Safer at Home Order Effective for the next month

March 24, 2020 | Business | COVID | Current Events 

Shortly after 11am, on March 24, 2020, Wisconsin Governor Evers issued Emergency Order No. 12 titled “Safer at Home Order” (the “Order”). The Order goes into effect at 8:00am on March 25, 2020 and continues to 8:00am April 24, 2020 unless it gets extended by another order in the future. The Order provides specific instruction and guidance to businesses and individuals as to how to proceed during the efforts to thwart the spread of COVID-19 or the coronavirus.

How will this be enforced?

The Order is enforceable by any local law enforcement. Violation of this order is punishable by up to 30 days in jail, $250 fine or both.

Stay at Home

At the forefront, the order requires all individuals within the state of Wisconsin to stay at their home or their residence. Individuals may only leave for the following reasons, each of with is explained in detail in the Order and within this article:

    1. Essential Activities
    2. Essential Government Functions
    3. To operate Essential Businesses and Operations
    4. To perform non-essential Minimum Basic Operations
    5. Essential Travel
    6. Special Situations

Business Operations

  • Non-essential Business and Operations must cease. All business with a facility in Wisconsin, with the exception of those Essential Business and Operations (defined below) must cease all services, except for the following:- Minimum Basic Operations (defined below)
    – Operations consisting exclusively of employees or contractors working from home
  • Social Distancing To the greatest extent possible, all individuals must maintain at least six (6) feet of distance from any other person.
  • Use of Technology All businesses, including Essential Businesses and Operations must, use technology to avoid meeting in person.
  • DHS and CDC Guidelines must be followed (Section 6)
  • DHS Guidelines. The detailed guidelines can be found here: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/employers.htm This list is not exhaustive, but some recommendations for employers include:
    –  Educate employees on prevention efforts
    –  Perform routine workplace cleaning
    –  Develop policies and procedures that require prompt reporting of symptoms of illness
    –  Encourage employees with illness to stay home
    –  Encourage employees with exposure to a person with COVID-19 to remain home
    –  Instill travel related work restrictions
    –  Review CDC guidelines regarding when employees recovering from COVID-19 may return to work. 

Prohibited Activities

Public and private gatherings of any kind, except by a single household unit, unless otherwise provided for in the Order. Notable exceptions to this are that groups of 9 people or less may gather for religious purposes, wedding and funerals. (Sections 13.h & i.).


With the exception of virtual services, as well as providing essential government functions and food distribution the following must be closed:

  • Public and private K-12 schools
  • Public libraries
  • Places of public amusement and activity This includes pools, water parks, zoos, arcades, playgrounds, bowling alleys, movie theaters, gyms and fitness centers
  • Salons and spas which includes salons, tattoo parlors, and tanning facilities

Essential Activities (Section 11)

Individuals may continue to do essential activities which include the following:

  • Health and Safety (Section 11.a.). Activities necessary to the health and safety of any individual including visiting medical providers and obtaining medical supplies, but individuals should rely on telehealth options where feasible.
  • Necessary Supplies and Services (Section 11.b.) Obtain items necessary for the individual or household including groceries, gasoline, and items necessary to maintain the essential operation of the residence.
  • Outdoor Activity (Section 11.c.) Participate in outdoor activity including visiting state parks.
  • Certain types of work (Section 11.d.) Individuals may work at Essential Businesses or Operations, carry out Minimum Basic Operations and obtain supplies needed to work from home.
  • Care for others (Section 11.e.) Caring for a family member, pet, friend.

Essential Government Functions (Section 12)

Essential governmental functions includes all services provided by the state, tribal or local governments need to ensure continuing operation of that governmental body.

Essential Businesses and Operations (Section 13)

Essential Businesses and Operations include the following:

  • CISA List (Section 13.a.) Business or worker identified in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
  • Grocery and Medicine (Section 13.b.) This list includes the following:
    –  Grocery stores, farm and produce stands, food pantries, convenience stores
    –  Pet supply stores
    –  Alcoholic beverage stores – of course!
    –  Providers of household consumer products such as cleaning and personal care
    • To be in compliance, store falling under the “grocery and medicine” guideline must also do the following:
      –  Close all seating intended for consuming food
      –  Cease self-service such as buffets and salad bars
      –  Except for grocery stores, cease self-dispensing of all food
    • Note, this portion of the order warns against businesses remaining open that sell food or beverages ancillary to the general purpose of the business. For example, an arcade that also has some food items would not be considered to fall under this category.
  • Food and Beverage production (Section 13.c.) This includes manufacturing, processing, transportation, and cultivation of related to the production of food and beverage. This also includes businesses that provide food, shelter, and other necessities of life for animals.
  • Restaurants (Section 13.d.) Restaurants may remain open so long as they comply with the following:
    –  No in-house consumption; take-out or delivery only
    –  Customers may enter only for the purpose of picking up and paying for food
    –  Customers may not self-dispense food; no salad bars or buffets
  • Bars (Section 13.e.) Bars must comply with the following:
    –  No in-house consumption
    –  Carryout of beverages and food is allowed where compliant with local rules
    –  Delivery of alcohol is prohibited
    –  Except, wineries holding direct wine shippers’ permits may make deliveries of wine
    –  Customers may not self-dispense food; no salad bars or buffets
  • Child Care settings (Section 13.f.) This Order amends DHS Emergency Order #6. Childcare centers may operate, so long as they are in compliance with the following:
    –  No more than 10 staff may be present at a time
    –  No more than 50 children may be present at a time
    • Childcare shall prioritize care for families as follows:
      –  Tier 1: Employees, contractors and staff working in healthcare
      –  Tier 2: Employees, contractors and staff in vital areas such as military, long term care, residential care, pharmacies, child care, child welfare, government operations, public safety and critical infrastructure including sanitation, transportation, utilities, telecommunications, grocery and food service, supply chain operations and other sectors as determined by the Secretary of the Department of Children and Families.
  • Organizations providing charitable and social services (Section 13.g.)
  • Weddings, funerals and religious entities (Section 13.h., i.). Gatherings can be held so long as any gathering includes fewer than 10 people at one time.
  • Media (Section 13.j.) including newspapers, television, radio, and other media services.
  • Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation (Section 13.k.) including auto, motorcycle, and bicycle supply, repair, and sales.
  • Financial institutions and services (Section 13.l.) including banks, lenders, licensed financial service providers, and insurance services.
  • Hardware and supplies stores (Section 13.m.) that sell electrical, plumbing, heating, and construction material.
  • Critical Trades (Section 13.n.). The following is a non-exclusive list of what is included:
    –  Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, laborers, masonry, painters
    –  Cleaning and janitorial for commercial and governmental properties
    –  Exterminators, pesticide application
    –  Security staff
    –  Forestry and arborists
  • Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery and pick-up services (Section 13.o.) including post offices.
  • Laundry services (Section 13.p.) including dry cleaning.
  • Businesses that sell supplies to work from home. (Section 13.q.)
  • Supplies for Essential Businesses and Operations and Essential Governmental Functions (Section 13.r.). This includes businesses that sell or manufacture items such as:
    –  Computers, IT and telecommunication equipment
    –  Hardware, paint, electrical, plumbing and heating materials
    –  Personal hygiene products, soaps and detergents
    –  Medical and orthopedic equipment
  • Transportation (Section 13.s.), including Uber and Lyft.
  • Home-based care and services (Section 13.t.). This includes the following:
    –  Care for seniors, adults with disabilities, mental illness and substance abuse;
    –  Care for children including nannying and babysitters hat travel to a child’s home to provide care.
    –  Meal delivery.
  • Professional Services (Section 13.u.). Professional services shall, to the greatest extent possible, be conducted virtually and through remote work to the extent possible, and in person meetings should be avoided. Professional services include, but are not necessarily limited to:
    –  Legal
    –  Accounting
    –  Real Estate
    –  Insurance
  • Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries (Section 13.v.)
  • Critical Labor Union Functions (Section 13.w.)
  • Hotels and Motels (Section 13.x.) may operate but pools and exercise facilities need to close, and guests may not congregate in lobbies or other common areas.
  • Higher Educational Institutions (Section 13.y.) may only operate for the purpose of distance learning, essential functions or critical research.

Requesting an “Essential” Designation

If a business believes it does not fall within the meaning of Essential Business, it may apply to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to request such designation, using the form provided at: https://wedc.org/essentialbusiness/.

Minimum Basic Operations

Individuals engaged in business that are not considered essential may continue to attend to minimum necessary activities to maintain the business. Such activities include:

  • Maintaining inventory, preserving the business and equipment, ensuring security, and processing payroll and employee benefits.
  • Minimum activities necessary to facilitate employees working from home.

Essential Travel

Essential travel is allowed as long as individuals engaged in such travel comply with social distancing requirements to the extent possible.  Essential Travel includes:

  • Travel to access Essential Activities, Essential Business and Operations, Essential Governmental Functions, Minimum Basic Operations, Special Situations
  • Travel to care
  • Travel to educational institutions for distance learning and receiving meals
  • Travel to return to residence from outside the jurisdiction
  • Travel required by law enforcement or court order
  • Travel required for non-residents to return to residence outside of WI

Special Situations

Individuals may leave their residence to perform work for a business that provides the following services:

  • Healthcare and Public Health Operations. (Section 8). The list of what qualifies under this is long, but some notable inclusions that may not be obvious include the following:
    –  Manufacturers and warehouse operators that create medical supplies
    –  Dental offices. Rumors had circulated that dental offices would be excluded from this list, but there you have it, just a rumor.
    –  Biotechnology companies (including research and development, manufacture and supply chains
    –  Distributors of cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting or sterilizing supplies
    –  Tissue and paper towel products
    –  Healthcare information and technology
    –  Eye care facilities, including those that sell glasses and contacts
    –  Mental health and substance abuse providers
    –  Acupuncturists
    –  Massage therapists
    –  Chiropractors
    –  Veterinary care and all healthcare services for animals, but non-essential care should be avoided
  • Human Service Operations (Section 9) These places that provide services to the public, as the category is aptly name. Some examples include the following:
    –  Homeless, domestic violence, youth and senior shelters
    –  Assisted living and long-term care facility
    –  Offices providing food, vocational services, cash assistance, shelter or other social services
  • Essential Infrastructure (Section 10) Essential infrastructure includes several types of work that might immediately come to mind such as utilities, but also tosses in some less obvious industries:
    –  Food production, distribution and sales
    –  Storage facilities
    –  Construction (with optional or aesthetic construction to be avoided)
    –  Building management and maintenance
    –  Cybersecurity operations
    –  Internet
    –  Video and telecommunications systems


Landlords and rental property managers must avoid entering leased residential premises unless emergency maintenance is required.  Building management and maintenance is allowed as “essential infrastructure.”