feeds nearly 3.2 million people per day, the company said. JBS earlier closed plants in Souderton, Pennsylvania; Greeley, Colorado; and Worthington, Minnesota. The first two plants have since reopened, but there are concerns about meat shortages and price increases.

Under an order that took effect on Friday, some golf courses are allowed to reopen, but not pro shops or club houses; curbside pickup at libraries and arts and crafts stores for materials used to produce face masks and other personal protective equipment is allowed; and lawn care services done by just one person is permitted.

The move to allow even more businesses to open came as the Wisconsin Supreme Court was accepting arguments from Evers in defense of his stay-at-home order that’s scheduled to run through May 26. Republican legislative leaders are asking the court to block it and force Evers to work with them on a new approach. Despite polls showing widespread support for such orders nationwide, Republicans in Wisconsin are critical about the negative effect the closures have on skyrocketing unemployment and the economy.

“We may all be in this together, but we don’t need to cripple all of us for the pandemic located in a few counties,” said Republican state Sen. Van Wanggaard of Racine, warning that Wisconsin could be devastated by Evers' response to the pandemic.

Evers reiterated that his decisions are driven by science and what can be safely achieved without causing a spike in infections that would overwhelm the state’s medical providers. To date, there have been 281 deaths and more than 6,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Wisconsin.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

Evers’ plan announced last week for a phased reopening of Wisconsin, mirroring federal guidelines, requiring 14 straight days of decline in positive cases of COVID-19 as a percentage of total tests, along with increased testing, contact tracing and safety equipment for health care workers.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state chamber of commerce, has proposed its own reopening plan that would allow all businesses to open starting May 4. Operations for businesses would be limited based on local factors calculated under a model that takes into account how many COVID-19 cases there are in the area, among other factors.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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