Gov. Evers: Standalone, strip-mall based retail stores and drive-in theaters can reopen -- with restrictions

Gov. Evers: Standalone, strip-mall based retail stores and drive-in theaters can reopen -- with restrictions

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Updated: 4:52 p.m. on May 11, 2020

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Thousands of retail stores can immediately reopen under strict guidelines and limits thanks to an updated order from the Evers administration, a lifeline for a state economy in need of one.

The update “turns the dial” to allow standalone and strip mall-type retail stores to open and only have five customers inside the business at a time. Stores must establish lines outside the entrance to manage the number of customers inside the business. Social distancing guidelines inside the store are still required, but while face coverings like masks or scarves are strongly encouraged, they are not required.

The order does not allow retail stores inside of enclosed mall buildings to open since they rely on entrances beyond their own and the indoor part of the mall may attract people to congregate in large numbers and raise the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

In addition to retail stores, the order also allows drive-in movie theaters to operate with some limits.

During a media briefing Monday, Governor Evers said he relied on data to inform this decision, specifically the progress on trendlines regarding the spread of the virus.

“It bounces up and down seemingly every day but it’s headed in the right direction,” Evers said. “That’s what we used to make this determination and I would say going forward as it relates to any other changes for dialing things down would be a continued trend in that direction.”

Evers added that Monday’s order update is focused on smaller, main street-type businesses.

“All along we’re trying to mitigate the transmission of the disease and one of the ways to do that is to start small,” Evers said.

WEDC CEO & Secretary-designee Missy Hughes said the order would allow some 14,000 businesses to reopen and approximately 90,000 Wisconsinites to return to work.

Republican leaders who control the Legislature shared a tepid response to the order.

“Hopefully this is just the beginning,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R – Juneau) wrote in a tweet. “More small businesses are still struggling. Over half a million Wisconsinites are out of a job. We can balance public health with economic health. Let’s get Wisconsin open for business again.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos echoed that sentiment in a statement saying, “with more testing, we’re seeing a smaller percentage of positive cases. This shutdown has put half a million people out of work. It’s time to get everyone back to work in every part of the state,” Vos said.

The order update is still tied to the overall Safer at Home order extension which is set to expire on May 26. However, that could end sooner as the state Supreme Court still considers the lawsuit brought on by the GOP challenging the legality of the order extension. The court heard oral arguments on May 5 but has yet to issue a decision to either uphold the order extension or strike it down.

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Posted: 12:30 p.m. on May 11, 2020

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday, May 11, another turn of the dial on "Safer at Home" to add even more opportunities for Wisconsin businesses to get back to work in a safe and responsible way.

Emergency Order #36, signed today by Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm, allows all standalone or strip-mall based retail stores to offer in-person shopping for up to five customers at a time while maintaining required social distancing practices. Additionally, the Emergency Order signed today allows drive-in theaters to operate with some restrictions. All businesses must continue to follow all safety precautions and guidelines as outlined in the Safer at Home order. 

"In addition to added flexibilities and steps we have already taken for businesses, this is another disciplined turn of the dial that will allow Wisconsin's business owners to safely get back to work and Wisconsin consumers to support their favorite local spots," said Gov. Evers. "Both customers and workers need to be confident in their safety, so we need everyone to be diligent in following best safety practices so we can continue to move our state forward while keeping our neighbors, families, and communities safe and healthy." 

Monday's order builds upon the Safer at Home order and the last turn of the dial through Emergency Order #34, which together allowed golf courses to operate, aesthetic and optional lawn and construction services provided by a single employee, curbside pick-up for public libraries, and every business to provide deliveries, mailings, and curbside pick-up and drop-off services.

Emergency Order #36 is available below and goes into effect immediately. 

In addition to the requirements outlined above, all essential and nonessential businesses must review and consider the Wisconsin Department of Economic Development guidelines on safe business practices, available here.

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