Update: Wisconsin Adopts “Safe at Home” Order Effective March 25

24 March 2020 Coronavirus Resource Center Blog
Authors: Ryan N. Parsons Daniel A. Kaplan

Earlier today, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers entered a Safer at Home Order. The Order requires the closure of all businesses throughout the state except those deemed “Essential Businesses and Operations.”  For those businesses deemed “Essential,” the Order further outlines the protections they must put in place during this period.

The order goes into effect at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 and will remain in place until April 24 or until superseded by a further order.

The Order directs “All individuals present within the State of Wisconsin are ordered to stay at home or at their place of residence,” except as provided in a set of exceptions. For work purposes, individuals are allowed to leave the home only to operate “Essential Businesses and Operations” or in very narrow circumstances for non-essential businesses (see below). Further, the Order urges the elderly, the sick, and those with underlying health conditions “to stay in their home or residence to the extent possible except as necessary to seek medical care.”

The Order defines “Essential Businesses and Operations” following the lead of other states, the Order identifies as “essential” the industries identified as “critical infrastructure sectors” by the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. These industries include:

  • Health Care / Public Health
  • Law Enforcement, Public Safety, First Responders
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Energy
  • Water and Wastewater
  • Transportation and Logistics
  • Public Works
  • Critical Manufacturing
  • Hazardous Materials
  • Financial Services
  • Chemical
  • Defense Industrial Base

In addition, the order expressly identifies as “essential” the following businesses:

  • Healthcare and public health operations
  • Essential infrastructure, including construction
  • Stores that sell groceries and medicine
  • Food and beverage production, transport, and agriculture
  • Restaurants (but only takeout and delivery)
  • Child care (with directions to prioritize children of health care workers)
  • Charitable and social services organizations
  • Weddings, funerals, and religious entities (subject to a 10-person maximum)
  • Media
  • Gas stations, transportation sales, and transportation repair
  • Financial institutions and services
  • Hardware and supply stores
  • Critical trades (“including but not limited to plumbers, electricians, carpenters, laborers, sheet metal, iron workers, masonry, pipe trades, fabricators, finishers, exterminators, pesticide application, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff, operating engineers, HVAC, painting, moving and relocation services, forestry and arborists”)
  • Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery, and pick-up services
  • Laundry services
  • Supplies to work from home
  • Transportation
  • Home-based care and services
  • Professional services, with a requirement that these businesses “shall, to the greatest extent possible, use technology to avoid meeting in person, including virtual meetings, teleconference, and remote work (i.e., work from home).”
  • Critical labor union functions
  • Hotels and motels
  • Higher educational institutions

In addition to these exceptions, there are a number of broad catch-all exceptions:

  • “[O]ther service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, and Essential Businesses and Operations.”


  • “Businesses that sell, manufacture, or supply other Essential Businesses and Operations and Essential Governmental Functions with the support or supplies necessary to operate, including computers; audio and video electronics; household appliances; IT and telecommunication equipment; hardware; paint; flat glass; electrical, plumbing, and heating materials; construction materials and equipment; sanitary equipment; personal hygiene products; food, food additives, ingredients, and components; medical and orthopedic equipment; firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers for purposes of safety and security; optics and photography equipment; diagnostic; food and beverages; chemicals; paper and paper products; soaps and detergents.”


  • “Manufacturing companies, distributors, and supply chain companies producing and supplying essential products and services in and for industries such as pharmaceutical, technology, biotechnology, healthcare, chemicals and sanitation, waste pickup and disposal, agriculture, food and beverage, transportation, energy, steel and steel products, petroleum and fuel, mining, construction, national defense, communications, and products used by other Essential Governmental Functions and Essential Businesses and Operations.”

Finally, the Order provides employers with the ability to request to be named an “Essential Business” if not covered by one of the many exceptions above. The Order links to a website that purports to provide further details and a method to request designation as an “Essential Business.”  (As of this writing, the website is not functional.)

For businesses that are allowed to remain open, the Order nevertheless directs them “to the greatest extent possible, use technology to avoid meeting in person, including virtual meetings, teleconference, and remote work (i.e., work from home).”

Businesses deemed “non-essential” are allowed to perform only “Minimum Basic Operations” at this time. “Minimum Basic Operations” are two-fold:

  • “The Minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, preserve the condition of the business’s physical plant and equipment, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or for related functions” and


  • “The minimum necessary activities to facilitate employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their residences.”

In addition to the Wisconsin Order, the Milwaukee Health Department issued a separate stay-at-home order yesterday evening. Though the current terms of the two orders vary, the Mayor’s office has confirmed Milwaukee will amend its order to match the terms of the Wisconsin Order.

For more information about recommended steps, please contact your Foley relationship partner. For additional web-based resources available to assist you in monitoring the spread of the coronavirus on a global basis, you may wish to visit the CDC and the World Health Organization

Foley will continue to keep you apprised of relevant developments. Click here for Foley’s Coronavirus Resource Center for insights and resources to support your business during this challenging time. To receive this content directly in your inbox, click here and submit the form. 

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