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BREAKING: Schools closed for remainder of school year

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MADISON (WKOW) -- As part of Gov. Evers extension of the Safer at Home order, he also has closed public and private K-12 schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

The announcement came in a press release from the governor's office Thursday after Evers indicated earlier in the week he would likely extend it for another month.

READ THE FULL ORDER HERE

State health officials had voiced cautious optimism in recent days that social distancing measures like Safer at Home were beginning to curb the disease's spread. However, the effect of the Spring General election, when tens of thousands of Wisconsinites headed to the polls, remains to be seen.

The extension of the Safer at Home order includes a few changes. Some changes allow more businesses and activities to open back up, while other changes help make businesses safer for employees and customers. The changes in this order include:

Businesses and activities ramping up service and operations:

  • Public libraries: Public libraries may now provide curb-side pick-up of books and other library materials. 
  • Golf Courses: Golf courses may open again, with restrictions including scheduling and paying for tee times online or by phone only. Clubhouses and pro shops must remain closed.
  • Non-essential Businesses: Non-essential businesses will now be able to do more things as Minimum Basic Operations, including deliveries, mailings, and curb-side pick-up. Non-essential businesses must notify workers of whether they are necessary for the Minimum Basic Operations.
  • Arts and Crafts Stores: Arts and craft stores may offer expanded curb-side pick-up of materials necessary to make face masks or other personal protective equipment (PPE). 
  • Aesthetic or Optional Exterior Work: Aesthetic or optional exterior law care or construction is now allowed under the extended order, so long as it can be done by one person.

Safe Business Practices:

  • Safe Business Practices for Essential Businesses and Operations: Essential Businesses and Operations must increase cleaning and disinfection practices, ensure that only necessary workers are present, and adopt policies to prevent workers exposed to COVID-19 or symptomatic workers from coming to work.
  • Safe Business Practices for Retailers that Essential Businesses and Operations: Retail stores that remain open to the public as Essential Businesses and Operations must limit the number of people in the store at one time, must provide proper spacing for people waiting to enter, and large stores must offer at least two hours per week of dedicated shopping time for vulnerable populations.
  • Supply Chain: Essential Businesses and Operations that are essential because they supply, manufacture, or distribute goods and services to other Essential Businesses and Operations can only continue operations that are necessary to those businesses they supply. All other operations must continue as Minimum Basic Operations.

Other changes to the original Safer at Home order include:

  • Schools: Public and private K-12 schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
  • Local parks and open space: Local health officials may close public parks and open spaces if it becomes too difficult to ensure social distancing or the areas are being mistreated.
  • Travel: People are strongly encourage to stay close to home, not travel to second homes or cabins, and not to travel out-of-state if it is not necessary. 
  • Tribal Nations: Tribal Nations are sovereign over their territory and can impose their own restrictions. Non-tribal members should be respectful of and avoid non-essential travel to Tribal territory. Local government must coordinate, collaborate, and share information with Tribal Nations.
  • Duration: The changes in this order go into effect on April 24, 2020. The order will remain in effect until 8 a.m. on May 26, 2020.

Symptoms may take between two and 14 days to develop, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

As of Wednesday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 3,721 confirmed infections in the state and 182 deaths.

(Our entire coronavirus coverage is available here.)

Evers announcement to extend the Safer at Home order comes after dozens of business leaders and some Republican lawmakers warned him an extension could have dire consequences for Wisconsin's economy.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) other businesses sent a letter to Evers asking the administration to start crafting a transition plan for businesses to reopen as the pandemic continues to weigh their industry.

"The last thing you want is a resurgence because you, quote-unquote, 're-opened too soon,'" Evers said told reporters days ahead of his announcement.

Evers and the DHS acting Secretary Andrea Palm defended their handling of the crisis, saying their decisions have been driven by science with a desire to slow the spread of the virus.

The new strain of the coronavirus causes the disease COVID-19. Symptoms include cough, fever and shortness of breath.

In severe cases, pneumonia can develop. Those most at risk include the elderly, people with heart or lung disease as well as anyone at greater risk of infection.

For most, the virus is mild, presenting similarly to a common cold or the flu.

Anyone who thinks they may have the disease should call ahead to a hospital or clinic before going in for a diagnosis. Doing so gives the staff time to take the proper precautions so the virus does not spread.

Those needing emergency medical services should continue to use 911.

(A timeline of the virus' spread in Wisconsin is available here.)

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JT Cestkowski

Social Media and Digital Content Manager

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