Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers limits capacity on stores, restaurants and bars, aiming to slow COVID-19 cases and deaths — 10/6/20

A roundup of top news and information about Wisconsin’s response to the coronavirus

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With Wisconsin in the national spotlight for a COVID-19 surge that is increasingly killing and hospitalizing residents, Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday directed his health chief to order limits on public gatherings to 25% of a room or building’s capacity. 

The order from Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm takes effect at 8 a.m. Thursday and lasts through Nov. 6. It applies to “any gatherings at locations that are open to the public such as stores, restaurants, and other businesses that allow public entry, as well as spaces with ticketed events,” Evers’ office said in a press release Tuesday, which included a list of frequently asked questions. The order also affects bars.

“We’re in a crisis right now and need to immediately change our behavior to save lives,” Evers in a statement. “We are continuing to experience a surge in cases and many of our hospitals are overwhelmed, and I believe limiting indoor public gatherings will help slow the spread of this virus.”

The order builds on Evers’ mask mandate, issued in September, which a conservative legal group is challenging in court. Public health experts tout mask-wearing as a key tool for slowing the spread of COVID-19. 

The latest order could face new legal challenges, and it comes more than four months after the Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with the Republican-controlled Legislature in striking down Evers and Palm’s farther-reaching Safer at Home order, leaving Wisconsin without a statewide plan to manage the virus. 

GOP lawmakers have offered no pandemic plans of their own. WisPolitics reports that Wisconsin’s Legislature, which has not passed a bill since April, is the least active full-time legislature in the nation since the pandemic began.

Top Stories 

Wisconsin Department of Corrections

Oshkosh Correctional Institution had more than 300 active COVID-19 cases among inmates as of Monday.

Gov. Tony Evers issues new order limiting indoor public gatherings as COVID-19 cases surgeCap Times 

Review finds Wisconsin has least active full-time legislature in nation since pandemicWisPolitics 

GOP lawmakers stand still as virus rages in WisconsinMilwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Another Wisconsin prison has massive COVID-19 outbreak; more than 300 cases reportedWisconsin State Journal 

Less than 2% of Wisconsinites have coronavirus antibodies, preliminary results from study showAppleton Post-Crescent 

COVID-19 spike prompts Diocese of Green Bay to reissue dispensation, excusing Catholics from attending Sunday Mass in personGreen Bay Press-Gazette 

Spike in COVID-19 cases on Menominee reservation prompts tribal officials to issue emergency ordersGreen Bay Press-Gazette

Tiffany’s unmasked, indoor campaign event slammed as ‘completely reckless’WPR 

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“The other part of our response that is beyond strained, it’s frankly cracking under the strain, is our local public health infrastructure … Our people who respond to positive tests, do contact tracing, call people when they test positive, call people who have been exposed and give them instructions about how to stay safe and how to quarantine. That system is not able to keep up.”

— Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer of Wisconsin’s Bureau of Communicable Diseases, as quoted by WPR 

“We can’t seem to learn our lesson…We touch the stove, it’s hot, we burn ourselves, but we think if we touch it again, we’ll be fine.”

— Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, speaking to POLITICO about the surge of COVID-19 cases in the Midwest

“We know that Wisconsin dropped their guard, and they are a national hotspot. I’m hopeful that the people of Michigan keep doing what we need to do. We’ve shown that we know how to keep this virus from community spread — it’s wearing a mask, it’s physical distancing, it’s washing their hands.”

— Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, as quoted by Bridge Magazine, as Michigan officials respond to a court decision striking down her emergency orders in that state

Food access trouble?

We know that when classes are virtual, many Wisconsin students and families lose access to food schools provide. And as the school year starts, some meal sites are closing. Share your experience with News414, Wisconsin Watch’s service journalism collaboration with Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service and Outlier Media. Click here for details.

You can also view a list of Milwaukee-area food distribution sites for students here.

Data to note

DHS reported 18 additional COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, bringing the state’s total to 1,399 confirmed during the pandemic.

Here is a look at trends in cases, deaths and positive tests from our partners at WisContext. 

Wisconsin continues to set daily records for COVID-19 hospitalizations. Hospitals statewide reported 853 COVID-19 patients on Tuesday, a dramatic increase from 782 patients just a day earlier. 

Here are the latest data from the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

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Report: Increase in state auditors helped boost corporate tax collections 20%Wisconsin State Journal 

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