Bill Glauber, Patrick Marley and Molly Beck
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Published 9:14 AM EDT Mar 24, 2020
Wisconsin is getting set to shut down all but the essentials.
Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday he was poised to order Wisconsinites to stay in their homes starting this week.
The “safer-at-home” order — expected to be issued by the governor Tuesday — will close nonessential businesses.
The move comes as the state and nation work to slow the coronavirus pandemic that is quickly reshaping daily life in America.
“Folks, ‘all hands on deck’ means you, too,” Evers told reporters in a telephone briefing. “Here is the bottom line: Folks need to start taking this seriously.”
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Republican Legislative leaders were upset with Evers’ plan and sought more details, while businesses scampered to find out if they would qualify as essential and be allowed to remain open.
“The easiest decision is to say ‘shut everything down’ because then you’re protecting everyone. But the hard decision is to find a balance,” said Dan Ariens, president and CEO of Ariens Co., a Brillion-based manufacturer of lawn and garden equipment and snow throwers.
People won’t be shut in.
They’ll be able to work from home. They’ll still be able to go to grocery stores, doctor’s offices and pharmacies and go outside to exercise or walk dogs. Restaurants will be able to continue to provide delivery and curbside takeout; liquor stores will remain open.
But the impact on the state’s economy could be enormous as authorities concentrate on slowing the rate of infection in order to give front-line medical workers the ability to deal with the crisis.
For the first time, officials at Summerfest announced the Big Gig will be postponed, from its late June start to September.
The event will now run nine days, taking place on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays across the first three weeks in September.
“I think it was the right, safe and proper thing to do,” Summerfest CEO Don Smiley said.
Separately, the City of Milwaukee said it will issue its own order that residents stay home to limit the spread of the coronavirus. It will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.
“We continue to see the torrential push, if you will, of COVID-19 cases toward our community and now in our community,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.
Monday’s 9% increase was smaller than those reported in recent days.
City officials expressed concern about the number of coronavirus cases that have been confirmed on the north side.
“I want to make sure residents in the northern part of the city are listening to what I’m saying: Please do everything you can to keep your distance from other individuals,” Barrett said.
State health officials announced Monday that Wisconsin’s total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus was at 416. Thirty of the state’s 72 counties have now recorded cases.
Five people have died.
Olympics likely delayed
Meanwhile, the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo appeared headed for a postponement.
Longtime IOC member Dick Pound told USA TODAY: “On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided. The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”
Stocks fell as Republicans and Democrats continued to try to hammer out an agreement on a $2 trillion stimulus plan.
Democratic state Rep. David Bowen, 33, became the first Wisconsin lawmaker to contract the virus, announcing he tested positive over the weekend.
Bowen said he is recovering at home and added: “It is imperative that this virus be taken seriously and that individuals minimize social interactions and stay home to prevent further spread of this virus and its immobilizing symptoms.”
Schools and other institutions across the state continued to try and navigate through the virus.
Marquette University postponed its commencement and extended virtual learning through the end of the semester.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison also announced it was postponing its May graduation ceremonies. The school also asked those in student housing to move out by 9 p.m. Monday.
Officials at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh said the school will be one of at least three UW System campuses working with the state to make beds available for local coronavirus patients, should the need arise.
The Wisconsin prison system confirmed its second case, as an employee at Columbia Correctional Institution has tested positive for the virus.
And Monday, no new inmates were to be admitted into Wisconsin state prisons or juvenile facilities.
Milwaukee’s federal courthouse will be closed to the public starting Tuesday.
Organizers of the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee continued to press on to the July 13-16 event. But in a statement, convention leaders acknowledged they are “exploring a range of contingency options.”
Wisconsin was also fighting back.
Free meals offered
Some local restaurants began offering free meals to health care workers and police.
“It makes me feel like what we’re doing really does make a difference and people care about us and what we’re doing,” said licensed practical nurse Yvonne Leitze, who works in New Berlin.
The Green Bay Packers, through their Packers Give Back program, announced they’ll donate $1.5 million to help with efforts in Brown County and the Milwaukee area.
“We are facing an unprecedented challenge in our communities,” said Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy. “We know our nonprofit support agencies will be performing their usual excellent work, but they’ll need additional resources.”
Other companies are gearing up to help.
Oak Creek-based Eder Flag, which makes flags and poles, is teaming with Janesville-based Monterey Mills to get front-line medical personnel respirator masks.
Monterey Mills, a supplier of knitted pile fabric, said it has an order of 20,000 barrier masks from a large regional health system. Another 2,500 masks will be donated to the City of Milwaukee Health Department.
Part of the flag-sewing operation in Oak Creek will be converted to produce the barrier masks.
“We’re combining air filtration and insulation fabrics, with a membrane liner to create a highly effective, comfortable respirator mask,” said Dan Sinykin, president of Monterey Mills. “The masks are designed to be re-useable, cleaned in an industrial or home washer, and available for multiple uses.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporters Patrick Marley, Molly Beck, Tom Daykin, Mary Spicuzza, Alison Dirr, Ashley Luthern, Sarah Hauer, Devi Shastri, Piet Levy, Bruce Vielmetti, Patricia McKnight and USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin reporters Nathaniel Shuda and Madeline Heim contributed to this article.