Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s chamber of commerce on Friday called for opening all businesses starting May 4, three weeks sooner than is called for under Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce released its plan hours before protesters were expected to converge on the Capitol to call for reopening the state as unemployment skyrockets. Evers’ current order closing most nonessential businesses runs until May 26, but Republicans are asking the state Supreme Court to block it and force the Department of Health Services to propose a new rule.

The state chamber said its plan is designed to allow for a safe opening of businesses, taking into account those operating in more rural or suburban areas that have been less affected by COVID-19. As of Thursday, there were more than 5,000 confirmed cases statewide and nearly 260 deaths, with more than half of those in Milwaukee. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.

The state’s health leaders have said cases appeared to be trending downward, but they were closely watching for a yet-to-develop spike tied to in-person voting in the April 7 election. They also urged protesters to keep a safe distance from one another.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce said its plan was developed with input from a diverse group of business, government and medical interests. They said it also calls on best practices and recommendations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control.

The plan creates an algorithm that takes into account the local infection rate, health care utilization, population density and other factors to determine what limitations would be placed on a business. All businesses could open, but their operations would be limited based on local factors calculated under the model.

Republicans have been arguing that the state needs to be more flexible in how it approaches closures, given that the majority of coronavirus cases are centered in the urban areas of Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay.

Evers did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the plan. State chamber lobbyist Scott Manley said the group briefed members of Evers’ administration on the plan Thursday night.

“They had a lot of really good questions and a lot of good input for us,” Manley said.

Evers has consistently argued that his order keeping most businesses closed until May 26 is driven by science and the best way to curb the spread of the virus. Evers has also said he’s open to making revisions as conditions change.