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Safer at Home order extended to May 26, GOP angered by decision

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Safer at Home coronavirus order

MADISON (WKOW) -- Gov. Tony Evers announced he's extending his Safer at Home order until May 26, closing schools for the rest of the academic year and keeping many businesses closed to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

The announcement on Thursday comes after Evers indicated earlier in the week he would likely extend it for another month.

The executive order bans nonessential business and travel in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Evers originally set the order to expire April 24.

"A few weeks ago, we had a pretty grim outlook for what COVID-19 could mean for our state, but because of the efforts of all of you, Safer at Home is working," Evers said. "That said, we aren't out of the woods just yet."

The governor's decision to extend the order was received with immediate frustration, angering Republican lawmakers who believe it will cause more economic hardships for the state.

Republican leaders threatened Evers action with lawsuits and furthering curbing his executive powers.

"Legislative Republicans are planning to act with legal and legislative options to deal with the extension of the order and get answers to the questions our constituents are demanding," wrote Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Majority Leader Jim Steineke in a statement.

Senate Republicans also made calls to fire Evers Acting Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm. The Senate has not confirmed Palm and the chamber has the authority to throw out her nomination, a move they've done before firing Evers agriculture secretary Brad Pfaff.

"Enough is enough!" Senator David Craig (R-Big Bend) wrote in a statement. "Until we reject Palm and re-open the state, the very avoidable economic suffering will continue."

Evers fought back against Republican criticism saying the current restrictions in place for the safer a home order is working and saving lives.

"Over the last three weeks our data shows we have saved at least 300 lives and perhaps as many as 1,400 lives," said Evers. "We have helped flatten the curve which has resulted in fewer cases and hospitalizations."

The extension does allow some businesses to reopen despite the Safer at Home order.

Libraries can now do curbside pickup of books.

Golf courses can open, though all clubhouses and pro shops need to stay closed. Tee times and payments need to be handled over the phone or online.

Lawn care and some external construction work will be allowed under the new order, as long as it can be done by one person.

Arts and crafts stores will be allowed to offer curbside pick-up for materials used to make masks and other protective equipment.

Business designated by the order as "non-essential" can now offer deliveries, mailings and curbside pick-up. Employers are expected to notify workers if they will be needed for these tasks which the governor's office referred to as "Minimum Basic Operations."

The governor said in a press call shortly after announcing the order that Safer at Home would not be repealed like "flipping a switch." Rather, the measures will slowly be decreased "like a dial."

The new order included new requirements for businesses that are open during the public health emergency.

Businesses deemed essential by the Safer at Home order must increase cleaning and disinfecting. They also need to make sure only needed employees are on site. They need to also prevent workers exposed to COVID-19 from coming to work.

Retailers must limit the number of people allowed in the store at one time. The order says they need to space out people waiting to enter. Large stores will need to offer at least two hours of shopping time reserved only to "vulnerable populations."

The new order closed public schools for the remainder of the school year.

The new order goes into effect April 24.

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.

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.)

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.)

JT Cestkowski

Social Media Content Producer/Desk Editor

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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