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Gov. Evers calls for limits on indoor public gatherings, announces more economic aid for small businesses

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With Wisconsin currently earning the designation as one of the nation’s COVID-19 hot spots, Gov. Tony Evers has directed Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to issue Emergency Order #3 limiting public gatherings to no more than 25 percent of a room or building’s total occupancy. There are a number of exemptions, though.

Wisconsin is third in the nation in new cases per 100,000 residents, behind bigger states like Texas and California. Based on patterns seen in previous hot spot states, an increase in hospitalizations and ICU admissions typically follow confirmed case spikes by about two weeks. The two graphs below from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel confirm those observations. Confirmed cases shot up after the start of school, then about two weeks later, hospitalizations and ICU admissions spiked, especially in Green Bay, Wausau and the Fox Valley, according to reports.

Businesses, institutions, and gatherings exempt from the order include grocery stores; daycare businesses; public schools and Institutions of higher education; healthcare and human services related operations; public infrastructure operations including food production, airports, etc.; state and local government operations and facilities including polling locations, churches, and political rallies and demonstrations. See full the order and list of exemptions here.

This directive will be effective at 8 a.m. on Oct. 8, 2020, and will remain in effect until Nov. 6, 2020, and applies to any gatherings at locations that are open to the public such as stores, restaurants, and other businesses that allow public entry, as well as spaces with ticketed events. A frequently asked questions document is available for review here.

“We’re in a crisis right now and need to immediately change our behavior to save lives,” said Gov. Evers in a release on October 6. “We are continuing to experience a surge in cases and many of our hospitals are overwhelmed, and I believe limiting indoor public gatherings will help slow the spread of this virus. Folks, we need your help and we need all Wisconsinites to work together during this difficult time. The sooner we get control of this virus, the sooner our economy, communities, and state can bounce back.”

Earlier yesterday, the governor also announced an additional $100 million in support for Wisconsin’s small businesses, including lodging, event venues, and others in the tourism industry, who are struggling in the wake of the pandemic without additional federal supports. See more here.

“The unfortunate reality is this: the disease activity level of COVID-19 in Wisconsin is so high that going to a gathering puts you at very high risk of exposure,” said DHS Secretary-designee Palm. “We know gatherings are a key way this virus spreads, so we must act to limit indoor gatherings to stop the spread, reduce illness, and save lives.”

On October 6, DHS reported an increase of 2,020 confirmed cases of COVID-19; 18 new deaths, and the seven-day average of new daily COVID-19 cases is 2,346 up from 836 one month ago. According to DHS’ Disease Activity dashboard and as of Sept. 30, 2020, 45 of Wisconsin counties meet the threshold of a very high disease activity level, which means that there are more than 350 cases per 100,000 people in that county. All other counties reported high case activity levels. This means Wisconsinites should assume they will likely be exposed to the virus if they leave home and should practice all safety precautions.

Wisconsinites should take the following steps to stay safe and help stop the spread of COVID-19:

  • Stay home whenever possible;
  • Wear a mask;
  • Wash your hands frequently;
  • If you have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19, get tested;
  • Get the flu shot to help reduce the strain on healthcare systems responding to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Challenge misinformation and talk to friends and families about the importance of these safety precautions.

For up-to-date information about Wisconsin’s COVID-19 response, visit the DHS COVID-19 webpage. We also encourage you to follow @DHSWI on Facebook and Twitter, or dhs.wi on Instagram for more information on COVID-19.

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