COVID-19 in Wisconsin

Hamilton Consulting has created this website to direct clients and colleagues to the latest information on how Gov. Tony Evers, Wisconsin state agencies, and the Legislature are responding to COVID-19. Please keep in mind that the situation is quickly evolving, and the Hamilton Consulting team will try to keep this page as updated as possible. If you have any additional questions, please contact a member of the Hamilton Consulting team

Current number of cases in Wisconsin (updated by Department of Health Services daily at 2:00 p.m.)

 

Executive & Emergency Orders

Emergency Order #16 Health care provider credentialing
Effective immediately, the order:

  • Allows health care providers with a license issued by another state to practice in Wisconsin. Within 10 days of beginning to practice in Wisconsin, providers must obtain a temporary Wisconsin license, which lasts for 30 days after the conclusion of the public health emergency.
  • Expands the ability of physicians to practice telemedicine in Wisconsin.
  • Provides more flexibility for physician assistants to practice to the extent of their experience, education and training.
  • Allows nurses close to graduation to help with COVID-19 treatment.
  • Suspends some practice restrictions for advanced practice nurses. 
  • Provides the Department of Safety & Professional Services flexibility to eliminate licensing fees as needed.

Emergency Order #15 Temporary ban on evictions and foreclosures
Effective immediately and remains in effect for 60 days.

Emergency Order #12 – Safer at Home
Effective 8:00 a.m. Wednesday, March 24 through Friday, April 24, the order directs all individuals in Wisconsin to stay at home. Persons may leave their home to:

  • Obtain health care
  • Obtain necessary supplies
  • Engage in outdoor activity complying with social distancing requirements
  • Perform work at essential business operations
  • For any safety reasons

The order also directs all non-essential business and operations to cease. Essential businesses to remain open include the federal guidance on essential workforce and:

  • Health care and the health care supply chain
  • Food supply chain
  • Other stores that sell groceries and medicine
  • Restaurants and bars for take out and delivery only
  • Construction
  • Building management and maintenance
  • Airports
  • Utilities
  • Transportation services
  • Communications services
  • Child care, in accordance with emergency order #6
  • Charitable and social services
  • Media
  • Financial institutions and services
  • Other “critical trades” as defined in the order
  • Mail services
  • Professional services, including legal and insurance services
  • Manufacturing of critical products and industries

Businesses are encouraged to consult https://wedc.org/essentialbusiness/ to determine if they are considered an essential operation eligible to remain open.

All forms of non-essential travel are prohibited.

Essential government functions, including first responders and emergency management and the Legislature, remain open.

Safer at Home FAQs

Emergency Order #10 – Providing Department of Public Instruction flexibility.

Emergency Order #9 – Suspending admissions to state prisons.

Emergency Order #8 – Updating the mass gathering ban.
Clarifies emergency order #5, banning mass gatherings of 10 people or more and specifically closing salons, tattoo parlors, etc. Also updated under the order:

  • Bars and restaurants  may remain open for carryout, including alcohol carryout if municipal ordinance allows. 
  • Construction sites may remain open.
  • Clarifies that all activities necessary for the food supply chain are exempt. 

Emergency Order #7 – Waiving work search requirements for unemployment insurance.
Effective March 12, 2020, unemployment insurance claimants are no longer required to complete the ordinarily required four work search actions per week to be eligible for benefits. The order also ensures that claimants who are otherwise eligible but out of work due to COVID-19 are eligible for benefits.  

Emergency Order #6 – Restricting the size of child care settings.
Effective 8 a.m. Thursday, March 19, 2020, child care settings may not operate with more than 10 staff and 50 children present. The order directs parents to practice social distancing to the extent possible during pick up and drop off. The order also asks providers to prioritize families of health care and essential service providers. (Department of Children & Families guidance.)

Emergency Order #5 – Prohibiting mass gatherings of 10 people or more. (Supersedes previous emergency order)
Effective 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, 2020. The order specifies that all bars and restaurants close, except for take out or delivery.  The order also directs the closure of all public and private schools and extracurricular activities. Exemptions include:

  • Airports
  • Mass transportation
  • Polling places
  • Childcare
  • Hotels and motels
  • Government
  • Food pantries and shelters
  • Residential buildings
  • Retail establishments where people are generally not within arm’s length of each other for more than 10 minutes (Shopping malls are to close.)
  • Health care facilities
  • Office spaces (social distancing and teleworking should be implemented as much as practicable)
  • Manufacturing, processing, distribution and production facilities
  • Utility facilities
  • Job centers

Emergency Order – Prohibiting mass gatherings of 50 people or more.
Effective 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, March 17, 2020, mass gatherings of 50 people or more are prohibited. Exemptions include:

  • Airports
  • Polling places
  • Child care
  • Hotels and motels
  • Food pantries and shelters
  • Residential buildings
  • Shopping malls and other retail establishments where people are generally not within arm’s length of each other for more than 10 minutes
  • Health care facilities
  • Libraries
  • Restaurants and bars operating at 50 percent capacity or less than 50 people, with social distancing measures. 
  • Office spaces
  • Manufacturing, processing, distribution, and production facilities
  • Public transportation
  • Utility facilities
  • Job centers
  • Wisconsin Legislature and Wisconsin Court System

Executive Order #72 – Declaring a public health emergency.
The order directs the state Department of Health Services to lead the response, including by suspending provisions of administrative rules that would hinder response actions or increase the health threat. The order directs all state agencies to assist as appropriate. Additionally, the order declares a period of economic disruption and directs the Department of Trade, Agriculture & Consumer Protection to enforce prohibitions against price gouging.

 

Wisconsin Legislature

  • March 24 Senate floor period postponed. Senate to meet in extraordinary session at a later date to finish final business of 2019-20 session.
  • Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) are in talks with Gov. Evers on the potential for state legislation to address COVID-19.
  • Speaker Vos has indicated that the Joint Committee on Finance may have the requisite authority to administer or pass along federal dollars.
  • Possibility for Legislature to meet virtually. Senate President Roger Roth letter.
  • Legislation in other states – National Conference of State Legislatures and Kaiser Family Foundation
  • Legislation introduced to address COVID-19:
    • LRB 5830 Clarifying the taxpayers will not be penalized for filing taxes under the new deadline from the executive branch – July 15, 2020 (Sen. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield)
    • LRB 5832/AB 1035 Exempting medical equipment used to treat COVID-19 from the Unfair Sales Act (Sen. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield & Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon)
    • LRB 5922 Providing reciprocal licensing with other states (Sen. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere)
    • LRB 5924/AB 1033 Allowing departments to hire or re-hire retirees to protective service or corrections positions during the current emergency period without having to suspend their pension payments through WRS over the next year (Sen. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere & Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls)
    • LRB 5928 Public meetings during a state of emergency (Sen. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere)
    • LRB 5929 Postponing local board of review meetings to review objections to local assessments during a public health emergency (Sen. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere)
    • LRB 5942 Requiring the Department of Health Services to consider audio-only mental health therapy as telehealth eligible for coverage in Medicaid. Also requires health insurers to provide coverage. (Sen. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere)
    • LRB 5946 Giving municipalities flexibility to extend property tax due dates during a public health emergency (Sen. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield)
    • LRB 5953/AB 1037 Legislative authority in times of emergency (Sen. David Craig, R-Big Bend & Rep. Shae Sortwell, R-Two Rivers)
    • LRB 5957 Allowing health care providers to practice at the top of their individual training, education and experience and allowing providers from other states to practice in Wisconsin.
    • AB 1034 Waiving the one week waiting period for unemployment benefits during the public health emergency (Sen. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere & Rep. Teig Pronschinske, R-Mondovi)
    • Voter Protection Package (Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee)
  • Legislative Fiscal Bureau & Legislative Council resources:

 

Health Care & Insurance

Office of the Commissioner of Insurance

  • Many Wisconsin insurers are waiving members’ coronavirus testing costs, including Alliance of Health Insurers members Anthem and United HealthCare.
  • The state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) has issued a bulletin requesting health plans to remove barriers to testing and treatment of COVID-19. OCI requested insurers:
    • Review their preparedness for issuing information and timely access to services to insureds, including making information available on their websites.
    • Waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 tests and related visits.
    • Ensure telehealth programs are robust and able to meet increased demand.
    • Ensure adequacy of provider networks to handle increased demand.
    • Expedite prior authorization.
    • Cover immunization for COVID-19 in the event it becomes available.
    • Provide flexibility on prescription drug supply and early refill limitations.
  • OCI has issued corporate governance guidance to insurers on annual meeting requirements and is offering flexibility on regulatory filing deadlines. March 15 bulletin. Open for public comment until April 14.
  • OCI is making temporary changes to requirements for online continuing education courses.
  • Another bulletin from OCI:
    • Encourages insurers to offer flexibility to insureds who are incurring economic hardship. Accommodations will not be viewed as violating insurance laws.
    • States that no regulatory filings will be deemed automatically approved after 30 days.
    • Encourages electronic filings.
  • OCI issued guidance clarifying and encouraging small employers who have reduced employee hours to less than 30 hours per week to voluntarily continue to offer health care coverage to employees. OCI is also encouraging insurers to work with employers to provide the option of continuing dental, vision, and prescription drug benefits when offered as separate policies to employees whose hours have been reduced.
  • OCI issued guidance on business interruption insurance during COVID-19.
  • OCI issued guidance on transitional health plans, following guidance issued by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. OCI is allowing insurers to renew transitional health plans as long as the policies come into compliance with the Affordably Care Act by Jan. 1, 2022.

Department of Health Services

 

Economic Development & Workforce

  • The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has issued a scope statement to begin rulemaking implementing federal guidance on administering unemployment insurance during the pandemic period. The scope statement also includes modifications to work search requirements ordered by Gov. Evers in emergency order #7. (Scope Statement 013-20)
  • Unemployment insurance work search requirements waived. (Emergency order #7)
  • Unemployment insurance claimants who are otherwise eligible but out of work due to COVID-19 are eligible for benefits. (Emergency order #7)
  • Gov. Evers and DWD are looking to work with the Legislature to repeal the one week wait for unemployment insurance benefits.
  • DWD is encouraging employers to utilize the Work-Share Program and reduce employee hours as an alternative to laying off employees
  • Gov. Evers requested funding from the Small Business Administration (SBA) for Economic Injury Disaster Loans. The program provides up to $2 million in financial assistance to businesses with 500 or fewer employees. SBA approved the loans on March 20.
  • WEDC Small Business 20/20 Program. A $5 million dollar grant program that will allow businesses with 20 or less employees the ability to apply for a $20,000 grant that can be put toward regular expenses like payroll and rent.
  • WEDC task force to help small businesses. (More information to come.)
  • Gov. Evers has also directed WEDC to work with other agencies in creating a longer-term economic recovery unit.

 

Elections

Gov. Evers has maintained that he will not be moving the date of the April 7 elections in Wisconsin. The governor and other state and local officials are encouraging voters to request absentee ballots. Legislative leaders have indicated they agree with the governor’s decision not to move the election date.

  • Gov. Evers called on the Legislature via Twitter to send absentee ballots to all Wisconsin voters. Legislative leadership said this would not be logistically feasible in time for the April 7 election. Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald statement. Assembly GOP statement.
  • On March 22, a large group of local officials sent Gov. Evers and legislative leadership a letter asking for options to make holding elections easier on municipalities and voters in the midst of COVID-19.
  • The governor’s office is currently working with the Wisconsin Elections Commission and local election officials on obtaining sanitizing supplies to keep polling sites clean, obtaining more absentee ballots, recruiting poll workers, and addressing other issues related to the unusual circumstances of these elections.
  • Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) & Rep. Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee) have released a legislative package of measures to address elections during a public health emergency.
  • The City of Green Bay has filed a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Elections Commission, Gov. Evers, and DHS Secretary Andrea Palm, seeking to move the election date and switch to mail-in voting only.
  • A federal judge has extended the deadline to request a mail-in ballot to April 2.

 

Utilities

  • The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) has directed water, electric, and natural gas utilities to suspend disconnections for nonpayment during the public health emergency. Utilities must make reasonable attempts to reconnect services where service has been disconnected.
  • Gov. Evers suspended several utility related rules, giving PSCW flexibility to address the public health emergency. PSCW then directed utilities to:
    • Stop utility disconnection for all customers, including commercial and industrial.
    • Cease assessing late fees.
    • Allow deferred payment agreements for customers who request them.
    • Remove administrative barriers to establishing service.
    • Authorize water utilities to provide budget billing arrangements.

 

Transportation

  • The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is issuing COVID-19 Relief Effort Supply Permits for trucks operating on Wisconsin highways to exceed normal weight limits, waiving the fees for transportation of inventory to supply grocery retailers, and waiving truck driver hours.
  • The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance offered guidance to restaurants regarding insurance coverage for delivery drivers in the extraordinary circumstances of the public health emergency.
  • The Department of Trade, Agriculture & Consumer Protection is allowing gasoline sellers to sell gasoline with high Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) through the month of April. Normally, high RVP gas may not be sold in the summer.

 

Tax

  • Wisconsin Department of Revenue released guidance on audit and collection during COVID-19. Among other measures, the guidance:
    • Reminds taxpayers that if they cannot pay their entire tax bill at once, they can file an installment agreement. Taxpayers that already have an installment agreement, but are unable to meet the obligations under that agreement, may request a temporary suspension in payments.
    • States that DOR generally will not start new field audits on small businesses during the public health emergency.
  • Wisconsin’s Department of Revenue matched the federal government by extending the state tax filing deadline to June 15.

 

Courts

Wisconsin courts remain operational but with reduced calendaring.

  • Subject to certain exceptions, all proceedings in the courts of this state are to be conducted via remote audio-video technology if practicable. (Supreme Court order)
  • Wisconsin Supreme Court March 18, March 30, and April 1 oral arguments cancelled.
  • State courts administrative offices closed until at least April 3. (March 17 press release)
  • Some appellate filing deadlines extended and other filing procedures amended.  (Supreme Court order)
  • Nonemergency motions to the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court are discouraged through April 3. (Supreme Court order)
  • Many individual circuit courts have issued emergency orders related to COVID-19. (See COVID-19 tab at https://www.wicourts.gov/.)
  • The Supreme Court has also temporarily increased the number of credits from on-demand programs that lawyers may use to satisfy CLE requirements.
  • Civil and criminal jury trials are suspended until May 22.
  • The Supreme Court has postponed bar admissions ceremonies through May and instituted temporary procedures for admission to the bar.
  • The Supreme Court has established a temporary rule for the remote administration of oaths at depositions via remote audio-visual equipment.

 

Corrections

  • The Department of Corrections suspended admissions to all state prisons to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

 

Education

  • In emergency order #5, Gov. Evers ordered all Wisconsin schools closed.
  • Gov. Evers also directed the Department of Public Instruction to suspend rules related to hours of public instruction, student teacher assessments, and other general flexibility to address COVID-19.

 

Federal Legislation & Guidance

Coronavirus Relief Act (CARES Act)

  • Direct one-time payments to Americans making up to $99,000 per year
  • $500 billion corporate liquidity fund
  • $377 billion aid for small businesses
  • Boosts maximum unemployment benefits

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

  • 10 days paid leave benefits for workers (capped at companies with 500 or more employees; employers with fewer than 50 employees can apply for a waiver)
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Free testing

FFCRA FAQs from the U.S. Department of Labor

IRS Guidance on HSAs

  • IRS Notice 2020-15 says reduced-cost or free COVID-19 testing or treatment won’t prevent individuals from making or receiving health savings account contributions. Individuals covered by high deductible health plans will not lose eligibility to make or receive health savings account contributions if their plan permits pre-deductible COVID-19 testing and treatment without cost sharing. More information. 

Guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce

  • The guidance includes chemicals, commercial facilities, communications, critical manufacturing, emergency services, energy, financial services, food and agriculture, government, health care, information technology, transportation systems, and water and wastewater systems as essential.

 

State & Federal Resources

Center for Disease Control

Federal Department of Health & Human Services

Federal Department of Justice

All State Government Resources

Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

Wisconsin Department of Trade, Agriculture & Consumer Protection

Public Service Commission of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions

Wisconsin Department of Children & Families

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

University of Wisconsin System

Elections

Wisconsin PPE Donation/Buyback Program

 

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Resources

WMC has developed a state-based public policy response to the COVID-19 crisis.

On March 27, 2020, WMC hosted a phone call with U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin), Eric Niess, Wisconsin District Director for the U.S. Small Business Administration, and leaders from the Wisconsin Bankers Association and Wisconsin Credit Union. WMC Executive Vice President of Government Relations Scott Manley also gave a briefing on WMC’s public policy recommendations for COVID-19. Listen to the webinar here.

On March 25, 2020, WMC hosted a phone call featuring Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, as well as leaders from Wisconsin Hospital Association, Midwest Food Products Association, Wisconsin Grocers Association, and Wisconsin Restaurant Association. Listen to the webinar here.

On March 24, 2020, WMC hosted a phone call on the state’s Safer at Home order featuring Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Secretary & CEO Missy Hughes. Listen to the webinar here.

On March 24, 2020, WMC ) invited members of the Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce Executives to participate in a COVID-19 update call with the Small Business Administration. Listen to the webinar here.

On March 20, 2020, WMC hosted a phone call featuring U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin). Listen to the webinar here.

On March 18, 2020, WMC hosted a phone call for the business community that included updates from Governor Tony Evers, Secretary Caleb Frostman from the Department of Workforce Development, Missy Hughes, Secretary and CEO from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and Julie Willems Van Dijk, the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health Services. Listen to the webinar here.

On March 18, 2020, WMC hosted a phone call for the business community that provided updates related to COVID-19, including HR policies, employment law, Congressional actions, and an economic update from the U.S. Chamber. Listen to the webinar here.

More information from WMC at https://www.wmc.org/home/coronavirus-covid-19-business-resource-center/.

 

Wisconsin Response Timeline

March 27, 2020. Gov. Evers issues Emergency Order #15, temporarily banning evictions and foreclosures, and Emergency Order #16, providing flexibility for  health care provider scope of practice and credentialing.

March 26, 2020. Gov. Evers launches Wisconsin’s personal protective equipment donation/buyback program.

March 26, 2020. Gov. Evers delivers the Democratic weekly radio address on his Safer at Home order. Assembly Speaker Vos gives the GOP weekly radio address on the Wisconsin response to COVID-19.

March 24, 2020. Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul joined other state attorneys general in asking President Trump to fully utilize the Defense Production Act to prioritize production of medical equipment to fight COVID-19.

March 25, 2020. Legislative leaders hold a media availability on COVID-19 response.

March 24, 2020. Gov. Evers issues “Safer at Home” order, directing all individuals in Wisconsin to stay at home, limiting non-essential travel, and ceasing all non-essential business operations. DHS & Gov. Evers media briefing.

March 23, 2020. Gov. Evers announced via Twitter that he will issue on Tuesday, March 24, a “Safer at Home” order, closing non-essential businesses (modeled after federal essential workforce guidance). DHS & Gov. Evers media briefing.  Assembly Speaker Robin Vos & Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald statement.

March 22, 2020. Gov. Evers suspends several utility related rules.

March 21, 2020. Gov. Evers and Wisconsin Emergency Management ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist the state in obtaining protective medical supplies for first responders.

March 21, 2020. Legislative leaders respond to Wisconsin’s COVID-19 response, thanking health care workers and the Evers administration for their efforts. According to Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald, Senate President Roger Roth, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos & Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, “further shutdown of business in Wisconsin is unnecessary.” Another message from Gov. Evers urges Wisconsinites to stay home.

March 21, 2020. Department of Corrections suspends admissions to state prisons. Department of Revenue extends tax filing deadline.

March 20, 2020. Gov. Evers updates emergency order #5, banning mass gatherings of 10 people or more and specifically closing salons, tattoo parlors, etc.

March 19, 2020. Gov. Evers delivers the Democrats’ weekly radio address on COVID-19. Assembly Speaker Vos delivers the Republican weekly radio address on COVID-19.

March 18, 2020. Gov. Evers issues emergency order #7, waiving work search requirements for unemployment insurance, and emergency order #6, restricting the size of child care settings to no more than 10 staff and 50 children.

March 18, 2020. WEDC announces Small Business 20/20 grant program and requests funding for Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loans. SBA approved the loans on March 20.

March 17, 2020. Gov. Evers and DHS issue emergency order #5, prohibiting mass gatherings of 10 or more. DHS media briefing.

March 16, 2020. Gov. Evers and DHS issue an emergency order prohibiting mass gatherings of 50 or more. DHS & Gov. Evers media briefing.

March 12, 2020. Gov. Evers issues executive order #72, declaring a public health emergency. Gov. Evers media briefing.

March 6, 2020. OCI issues a bulletin requesting health plans remove barriers to testing and treatment of COVID-19.

 

See News Clips for the latest press coverage on COVID-19 in Wisconsin.

 

 

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