Yesterday, Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services issued another 16-page Emergency Order (Emergency Order #28), extending the Safer at Home Order issued by the Department on March 24, 2020. The March Safer at Home Order was set to expire on April 24, 2020. The Safer at Home Order (the “Order”) issued yesterday is in effect from April 24, 2020, until 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, May 26, 2020.
The Order notes that since the March Safer at Home order took effect, there has been a decrease in exponential grown in the number of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin. By extending the Order, the Department of Health Services states that the hope is that the rate of COVID-19 infections will continue to decline while certain segments of the economy can prepare to reopen.
Though the Order’s organization mirror’s the March order, it contains added language urging businesses to be cautious. For example, the Order requires Essential Businesses and Operations to “restrict the number of workers present on premises to no more than strictly necessary to perform the essential operation.” The underlying mandate that “all for-profit and non-profit businesses…except Essential Businesses and Operations…must cease all activities…” remains unchanged.
The Order also requires Essential Businesses and Operations to increase cleaning and disinfection protocols and to “adopt policies to prevent workers from entering the premises if they display respiratory symptoms or have had contact with a person with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.”
While the first Safer at Home Order remains largely unchanged, the new Order includes some important modifications, many of which are summarized below. If you have any questions about the Order’s impact on you or your business, contact your FOS attorney.
- Occupancy Restrictions for In-Person Sales: The Order contains new occupancy restrictions for in-person sales, including retail. Specifically, stores with less than 50,000 square feet of customer floor space, must limit the number of people in the store (including employees) to 25% of the total occupancy limits established by the local municipality. Stores with more than 50,000 square feet must limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 4 people per 1,000 square feet of customer floor space, and offer at least two hours per week of dedicated shopping time for vulnerable populations. “Vulnerable populations” are defined as “people over 60, pregnant women, and those with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease.”
- Clarifying Standards for Businesses that Support Essential Businesses: The Order includes language making clear that businesses that sell, manufacture, or supply other Essential Businesses and Operations and Essential Governmental Functions with support or supplies necessary to operate (e.g. food supplier) are only permitted to “perform those business operations which are necessary” for the essential businesses to which they are supplying goods or services. Non-essential goods or services can only continue as Minimum Basic Operations (i.e. minimum necessary business activities).
- Minimum Basic Operations Requirements Section Expanded: The Order requires non-essential businesses and operations, in carrying out Minimum Basic Operations, to determine which of their workers are necessary to conduct such basic operations, and inform such workers of their designation. The Order also provides that Minimum Basic Operations may now include non-essential deliveries, mailing parcels or receiving parcels and curb-side pickup of products, “if all of the operations are performed by one person in a room or confined space at a time, including a car or truck.” Non-essential businesses supplying businesses under this section, must only provide goods and services to other non-essential businesses. The new Order also allows arts and craft stores to offer curb-side pick-up, with restrictions, and allows for optional exterior residential construction and lawn care, also with restrictions.
- School Closure: Public and private K-12 schools are required to remain closed for student instruction and extracurricular activities for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Consistent with the March Order, this closure does not prevent schools from facilitating virtual learning and food distribution, or from being used for Essential Government Functions.
- Increased Library Services: Under the March Order, libraries could only remain open to provide online services and programing and to be used for Essential Government Functions and food distribution. While they still must remain closed for all in-person services, public libraries can now offer curb-side pickup of books and other library materials. Like retail stores, libraries must also ensure compliance with Social Distancing Requirements as defined in the March order.
- Opening of Golf Courses: Public and private golf courses may/can open so long as (i) no golf carts are used; (ii) Social Distancing Requirements are abided by; (iii) tee times and payments are made in advance online or by phone and tee times are spaced to avoid foursomes from clustering; and (iv) clubhouses and pro shops remain closed, though bars and restaurants may remain open for carryout. Driving ranges and miniature golf courses must remain closed.
- Park Closure Left to Government Discretion: The Order contains a provision allowing local health officials to close public parks if any of the following occur: (i) the number of people frequenting the area at one time make it difficult to comply with Social Distancing; (ii) repeated vandalism or disturbing the peace; (iii) repeated violations of the Safer at Home Order that create a risk to individuals in the area; or (iv) the local government is unable to monitor or enforce Social Distancing Requirements.
We are all continuing to adjust in our workplaces and homes to the “new normal” caused by COVID-19. If you have any questions about modifications to Wisconsin’s Safer at Home Order, other issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, or any other legal issue, please contact your FOS attorney.