Four days after extending the Safer at Home order to May 26, Gov. Tony Evers outlined the plan to use a phased approach to reopen the economy. Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm on Monday issued Emergency Order #31 establishing the process and outlining the phases of the plan. The governor has dubbed this plan the “Badger Bounce Back.”
“As we’ve learned over the past month, in the most difficult of circumstances, Wisconsinites will rise to the occasion, helping each other and working together to do what’s best for our families, our neighbors, and our communities,” said Evers. “That’s what the Badger Bounce Back is all about: our resilience as a people and as a state. I am excited and hopeful about this plan. While being safe at home continues to be important, this plan is an all-out attack on the virus and it begins the process of preparing our businesses and our workforce for the important planning that will result in the safe and logical reopening of our economy.”
The Badger Bounce Back plan is informed in part by the President’s Guidelines for Opening Up America Again that was issued by the White House on April 16. Currently, Wisconsin does not meet the criteria the White House established to start reopening our state. The Badger Bounce Back plan takes important steps to get the state of Wisconsin there.
According to the emergency order, there will be three phases for the state to open up. The first phase will include allowing gatherings of up to 10 people, having restaurants open with social distancing requirements, removing certain restrictions including retail restrictions for essential businesses and operations, additional operations for non-essential business, resuming in-person operations of all K-12 schools, and having child care settings resume full operation.
The second phase would increase the number of gatherings for up to 50 people, restaurants resuming regular operations, bars and non-essential businesses reopening with social distancing requirements, and post-secondary education institutions can resume operations.
The final phase would allow for all business activity and social gatherings to resume with minimal protective and preventative measures for the general population and more protective measures for vulnerable populations.
According to the order, the state will allow moving through of phases as it makes progress in several goals. These goals including ensuring all Wisconsin residents who have symptoms of COVID-19 have access to lab tests. There will need to be enough personal protection equipment and other necessary supplies to support health care and public safety agencies. Additionally, there needs to be a downward trajectory of both influenza-like illnesses and COVID-19-like symptoms reported in a 14-day period.
To increase testing capacity, Evers said there are plans in place including multiple public-private partnerships, and dispatching National Guard teams to collect specimens in hotspots and underserved areas of the state.
Evers directed Palm to extend the Safer at Home order, which was initially set to expire April 24, to May 26. As part of the measure, all public and private K-12 schools are to remain closed for the rest of the year.
However, some of the previous restrictions have been eased. This includes allowing golf courses to open, giving public libraries the option to offer curb-side pick-up of materials, granting arts and crafts stores expanded curb-side pick-up for materials necessary to make face masks or other PPE, and expanding the type of operations non-essential businesses may conduct such as deliveries, mailings and curb-side pick-up.
Even with the reduction of restrictions, some people are unhappy with the Safer at Home measures. A protest against the order was held in Brookfield on April 18. A rally, dubbed the Wisconsin Freedom Rally, is set for Friday afternoon at the Capital Square. As of Monday afternoon, the Facebook page for the event listed 3,200 people indicating they would attend and another 12,000 expressing interest.
Several other states have seen rallies recently as well, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, and Kentucky.