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Gov. Tony Evers orders bars, restaurants to be closed across Wisconsin for in-house dining

Gov. Tony Evers orders bars, restaurants to be closed across Wisconsin for in-house dining

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Gov. Tony Evers in an interview at his Capitol office in December. 

Bars and restaurants will be closed for in-house service across Wisconsin and gatherings of 10 or more people will be barred under a new directive from Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and state health officials seeking to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

The order, which came Tuesday afternoon, is set to go into effect at 5 p.m. and builds off of limits the state enacted just a day earlier to minimize crowds to fewer than 50 people.  

“What we’re saying here simply, folks, is stay home if you can,” Evers said.

The latest move comes as the state has seen evidence of community spread in Dane, Kenosha and Milwaukee counties, or cases in which individuals with the disease didn’t contract it from being in contact with an infected person or by traveling from an area with a high number of cases. 

While in-person transactions at restaurants is banned, those establishments may remain open for take-out or delivery services under the order

The language exempts childcare locations, hotels, state and local government facilities, health care facilities including hospitals and medical centers, voting locations and more. 

Evers also pledged to call on the state Legislature to repeal the one-week waiting period to collect unemployment for workers who have been laid-off, a move he said should be taken up “immediately” and could be part of a broader legislative package he’ll discuss with legislative leaders Wednesday. 

And said he would issue an order Wednesday that would modify work and search requirements for those on unemployment to target the coronavirus’ impact on the workforce to ensure claimants who are otherwise eligible would be able to collect benefits. 

“It’s incredibly important that the much-needed unemployment insurance funds make it to affected workers quickly,” he said. 

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's office didn't immediately return a request for comment, while a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the Rochester Republican is planning to meet with Evers Wednesday on the call. 

Meanwhile, public schools in Wisconsin will now remain closed “until further notice,” Evers said, possibly extending the closures beyond the previously mandated April 5. 

“(We’re) moving that deadline just because we don’t know if it’s a realistic deadline,” Evers said. “We’re making it indefinite.”

He said schools reopening “certainly won’t be before April 6.”

The state Department of Public Instruction announced Monday it would approve school district waiver requests from state “hours of instruction” requirements and was working toward suspending state testing requirements and seeking waivers for federal assess requirements.

Across the state, the Department of Health Services reported 72 have tested positive for COVID-19, including 19 in Dane County, though one individual has since recovered; 1,038 have tested negative in Wisconsin. 

Earlier Tuesday, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announced additional measures limiting city services to curb the community spread of the novel coronavirus. She said Madison has been preparing in anticipation of Evers’ orders to limit gatherings to 10 people. 

“At this point, we’ve been prepared for that and have been effectively implementing that for internal city services already,” Rhodes-Conway said. “I don’t really expect that it alters our plans very much. We have been very aggressive in trying to enforce social distancing.”

Abby Becker and Scott Girard contributed to this report. 

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Briana Reilly covers state government and politics for the Cap Times. She joined the staff in 2019, after working at WisPolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter at @briana_reilly.

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