As cases of COVID-19 continue to skyrocket in Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers has issued a new emergency order imposing a stricter capacity limit on indoor businesses such as bars, restaurants, and non-essential retailers.
The new restrictions on public gatherings were announced on Tuesday, with businesses that operate public indoor spaces limited to 25% of their occupancy limits as of 8 a.m. Thursday. The same 25% restriction applies for indoor ticketed events, while public events that take place at private residences are limited to a 10-person maximum.
There are exemptions in place for schools, colleges, hospitals, places of worship, childcare settings, grocery stores, certain government facilities, public infrastructure buildings. Private businesses that are closed to the public are also exempt.
Wisconsin has had few business restrictions in place since mid-May, when the state's Supreme Court struck down Gov. Evers' Stay at Home order after a challenge by the GOP-controlled Legislature. It remains to be seen whether this latest order will be challenged.
It comes as Wisconsin is facing a surging number of COVID-19 cases, with John Hopkins University putting its positivity rate over the past week at 20.6%, the third highest out of the 50 states, behind only South Dakota (23.64%) and Idaho (23.22%).
Last week, Wisconsin had a run of five days in which it reported more than 2,000 cases.
By comparison Minnesota – which has had 50% capacity restrictions for bars, restaurants and non-essential businesses in place since the Stay at Home order ended in early June – has a positivity rate of 4.3% over the past week.
In his order, Evers notes that COVID-19 hospitalizations in Wisconsin more than doubled from 293 on Sept. 3 to 692 on Oct. 3.
Meanwhile, hospitals in Green Bay, Appleton, Neenah, and Wausau are reportedly seeing ICU levels at capacity.
"I know we are all tired, we are all frustrated, and we just want to get back to our Wisconsin way of life – you and me both," Evers said. "At the end of the day, whether we like it or not, we have to change the course of this virus.
"Please stay home as much as possible, limit your travel to essential needs only, and if you have to go out, please wear a mask. We'll get through this together, Wisconsin."