March 13, 2020 Contact: Jennifer Miller/Elizabeth Goodsitt 608-266-1683
Governor Evers and DHS Secretary-designee Palm Close
Today Governor Tony Evers directed Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to close all public schools beginning at 5 p.m. on Wednesday March 18th. We will re-evaluate after two weeks.
We are using every tool that we have to protect our community. We did not make this decision lightly. We are all in this together to protect Wisconsin and the most vulnerable among us. We understand everyone will be impacted by this and have their lives disrupted, but we need to do this to protect our families and Wisconsin from this outbreak. Extraordinary measures like closing schools, restricting mass gatherings, and cancelling travel will slow the spread of the disease and help our health care system so those affected can get the care they need. We have been anticipating and preparing for community spread in Wisconsin. We have some early signs that this is beginning to occur in some communities and anticipate spread to more communities over the next few weeks.
Following is the Governor's news release:
Gov. Evers Directs DHS to Mandate Statewide Closure of All K-12 Wisconsin Schools
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers today directed Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to issue an agency order mandating the statewide closure of all K-12 schools, public and private, as part of the state’s efforts to respond to and contain the spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin. A copy of DHS Secretary-designee Palm’s order can be found here.
The mandated closure will begin on Wednesday, March 18th, in order to give school districts ample time to make plans for kids, families, educators, and staff. School districts, particularly those in counties with reported cases of COVID-19, may choose to close earlier than Wednesday. The anticipated reopening date is April 6, 2020; however, the reopening date is subject to change pending further information.
“Closing our schools is not a decision I made lightly, but keeping our kids, our educators, our families, and our communities safe is a top priority as we continue our work to respond to and prevent further spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin,” said Gov. Evers.
Earlier today, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 11 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 19 cases, including one individual who has recovered.
“Kids and families across Wisconsin often depend on our schools to access food and care,” Gov. Evers continued. “We are going to continue working to do everything we can to ensure kids and families have the resources and support they need while schools are closed.”
On Thursday, March 12th, the governor signed an executive order that directs DHS to take all necessary and appropriate measures to prevent and respond to incidences of COVID-19. It allows the Department to purchase, store, or distribute appropriate medications, regardless of insurance or other health coverage, as needed to respond to the emergency. It also authorizes state funds to support local health departments with costs related to isolation and quarantine, as well as the use of the Wisconsin National Guard.
Decisions about the implementation of other community measures will be made by state and local officials based on CDC and DHS guidance, as well as the scope of the outbreak.
People should follow simple steps to prevent illness and avoid exposure to this virus including:
Frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water;
Covering coughs and sneezes;
Avoiding touching your face;
Staying home when sick.
Recently DHS released new guidance for mass gatherings and travel, which can be found at the DHS website linked below.