By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers decided on Thursday to extend Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order for another month, keeping nonessential businesses closed until after the Memorial Day holiday weekend to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Schools will be closed the rest of the academic year under the safer-at-home order, which will be in effect until May 26. Golf courses will be allowed to re-open, but club houses and pro shops will remain closed.
News of the extension comes amid growing criticism from conservatives who are pushing Evers and some other governors to loosen restrictions. Opponents of the order planned a rally at the state Capitol on April 24, the end date of the original order.
Evers issued the original order on March 25 but has said in recent days that he has made clear that an extension was likely.
“A few weeks ago, we had a pretty grim outlook for what COVID-19 could mean for our state, but because of the efforts of all of you, Safer at Home is working,” Evers said in a statement. “That said, we aren’t out of the woods just yet.”
Before the order can be lifted, there needs to be more testing and other public health measures in place, said state Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm.
“These steps will help us reduce the risk of a second wave of the virus,” she said. “If we open up too soon, we risk overwhelming our hospitals and requiring more drastic physical distancing measures again.”
Evers also loosened restrictions on nonessential businesses, allowing them to make deliveries and offer curbside pickup. That includes arts and crafts stores making material available to produce face masks and other personal protective equipment. Lawn-care services are also allowed, as long as the work is done by just one person.
Evers said people are strongly encouraged to stay close to home, not travel to cabins or second homes, and not travel out of state.
Even as Evers extended the order, pressure was building to reopen closed businesses. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce said that by Thursday more than 50 other business associations, local chambers of commerce and nearly 2,000 citizens and businesses had signed a letter calling on Evers to let businesses reopen on April 24.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death
By Wednesday, there were 182 deaths from COVID-19 in Wisconsin and more than 3,700 confirmed cases, although health officials have said that is only a fraction of the people who are actually infected.