By Shereen Siewert
Gov. Tony Evers on Monday announced new guidelines to allow more nonessential businesses to operate, part of a step-based plan to reopen the economy in Wisconsin.
Under the new order, businesses such as dog groomers, small engine repair shops, upholstery businesses, and others previously restricted to payroll and other essential services only, can open. Today’s order also allows outdoor recreational rentals, such as boats, golf carts, kayaks, ATVs, and other similar recreational vehicles. Automatic or self-service car washes can operate as well.
Businesses must operate free of contact with customers by providing payment options online or over the phone, enact proper disinfecting practices, and operations must be able to be performed by one staff member.
The news comes as state officials report 6,081 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin, a 170 increase from Sunday. Statewide, 281 people have died from complications of the virus.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Ryan Westergaard said state officials will continue to push for more testing during local outbreaks and to test some people with mild symptoms in certain parts of the state to get a better sense of how many have COVID-19.
Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said officials in Brown County are continuing to test workers at affected facilities and are expanding testing to members of employees’ households. Palm said 196 positive cases in Brown County have been forwarded to the state’s surge contact tracing team.
Brown County has been identified as a hot spot for the virus in recent days. JBS USA announced Sunday that the JBS Packerland plant would be closed temporarily. As of Monday, 255 employees at the plant tested positive for COVID-19, said Brown County Health Department spokeswoman Claire Paprocki. There were also 130 confirmed cases among workers at meatpacker American Foods Group in Green Bay and another 17 employees at sausage maker Salm Partners in Denmark, about 20 miles away, Paprocki said.
There were 849 confirmed cases in Brown County and there have been two deaths, Paprocki said.
Marathon County is reporting 17 cases with one fatality.
Wisconsin currently has 48 active labs with a capacity to process nearly 11,000 tests per day. But Palm said that increased testing will give public health officials a better understanding of the scope and severity of the virus.
The new order goes into effect at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, April 29.
The CDC will release new priorities for coronavirus testing Monday, including testing asymptomatic individuals in high-risk settings.
And the White House is set to unveil what it describes as a comprehensive overview of its efforts to make testing for COVID-19 more widely available.
The White House is aiming for states to have enough tests and needed supplies to test at least 2.6% of their populations per month — a figure needed to catch asymptomatic spread.
The administration is also releasing a “testing blueprint” for states, outlining how they should prioritize testing as they devising their reopening plans.
It includes a focus on surveillance testing, as well as “rapid response” programs to isolate those who test positive and identify those they came in contact with.
The administration aims to have the market “flooded” with tests for the fall, when COVID-19 is expected to recur alongside the seasonal flu.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.