Wisconsin’s “Safer at Home” Order


UPDATE: As of April 14, 2020 Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has extended the Safer at Home order to May 26th.

While the order is being extended, the restrictions on some non-essential businesses are being lightened. 

The governor is allowing some businesses and operations to allow increased service, including:

  • Public libraries: to allow curbside pick up
  • Golf Courses: may open as long as payment is received online or over the phone
  • Arts and Crafts Stores: to allow curbside pickup for materials necessary to make face masks or other personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Aesthetic or Optional Exterior Work: so long as it can be done by one person
  • Non-essential businesses will now be able to do more related to “Minimum Basic Operations,” including deliveries, mailings, and curb-side pick-up. 

For more details click here: Emergency Order #28.

On March 24, 2020, Governor Tony Evers issued Emergency Order #11 – Safer at Home.

Pursuant to the Safer at Home Order, all individuals present within the State of Wisconsin have been ordered to stay at home or at their place of residence. The Safer at Home Order is effective from 8:00 AM on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 to 8:00 AM on Friday, April 24, 2020. The duration of the Safer at Home Order may be extended or shortened as circumstances require.

There are several exceptions to the Safer at Home Order, which do allow individuals to travel from their homes. The two most important exceptions for business owners and employers are the exceptions for:

  1. Essential Businesses and Operations and
  2. Minimum Basic Operations


Essential Businesses and Operations under the “Safer at Home” Order

Pursuant to the Safer at Home Order, “all Essential Businesses and Operations are encouraged to remain open.” To the greatest extent feasible, Essential Businesses and Operations shall comply with the Social Distancing Requirements (see discussion below.)


The Safer at Home Order generally defines Essential Businesses and Operations as the following:

    • Healthcare and public health operations, which specifically includes manufacturers, technicians, logistics, and warehouse operators, and distributors of medical equipment;
    • Veterinary care and healthcare services provided to animals, but non-essential veterinary care should be avoided;
    • Human service operations, which includes, but is not limited to, long-term care and assisted living facilities, residential settings and shelters for adults, seniors, children, victims of domestic abuse, people with disabilities, people with substance use disorders, or mental illness; transitional facilities; home-based settings to provide services to individuals with physical, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, seniors, adults, or children; adult day care, adult day services, and supportive home care; field offices that provide and help to determine eligibility for basic needs including food, cash assistance, medical coverage, vocational services, or rehabilitation services; developmental centers; adoption agencies; businesses that provide food, shelter, social services, or other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged individuals, individuals with physical, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, or otherwise needy individuals;
    • Essential infrastructure, which includes, but is not limited to, food production, distribution, fulfillment centers, storage facilities, marinas, and sales; construction (except that optional or aesthetic construction should be avoided); building management and maintenance; airport operations; operation and maintenance of utilities, including water, sewer, gas, and electric oil and biofuel refining; roads, highways, railroads, and public transportation; ports; cybersecurity operations; flood control; solid waste and recycling collection and removal; and internet, video, and telecommunications systems;
    • Essential government functions, which are all services provided by the State, tribal, or local governments needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government body and provide and support the health, safety, and welfare of the public;
    • Any business or worker identified in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) memo, and any subsequent version of this memo 2;

    • Stores that sell groceries and medicine, including bakeries, provided they: (i) close all seating intended for consuming food; (ii) cease any self-service operations of salad bars, beverage stations, and buffets; (iii) except for grocery stores, prohibit customers from self-dispensing all unpackaged food; and (iv) abide by social distancing requirements;
    • Food and beverage production, transport, and agriculture;
    • Restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries, distilleries, and alcohol beverage retailers for take-out and delivery service of food;
    • Child care settings (pursuant to the restrictions found in Emergency Order #6)
    • Organizations that provide charitable and social services, including food banks and shelters;
    • Religious entities as long as any gathering includes fewer than ten (10) people in a room or confined space at a time and individuals adhere to social distancing requirements as much as possible;
    • Weddings and funerals as long as any gathering includes fewer than 10 people in a room or confined space at a time and individuals adhere to social distancing requirements as much as possible;
    • News media;
    • Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation, including auto and motorcycle supply, repair and sales; boat supply, repair, and sales; and bicycle supply, repair, and sales;
    • Financial institutions and services;
    • Hardware and supplies stores;
    • Critical trades, including, but not limited 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, and other 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.;
    • Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery, and pick-up services;
    • Laundry services, which includes, but is not limited to laundromats, dry cleaners, industrial laundry services, and laundry service providers;
    • Businesses that sell, manufacture, or supply products needed for people to work from home;
    • Businesses that sell, manufacture, or supply products needed for Essential Businesses and Operations and Essential Governmental Functions, which include, but are not limited to 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.;
    • Transportation, (which includes drivers for Lyft and Uber);
    • Home-based care and services;
    • Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, insurance services, real estate services (although these services shall, to the greatest extent possible, use technology to avoid meeting in person, including virtual meetings, teleconference, and remote work);
    • Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and 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.;
    • Critical labor union functions;
    • Hotels and motels;
    • Higher educational institutions for purposes of facilitating distance learning, performing critical research, or other essential functions.

Businesses that may not specifically fall within one of the categories above may may apply to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) requesting designation as such by submitting the form found at the bottom of the page at this link: https://wedc.org/essentialbusiness/


Non-Essential Businesses

If a business is not deemed “essential” pursuant to the Safer at Home Order, it does not mean that business must cease operation. Rather, the Safer at Home Order directs these business cease operations at its facilities located within Wisconsin. This does not preclude continued operations by employees or contractors who can work from home.

Also, Non-essential businesses may also conduct “Minimum Basic Operations.” According to the Safer at Home Order, Minimum Basic Operations include:

  1. 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, including where these functions are outsourced to other entities.

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


Social Distancing Requirements

Whether an Essential Business or a Non-essential Business is conducting Minimum Basic Operations, the Safer at Home Order requires Social Distancing Requirements be followed, which include:

  • maintaining social distancing of six (6) feet between people;
  • washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer;
  • covering coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow, not hands);
  • regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces;
  • not shaking hands;
  • following all other public health recommendations issued by DHS and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has issued guidance as to further precautions businesses can take to protect its employees and satisfy the Social Distancing Requirement click here to read more about the precautions advised.  At this time, these additional precautions are not mandated under the Safer at Home Order, but this may change in the future.


Enforcement of “Safer at Home”

The Safer at Home Order is enforceable by any local law enforcement official, including county sheriff’s. Violation or obstruction of it is punishable by up to 30 days imprisonment, or up to $250 fine, or both.

At this time, employees of Essential Businesses and Operations are not required to carry documentation when traveling to and from their place of employment. But remember that things are changing daily.


Additional Information about Emergency Order #11 “Safer at Home”

Governor Evers has issued the following FAQs regarding the Safer at Home Order:  https://evers.wi.gov/Documents/COVID19/Safer%20at%20Home%20FAQ%203.24.20.pdf  


Gerbers Law, S.C. is ready to assist businesses in assessing the risks and strategies associated the Safer at Home Order, as well as other issues related to COVID-19. Please call our office at 920-499-5700 to speak with someone today. Our staff will be available by phone, email, and video conferencing while this order is in place. 


 Please note that the general information provided on the Gerbers Law, S.C. blog is merely informative and should not be taken as legal advice. The content of Gerbers Law, S.C. blog is based on the state of the law at the time of its original publication. Legal developments can change quickly. As a result, the content of Gerbers Law, S.C. blog may not remain accurate as laws change over time. Your use of this site, as well as commenting, sending an inquiry, or contact email does not create an attorney- client relationship in any way. We highly recommend that you consult with a licensed attorney before you rely or act on this information.

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