Gov. Evers Issues Emergency “Safer at Home” Order; Much Additional Information Has Been Added as of 6 p.m. on Tues., 3/24; “Without strict action, Wisconsin could see 22,000 COVID-19 cases and 440 to 1400 deaths by April 8,” officials say

(3/24/20) Governor Evers has issued a 16-page “Stay at Home” emergency order, which may be found here. Mr. Evers is scheduled to address the public at 1:30 p.m. today (Tues., 3/24). The order requires that for the duration of the order all persons may leave their residence only for (a) essential activities, (b) essential governmental functions, (c) to operate essential businesses and operations, (d) to perform non-essential minimum basic operations, (d) for essential travel, and (e) for special situations. Those situations are defined in sections 8-15 of the order. With limited exceptions, at all times, persons must maintain a distance of at least six feet from any individuals with whom they do not live.

The order is similar to those that have been issued in a number of other states. The following types of businesses are among those that are allowed to remain open: health care operations, convenience stores, grocery stores, farmers’ markets, food banks, restaurants (only carry-out and delivery are permitted; customers may enter restaurants only to place/pick up orders and may not be seated), pharmacies, child care facilities, banks, laundry businesses, hardware stores, education institutions – for distance learning purposes, and law and safety and essential government services.

“Each and every one of us has to do our part to help slow the spread of COVID-19 so we can flatten the curve to ensure our doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers have the opportunity to do their important work,” Evers said in a statement. “Let’s all do our part and work together.”

3/24/20 – Additional information gleaned from review of the order as well as today’s media briefing:

As of this date there have been 8237 negative test results in the state, 457 confirmed cases, and 5 deaths. Based on the experience of other states and countries whose outbreaks started before ours was identified, our experts are estimating that if we do not take strong preventive actions we could see 22,000 confirmed cases and 440 to 1500 deaths by April 8. The need for hospitalization would exceed our bed capacity by that time.

There are no vaccines available to prevent this infection and no medications that have been proven to reduce the symptoms of or to cure infections. The only tool available to us is to reduce human interactions. It is estimated that the average infected person will infect 2-3 additional persons, and that the number of infections is likely to double every 2-3 days. A very high percentage of the population who are infected have mild symptoms. However, about 20% are expected to require hospitalization. People are contagious even before they show any symptoms.

Since testing has been limited, it is suspected that for every one confirmed case there are probably about ten undetected cases, which would mean that we already have about 5000 infected residents in the state. The virus is highly transmittable. It can quickly go from a mild case to a severe one.

People over the age of 60 and those who are vulnerable as a result of underlying health conditions should take additional precautions. People at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and people who are sick are urged to stay in their home or residence to the extent possible except as necessary to seek medical care. A person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 must remain isolated at all times in a separate room from other people.

Prohibited activities: All public and private gatherings of any number of people that are not part of a single household or living unit are prohibited, except for the limited purposes expressly permitted in the order. No potlucks, sleepovers, dinner parties, etc. Gatherings of less than 10 people are no longer permitted; the goal is to limit your interaction to the same people, and ideally five people or less.

Outdoor activities: You are encouraged to engage in outdoor activity, including visiting public parks, provided that you comply with Social Distancing Requirements as defined below. Such activities may include, for example, walking, biking, hiking, or running. You may not engage in team or contact sports such as basketball, Frisbee, soccer, or football. Playgrounds are closed.

Social Distancing Requirements: Maintaining social distancing of 6 feet between people; washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer; covering coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow, not hands); regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces; not shaking hands; and following all other public health recommendations.

The county health departments, together with support from state health professionals, are tracing the previous contacts of every person who has a positive test. The state also has “strike forces” as follows: surge planning, personal protective equipment and medical supplies, lab, isolation, and child care for health care workers. Mr. Evers indicated that there is a need for much more assistance from the federal government in obtaining medical supplies and equipment.

Although the Governor has been urged to either postpone the April 7 election or to conduct it entirely by mail, there was no word on whether there will be any changes. Mr. Evers indicated that consideration is still being given to this matter. Meanwhile he strongly encouraged citizens to request an absentee ballot online and to vote by mail.

It was admitted that the lack of physical interaction with other people can be very detrimental to our mental health. Communicating with family members, friends, and neighbors by telephone, Facetime, Google Hangout, etc. is strongly encouraged. If people are feeling lonely or stressed while the safer-at-home order is in effect, people can call the state hotline at 1-800-985-5990 to speak with crisis counselor or text “Talk with us” to 66747.

The Governor stated that our citizens are known for kindness, compassion, empathy, and respect, and he knows that those qualities will help get us through this difficult time, but everyone’s cooperation is needed in order to keep this pandemic from overwhelming our hospitals and medical professionals.

The order is currently in effect from 8 a.m. on Wed., 3/25 until 8 a.m. on Fri., 4/24. Though law enforcement is not asked to pull drivers over to ensure that they are traveling for a permitted purpose, they are authorized to enforce violations of the order. Please, stay at home as much as possible.

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