By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers on Monday allowed nearly all nonessential businesses to reopen as long as they serve no more than five customers at a time, partially lifting the restriction that has kept them closed for weeks to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The latest order, which took effect immediately, comes in response to criticism from smaller businesses and Republican lawmakers who contended it was unfair to allow essential businesses such as grocery stores to remain open while nonessential businesses such as flower shops had to close under Evers’ “safer at home” order, which runs until May 26. The latest order applies to all standalone stores and those in strip malls that have entrances to the outside, but not to stores in large indoor shopping malls.
The order, issued by Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm at Evers’ direction, strongly encourages all shoppers and store workers to wear masks, but does not require that they do so. Everyone in the store must maintain a 6-foot distance from one another. Evers also allowed drive-in movie theaters to reopen.
“This is another disciplined turn of the dial that will allow Wisconsin’s business owners to safely get back to work and Wisconsin consumers to support their favorite local spots,” Evers said in a statement. “Both customers and workers need to be confident in their safety, so we need everyone to be diligent in following best safety practices so we can continue to move our state forward while keeping our neighbors, families, and communities safe and healthy.”
The Wisconsin Supreme Court is weighing a Republican-backed lawsuit that seeks to block the extension of the order and take away the power of Evers’ health secretary to make similar orders in the future. Instead, the Evers administration would have to work with the GOP-controlled Legislature on enacting a rule.