MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers on Friday directed Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to issue updates to the previous order prohibiting mass gatherings of 10 or more people.
The updated order maintains the ban on gatherings of 10 or more people and indefinite school closures, but includes some important changes and clarifications:
• Treats bars and restaurants as the same. Bars will be able to have carryout sales of alcohol and food, if allowed by local ordinances and state law. This will help ensure thousands of establishments can stay in business during this unprecedented health emergency.
• Media and news organizations can remain open to provide the public with vital information.
• Laundromats may remain open.
• Banks, credit unions and other financial institutions may remain open if they practice social distancing.
• All parts of the food delivery system — from farms to stores — may remain open.
• Clarifies that cafeterias in healthcare facilities may remain open to serve state healthcare workers.
• Allied health professions, such as acupuncturists, are unaffected by the mass gathering ban.
• All parts of the transportation system can continue to serve the state’s economy.
• Any facility used for in-person absentee voting or as a polling location may remain open for voting, except for sites at long-term care and assisted care facilities.
• Hair salons, day spas, nail salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors, body art establishments and tanning facilities must close effective at 5 p.m. Friday, March 20.
All gatherings that bring together or likely are to bring together 10 or fewer people in a single room or confined space, whether inside or outside, at the same time, must preserve social distancing and follow all other public health recommendations issued by DHS or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Voluntary cancellation, closure or limitations on the size of gatherings beyond the requirements of this order are permitted and encouraged.
People should follow simple steps to prevent illness and avoid exposure to this virus including:
• Avoid social gatherings with people of all ages (including playdates and sleepovers, parties, large family dinners, visitors in a home, non-essential workers in one’s house);
• Frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water;
• Covering coughs and sneezes;
• Avoiding touching your face; and
• Staying home when able.
This is a rapidly evolving situation and the public is encouraged to frequently monitor the DHS website for updates, and to follow @DHSWI on Facebook and Twitter, or dhs.wi on Instagram. Additional information can be found on the CDC website.
Meanwhile, the governor also is working to increase Wisconsin medical providers’ access to critical supplies.
As hospitals and clinics work to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, Governor Evers is taking steps to help improve health care workers' access to personal protective equipment (PPE) from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). That includes asking the federal government to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that a steady stream of facemasks, gloves, gowns and other protective items from the SNS is being delivered to states.
“We are committed to making sure these critical supplies are getting to hospitals and clinics as quickly as possible,” said Evers. “Demand is high, though, and what we have received so far from the federal government falls far short of what is needed in the state to protect those who may come into direct contact with the virus.
“I’m calling on the federal government to take whatever actions are within its power to make sure these supplies are being directed to where they are needed most,” he added.
As of Friday, the state has received only a small allocation of PPE from the federal government. It is being distributed to direct healthcare providers in areas with known community spread, to include nursing homes, emergency medical services and hospitals.
DHS is using bed-count information and advice from its medical advisory group to determine where PPE is being sent.
“We know this shipment won’t get to every organization that needs it,” Gov. Evers said. “DHS is working with the state emergency command structure, including the National Guard and Wisconsin Emergency Management, to identify additional sources and obtain more from the stockpile.”
The state also continues to work with partners in the public and private sectors to identify additional sources of PPE that can be made available to medical facilities and other first responders.
“My hope is that we can quickly identify consistent supply lines to make sure this equipment is being delivered to those in the state who need it most,” Evers said. “We will continue to make this a priority, due to the importance of protecting those who are at risk of being exposed to this virus.”
DHS is working with local and tribal health officers, health care providers and other partners to adjust the response to COVID-19 as needed. As always, the public should follow simple steps to avoid getting sick, including:
• Frequent and thorough handwashing.
• Covering coughs and sneezes.
• Avoiding touching your face.
• Staying home when able.
• Avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people.
• Practicing social distancing.