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Wisconsin Issues Emergency “Stay at Home” Order: What You Need to Know

Earlier today, Governor Evers issued a statewide Emergency Stay at Home Order requiring all individuals to stay in their homes. Notably, the Order exempts individuals from complying with the stay at home mandate for “Essential Activities”, Essential Government Functions”, Essential Businesses and Operations”, non-essential “Minimum Basic Operations”, “Essential Travel”, and “Special Situations”.

While it is important to comply with the spirit of the mandate as best as we can to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19, these exemptions are very broad. The exemptions apply to a wide variety of businesses and activities and, in all reality, will not restrict most from conducting business as needed. Although the top priorities remain food, supplies and medical care, other businesses may continue to operate in line with the Order’s requirements.

Most importantly, individuals do not need special permission to leave their homes, but they must comply with this order as to when it is permissible to leave home. Similarly, if a business is an Essential Business or Operation as defined in the Order, it does not need documentation or certification to continue its work that is done in compliance with this order. The Order is essentially saying that all you need is a verbal reason to be outside of your home. Neither businesses nor employees need a “hall pass” in the form of a note or government certification that your business or employment is essential.

What are the permitted reasons for leaving your home?
If you are stopped and questioned about your outside presence, travel to and from an essential business qualifies as a permitted reason for leaving your home. Other permitted reasons for leaving your home include leaving your home for health or safety reasons, leaving your home for necessary supplies and services, outdoor activity such as hiking or running, and taking care of others. For a complete list of essential activities and what qualifies as a permitted activity please consult the Order.

What businesses are essential?
The Order contains a list of all industries and types of businesses that are deemed essential under Section 13. As you can see, the list is expansive. Some of the most common businesses deemed essential are stores  that sell groceries and medicines, food and beverage production and agriculture, bars and restaurants, gas stations, child care centers, financial institutions and services, “critical trades” such as construction, sheet metal, fabricators, waste management and recycling companies, etc., professional services such as accounting and law firms, and WEDC designated businesses.

In the exceptional circumstance that a business is not listed in this Order as an Essential Business or Operations but believes that it should be included in that designation, the business should consult the information page on the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) website, here: www.wedc.org/essentialbusiness. If a business still believes that it does not fall within the meaning of Essential Businesses and Operations, it may apply to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) using the provided form requesting designation as such.

When does it become effective?
The Order goes into effect on Wednesday, March 25 at 8:00 am and will remain in effect until Friday, April 24 at 8:00 am, unless superseded by another Order from the Governor.

If an individual or business is found to be in violation of this Order, it is punishable by a fine of up to $250 or 30 days imprisonment. The mandate is enforceable by local police. If you are stopped while out and about, you should be prepared to give police officers the reasons for why you are out of your home. This Order supersedes local (i.e. city/municipality) orders in conflict with this Order.


This Order is no reason to be alarmed. If you have questions whether your business is covered under the definition of Essential Businesses, be sure to check the WEDC website for a list of exempt businesses. As always, please contact your OVB Law team with any further questions.

Very Truly Yours,
OVB Law & Consulting, S.C

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by Emil Ovbiagele

Emil is an award-wining attorney and the founder of OVB Law & Consulting, S.C. He is known for his knack for creating customized legal and business solutions for his clients.