Gov. Evers orders ban on gatherings over 50 people: ‘This isn’t a decision I made lightly’

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MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers on Monday, March 16 ordered a ban on all gatherings of more than 50 people.

This order came hours before the Wisconsin Department of Health Services indicated there are now 47 positive cases of coronavirus in the state — and 504 persons who tested negative for COVID-19. Milwaukee County has the most cases with 13, followed by Fond du Lac at 11.

Coronavirus in Wisconsin

The governor's order is not an all-out ban. Grocery stores, food pantries, pharmacies, hospitals and other businesses that offer critical services will remain open.

"This isn't a decision I made lightly and I understand it will affect Wisconsin families, workers, businesses and communities," Evers said.

The governor's order includes theaters, museums, stadiums, health and fitness centers, and places of worship. Bars and restaurants if they follow specific guidelines.

"It does, however, allow restaurants and bars to stay open as long as they follow guidelines on social distancing and have fewer than 50 people or operate at less than 50 percent capacity -- whichever is less," Evers said.

Childcare centers are exempt. The CDC is providing guidance on how to best prevent the spread of the virus among kids and workers. The state deems childcare critical.

"Who needs childcare most essentially are our healthcare workers, people who work in nursing homes. People who we need to keep the healthcare system robust and able to handle incoming patients suffering from more severe disease," said Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is warning more business and social disruptions may be on the way. Officials say these are necessary steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent it from overrunning our healthcare system.

"We have a finite number of ICU beds and ventilators. In a pandemic situation, the real risk is that the number of critically ill patients will grow too large, too quickly and we will not have enough resources to save everyone who needs critical care," said Dr. Ryan Westergaard.

The pandemic is already having an effect on Wisconsin's businesses. The governor said the state will do all it can to help. It is not clear what that help will look like. Gov. Evers said some relief will have to come from the federal government.

CLICK HERE to view today's COVID-19 briefing with state officials.

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