MADISON -- Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday, March 18 directed Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to restrict the size of all child care settings, ordering that centers may not operate with more than 10 staff present at a time, and more than 50 children present at a time.
The restriction in size was set to take effect at 8 a.m. on Thursday, March 19, to give child care providers and families time to make plans for care moving forward, according to a news release from Gov. Evers' office. The closure will remain in effect for the duration of the public health emergency declared by Executive Order #72.
Parents of playful, young children said Wednesday they're adapting to the ever-changing times.
"I have one daughter," said Matt Wild. "She's 5 years old. It's been a hoot. She was in day care for half the day, until all of this. Earlier this week, we decided to pull her out."
Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik covered the changes announced by Gov. Evers in a Wednesday afternoon news conference, noting that the restriction is not a substitute for continuing health recommendations.
"You also have to uphold social distancing, and cleanliness, and hygiene practices to prevent the spread of illness," Kowalik said. "Monitoring is also required. Checking if there is a fever and, if it's a child or staff, sending them home immediately."
Gov. Evers added:
“Child care is an essential service for many of the folks working on the front lines to provide health care and vital services to our communities during the COVID-19 outbreak. This is another step forward to ensure that service continues while protecting our child care providers who are going above and beyond their regular duties to support our families, communities, and state.”
Providers were asked to prioritize families of health care and essential service providers. FOX6 News called approximately 20 day cares in the Milwaukee area Wednesday to discuss the restrictions. Many were closed, some couldn't talk about the restrictions, and some were still figuring things out.
The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) and DHS updated guidance for providers to implement this emergency order, available here.
“I know many Wisconsinites are looking for ways to help during this crisis,” Gov. Evers continued. “If you are able, keeping your kids at home is one of the actions you can take to have the most impact. I also want to recognize the child care providers around the state who are stepping up to support our communities-- we appreciate your service during this challenging time.”
Additionally, the release from Evers' office said the administration was working with health care providers, child care providers, and the National Guard to explore options to serve health care workers through on-site care.