By Benjamin Yount
The Center Square
MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers started Tuesday’s media briefing on the coronavrirus by quoting the obituary of one of the five people in the state who have died from the virus. The tone only got more dire from there.
After weeks of suggesting that people stay home and stay away from each other, Evers on Tuesday issued a stay at home order that requires people to stay in their homes, closes many Wisconsin businesses, and gives police the power to jail people for up to a month for violating his edict. The order and a list of what remains open is here.
“Take the Safer at Home order that I signed today seriously,” Evers told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “Folks do not need special permission to leave their homes. You can still go outdoors, walk your dog, go to the doctor, go to the pharmacist, and get the supplies that you need. But this is important. We need people to limit their interactions.”
Evers wants people to limit their exposure to one small group of people and not socialize with a number of groups.
Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm explained what that means.
“We have to stop this virus from spreading any further,” Palm said. “Limiting your contacts to less than five people total will help do that. Not five people at a time, but five people total.”
Palm then suggested that anyone who may be sick, or who has come into contact with someone who is sick should isolate themselves further.
“Isolation not only means staying at home, but staying in a room that is away from other members of your family,” Palm said.
Wisconsin’s 457 confirmed coronavirus cases and five deaths could skyrocket, Palm said.
“If we continue on our current path without implementing Safer at Home to flatten the curve, the models show us that we will likely have 22,000 Wisconsinites test positive for COVID-19 by April 8. And an estimated 440 to 1,500 deaths,” Palm warned.
Those models are based on data from Harvard University and Imperial College London, she said.
DHS also on Tuesday increased the estimate of how many people who test positive for the coronavirus will end up in the hospital. Doctors say that number could be as high as 20 percent.
Wisconsin Republicans say those kind of warnings in the governor’s Safer at Home order are not helping people across the state feel better about the outbreak.
“A prolonged shutdown will be ruinous to Wisconsin small businesses, our economy and Wisconsinites’ quality of life,” Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, said on Twitter. “Both President Trump and New York Governor Cuomo have spoken publicly about having a plan to return to work. We should be doing the same.”
Evers said Tuesday that the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak is a fluid process, and will be going forward.
His Safer at Home order runs from 8 a.m. Wednesday morning until 8 a.m on April 24.
An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square.