MMAC wants phased-in restart of state’s economy to begin before expiration date of Evers’ ‘Safer at Home’ order

Tim Sheehy, MMAC president
Tim Sheehy, MMAC president

Last updated on May 6th, 2020 at 12:59 pm

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce on Tuesday announced that its board on Friday unanimously approved a resolution calling for a phased-in “smart restart” of the state’s economy, beginning as early as the week of May 11, two weeks before Gov. Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” order is scheduled to expire.

Evers’ initial “Safer at Home” order, intended to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, went into effect on March 25 and was scheduled to end on April 24, but was extended to May 26. While businesses deemed “essential” have been allowed to continue to operate under the order, many others have been forced to either totally shut down or significantly scale back operations resulting in a massive decline to the state’s economy. Evers recently eased some restrictions on businesses, but has said the economy needs to be reopened slowly, like turning a dial.

MMAC president Tim Sheehy today said the organization supported the governor’s initial “Safer at Home” order, but urged Evers to begin a phased reopening of the state’s economy.

“MMAC’s support of Gov. Evers’ initial “Safer at Home” order through April 24 was strongly informed by concerns raised by health care leaders over the speed of the disease’s spread and the possibility of our health care systems being overwhelmed with critically ill patients,” Sheehy said. “That initial Safer at Home period has had the desired effect of ‘flattening the curve’ of COVID-19 spread to the point where we can safely begin reopening the economy, with measures in place to protect employees and customers, without putting our health system capacity at risk.”

Social distancing measures, including “Safer at Home” have helped to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state and so far southeastern Wisconsin’s hospitals have not been overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients as many had feared, health officials say. Evers has remained cautious and extended the “Safer at Home” order saying relaxing it too early would lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the state, and more deaths from the disease.

But each day that “Safer at Home” lasts, the economic damage continues to mount. Economists at UW-Madison estimated the state’s unemployment rate at 16.7% as of April 16. The high during the Great Recession was 9.3%.

“The extension of this (Safe at Home) order to May 26 is well-intentioned, and we appreciate the challenge that elected officials face in an unprecedented crisis,” Sheehy said. “However, it is time to move forward with a smart restart to build employee and consumer confidence, which is the best cure for our economic ills. We believe the (Milwaukee) region can work together and find ways to resume additional economic activity while adapting smart practices to protect employees and customers.”

Click here to view MMAC’s proposed “Smart Restart” plan for the Wisconsin economy.

Two weeks ago, Evers unveiled his “Badger Bounce Back” plan as a guide for how and when he wants to reopen the state’s economy. The order requires a 14-day decline in new COVID-19 cases before the state could resume normal operations (as of Monday the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the state had declined for three days in a row). The plan sets goals of increasing COVID-19 testing to 85,000 tests per week, adding 1,000 contact tracers across the state and getting more personal protective equipment for health care and public safety workers. On Monday, Evers said the state is now prepared to provide 85,000 COVID-19 tests per week.

In late April, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce proposed a plan to reopen the Wisconsin economy by accounting for conditions in specific counties and a company’s industry.

Evers’ “Safer at Home” order is facing a legal challenge from Republican leaders in the Legislature. The state Supreme Court is hearing arguments today on that dispute. Meanwhile, GOP leaders met with Evers on Monday to discuss reopening plans for the state.

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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