Just a few days after extending his “Safer at Home” order for another month, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced a plan to gradually reopen the state’s economy. The “Badger Bounce Back” plan, unveiled Monday, includes three phases, the first of which would allow gatherings of as many as 10 people, the reopening of restaurants (with physical distancing and other practices in place), the partial reopening of nonessential businesses, and the reopening of K-12 schools and daycares.
According to an announcement from the governor’s office, the Wisconsin plan is “informed” by the “Guidelines for Opening Up America Again” released Thursday by the Trump administration. However, the media release explained, “Currently, Wisconsin does not meet the criteria the White House established to start reopening our state. The Badger Bounce Back plan takes important steps to get the state of Wisconsin there.”
"I am excited and hopeful about this plan,” Gov. Tony Evers said. “While being safe at home continues to be important, this plan is an all-out attack on the virus and it begins the process of preparing our businesses and our workforce for the important planning that will result in the safe and logical reopening of our economy.”
Reaching the first phase of the plan would require the state to see a decline in COVID-19 cases over a 14-day period and a decline in the share of positive COVID-19 tests as a percentage of all tests over a 14-day period, as well as the ability to treat all COVID-19 patients without crisis care and establishing “robust testing programs” for health care workers at risk of contracting the virus.
As of Monday, Wisconsin had 4,499 positive tests for the coronavirus and 230 deaths, according to the state Department of Health Services. Eau Claire County remained steady at 22 diagnosed cases, with 20 in Chippewa County and nine in Dunn County. No deaths have been attributed to the virus in any of those three counties.
“As we’ve learned over the past month, in the most difficult of circumstances, Wisconsinites will rise to the occasion, helping each other and working together to do what's best for our families, our neighbors, and our communities,” Evers said in a media release. “That’s what the Badger Bounce Back is all about: our resilience as a people and as a state. I am excited and hopeful about this plan. While being safe at home continues to be important, this plan is an all-out attack on the virus and it begins the process of preparing our businesses and our workforce for the important planning that will result in the safe and logical reopening of our economy.”
The second phase of the plan would further loosen restrictions by permitting gatherings of up to 50 people as well as allowing the reopening of bars, nonessential businesses, and potentially post-secondary schools. The third phase would essentially return most aspects of life in the state to normal – including the end of physical distancing – with a few restrictions, including recommendations against unnecessary visits to nursing homes and hospitals until a vaccine is available and the voluntary quarantine of travelers from COVID-19 hotspots.
Unlike the first phase, however, the “Bounce Back” plan doesn’t provide specific criteria for enacting phases two and three. Instead, it says these steps would be “based on re-evaluation of Criteria and Core Responsibilities,” which include boosting the state’s testing capacity to 12,000 tests per day, increasing the ability to trace and track coronavirus cases, and procuring adequate personal protective equipment for health care and public safety workers.
Some Republican lawmakers were quick to criticize Evers’ plan, saying the governor’s previous orders amounted to an overreaction to the pandemic and that the criteria of the “Badger Bounce Back” phases were too vague.
“At the press conference today, the governor gave no answers to when his benchmarks would be met, giving no clear direction at all,” state Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said in a press release. “Where are the metrics and targets he is tracking to get us to the point of reopening? I strongly encourage Gov. Evers to go back to the drawing board and come back with a workable plan that provides hope and relief to the people of Wisconsin. Far too many people are struggling, left in the turbulent wake of Gov. Evers’s policies.”
To learn more about the Badger Bounce Back plan, follow this link for the full document or this one for the two-page summary. And the emergency order establishing the plan can be read in full here.
Below is the announcement of the plan from the governor’s office:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 20, 2020
Gov. Evers Announces Badger Bounce Back Plan
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers today announced Wisconsin's "Badger Bounce Back" plan which outlines important criteria for Wisconsin to be able to reopen its economy in phases and includes steps to make sure workers and businesses are prepared to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so. In coordination with this announcement, at the direction of the governor, Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm issued Emergency Order #31 establishing the process and outlining the phases of the plan. The emergency order is available here.
“As we've learned over the past month, in the most difficult of circumstances, Wisconsinites will rise to the occasion, helping each other and working together to do what's best for our families, our neighbors, and our communities,” said Gov. Evers. “That's what the Badger Bounce Back is all about: our resilience as a people and as a state. I am excited and hopeful about this plan. While being safe at home continues to be important, this plan is an all-out attack on the virus and it begins the process of preparing our businesses and our workforce for the important planning that will result in the safe and logical reopening of our economy.”
The Badger Bounce Back plan is informed in part by the President's Guidelines for Opening Up America Again that was issued by the White House on April 16, 2020. Currently, Wisconsin does not meet the criteria the White House established to start reopening our state. The Badger Bounce Back plan takes important steps to get the state of Wisconsin there.
The goal of the Badger Bounce Back plan is to decrease cases and deaths to a low level, and increase capacity in our healthcare system so the phased reopening of businesses is possible. As part of that plan the state will be working to increase access to more testing and expand lab capacity. Under the Badger Bounce Back plan, everyone who needs a test should get a test. The state is setting a goal of 85,000 tests per week, averaging about 12,000 tests per day. More information on the state's testing efforts was released earlier today, and is available for review here.
Next, the state will be expanding contact tracing and more aggressively tracking the spread with the goal of every Wisconsinite who tests positive being interviewed within 24 hours of receiving their test results and their contacts being interviewed within 48 hours of test results.
Additionally, the state will continue to pursue every avenue to grow Wisconsin’s supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare and public safety entities to conduct COVID-19 testing, patient care, and public safety work. Finally, the plan works to bolster healthcare system capacity where patients can be treated without crisis care and there are more robust testing programs in place for at-risk healthcare workers.
The state will be looking for a downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses and COVID-19 symptoms reported within a 14-day period, and a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period. When the state has seen these efforts be successful, Wisconsin can begin to turn the dial, re-open the state, and get businesses and workers back on their feet.