Gov. Tony Evers in early 2020. (Courtesy Larry Lee)

Governor orders all K-12 schools closed through early April

By Patrick Lynn

Gov. Tony Evers on Friday has ordered all K-12 schools, public and parochial, to close starting March 18 as part of the state’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The order was issued through the Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm.

The mandated closure will begin on Wednesday, March 18, in order to “give school districts ample time to make plans for kids, families, educators, and staff,” according to a news release from Evers’ office.

The order is anticipated to be lifted April 6, but that is subject to change, Evers said.

“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,” Evers said.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services on March 13 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,” 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 DHS 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 handwashing with soap and water; covering coughs and sneezes; avoiding touching your face, and staying home when sick.