Messages collided Thursday as Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced he's extending the safer-at-home order until May 26 to help control the COVID-19 crisis.
Just before, the state’s largest business group, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, called on Evers to begin reopening the economy on April 24. That was the original date Evers’ safer-at-home order was due to expire.
While lives were saved during the initial phase of the order, Evers says more work remains before normal activity can resume. He says Wisconsin needs to massively expand its testing capacity. Evers says the state also needs a larger health workforce and enough personal protection equipment so those workers can safely do their jobs.
“In addition, we will need to greatly expand our contact tracing efforts around the state. Once we’ve identified someone who’s infected, if more folks stay safer at home, the easier it is for our public health officers to trace their steps and contact others they’ve been in contact with," Evers explains.
Evers tried to soften the news, saying restrictions on some businesses are being loosened. For instance, allowing for social distancing policies so people can shop at businesses like Target and Fleet Farm. And golf courses can open, as long as golfers adopt what Evers calls "common-sense restrictions." For instance, golf carts can’t be used, and clubhouses and pro shops must be closed.
Our new safer at home order allows:
libraries and businesses like craft stores, among others, to do curbside pick-up and deliveries
golf courses to reopen
external lawn care and construction to continue if it’s done by one person
— Governor Tony Evers (@GovEvers) April 17, 2020
READ: Safer-At-Home Order FAQs
He says a number of fellow governors agree — the public’s health must come first.
“Earlier today I joined a bipartisan coalition of governors in announcing that the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana will work in close coordination to reopen our economies in a way that prioritize workers’ health worth,” Evers says.
But that wasn’t enough to satisfy Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.
“WMC believes protecting Wisconsinites’ health and restarting our economy are not mutually exclusive. A well-thought-out plan could have slowly phased in certain geographic areas of the state and worked with specific industries to ensure they could properly protect their employees,” the business group said in a statement.
Evers says planning is underway to safely reopen Wisconsin’s economy but adds it won’t be like flipping a switch, more like gradually turning a dial.
Meanwhile, teachers had something to say about Evers’ announcement that kids won’t return to the classroom this school year. Kelly O'Keefe Boettcher teaches English at MPS’ Rufus King High School. She says Ever’s announcement isn’t completely unexpected, but she was holding out hope she would see her students soon.
"I kinda convinced myself we'll be back, it'll just be for three weeks, but we'll have a graduation and we'll get to say goodbye. So I did, I had a moment where I was sad," O'Keefe Boettcher says.
MPS issued a statement, saying, “We will continue to serve and educate our students through our online platform while adhering to the guidance of our state leaders and health officials."
Editor's note: A portion of the audio is courtesy of WisconsinEye.
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