Jeramey Jannene

City Issues “Stay at Home” Order For Wednesday

"Essential" activity allowed is broadly defined, but message clear: please stay home.

By - Mar 24th, 2020 07:35 am
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Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The City of Milwaukee pre-empted an expected state order and issued a “stay at home” order Monday evening. The order goes into effect Wednesday, March 25th at 12:01 a.m.

The nine-page order is designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 by further encouraging people to stay home. It includes restrictions on travel and shutters non-essential businesses, including barbershops, gyms and movie theaters.

Under the order, individuals are only allowed to leave home for six reasons: health and safety, necessary supplies and services, outdoor activity, certain types of work, to take care of others and to participate in the spring election.

“This is not issued to cause a rush on the grocery stores. You can still go to the grocery stores,” said Mayor Tom Barrett in previewing the order Monday morning.

The order explicitly allows individuals to go for a walk or run, should they practice social distancing, but not to take their car out for a joy ride. Bars and restaurants are allowed to continue offering carryout and delivery.

It explicitly prohibits any public or private gatherings of individuals from different households, further shrinking a previous state order that limited gatherings to no more than 10. Playdates, happy hours, small parties are all prohibited.

“We want to make sure people are at home, distanced from other people,” said Barrett.

Essential businesses are allowed to continue operating and are broadly defined in 22 categories: stores that sell groceries and medicine, food and beverage production and agriculture, organizations that provide charitable and social services, media, gas stations and businesses needed for transportation, financial institutions and services, hardware and supplies stores, critical trades (construction, plumbing, electricians, exterminators, cleaning), shipping and delivery, educational institutions, laundry services, bars and restaurants (including liquor stores), supplies to work from home (selling and manufacture), supplies for essential businesses and operations (selling and manufacture), transportation, home-based care and services, professional services (legal, accounting, insurance, real estate), child care, funeral establishments, hotels and motels, “manufacturers, distribution and supply chain for critical products and industries” and religious entities.

The order specifically exempts healthcare operations, including healthcare supply chain businesses and veterinarians, “human service operations,” including long-term care and assisted living facilities, essential infrastructure and essential government functions.

If a business, including non-profits, doesn’t fit in one of the many “essential” categories, it is allowed to maintain “minimum basic operations” which includes security, processing payroll, maintaining inventory and supporting employees working remotely.

“This is not just about you, it’s about our community,” said Barrett in detailing why people should comply.

The state order is expected to mirror the Milwaukee order. Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik promised Monday to coordinate with the state to ensure that happened and Barrett said he had many conversations with state officials.

There is no end date on the order. “It would have been arbitrary for us to put a date in because we don’t know,” said Barrett Monday.

Under authority granted in state statute 252, the order was signed by Kowalik on Monday evening.

“This is not a lockdown,” said the commissioner on Monday morning. “This is stressing that staying at home is the best way to prevent COVID-19.”

As of Tuesday morning at 6:00 a.m. the city has 189 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The Milwaukee County tracker shows a cluster on the north side of the city.

“It’s middle-aged African American men who are the majority of cases in the city,” said Kowalik. She warned that the virus is spreading far beyond individuals that traveled to countries where the outbreak is larger or who have come into contact with a known case; community transmission is occurring, which will spread the disease more quickly.

“I want to make sure that our residents, particularly on the northern part of the city, are listening to what I’m saying, please, please, please keep your distance,” said Barrett, asking residents to stay home as much as possible. “What we are trying to do is send a message about how serious this issue is.”

Governor Tony Evers is expected to provide more information on a state “stay at home” order Tuesday.

Who Enforces The Order?

The Milwaukee Police Department can arrest those violating the order, but Barrett hopes people comply voluntarily.

“This is not going to be a situation where we are going to have police roaming our streets looking for people,” said Barrett Monday afternoon.

But MPD will continue to issue warnings to bars and restaurants allowing in-house patronage and those in large public gatherings.

You can read the city’s order in its entirety on Urban Milwaukee.

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