In an announcement Monday afternoon, Gov. Tony Evers said he will order the closure of all nonessential businesses starting Tuesday, March 24, and is urging people to stay at home to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Evers previously ordered K-12 schools and a host of other businesses closed, including bars, restaurants and hair salons, and limited gatherings to no more than 10 people.

The newer, tighter restriction mirrors what others across the world and United States have done to try and force people not to leave their homes or interact with others unless absolutely necessary. His order, called “Safer at Home,” mirrors neighboring Illinois.

The full list of exemptions was not known at the Vilas County News-Review press time Monday night, but it will be updated on the newspaper’s website when available.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced that community spread of COVID-19 has occurred in Wisconsin, leading Evers to the new order.

This means that there are people who have tested positive who have no exposures to a known case nor did they travel to a location where there is known community spread.

Wisconsin coronavirus cases increased to 416 Monday, according to new numbers released by the DHS. The DHS also said Monday that 7,050 cases have come back negative. There have been cases in 30 Wisconsin counties.

As of Monday, March 23, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Vilas or Oneida counties. Updated numbers of positive cases per county and locations where community spread is being seen are updated on the DHS Outbreaks website daily at 2 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Vilas and Oneida county boards and health departments have declared a public health emergency exists in the county due to COVID-19, and have issued an inter-county travel advisory.

Due to high community coronavirus transmission in certain areas of the state, Vilas and Oneida county officials are recommending that people stay in their home area if they have a seasonal or second home in either county. 

The press releases issued by the counties state:

“Due to our very limited health-care infrastructure, please do not visit us now.

“People who have seasonal homes in Vilas (Oneida) County, please stay at your winter homes at this time. If you are already back in Vilas (Oneida) County, you must immediately self-isolate for 14 days.

“Vilas (Oneida) County has one of the highest populations of older adults in the state of Wisconsin. This population is at the highest risk of COVID-19; it is our priority to keep our older residents healthy and safe.

“The Vilas County Board will soon adopt a countywide COVID-19 emergency declaration. (The Oneida County Board adopted a countywide COVID-19 emergency declaration). Please be aware that additional health and travel restrictions may be imposed at that time.

“This is an ever-changing and very serious health situation, and Vilas (Oneida) County needs to be diligent in its response,” the press release concludes.

The coronavirus outbreak first started in Wuhan, China, but cases have been identified across the world, including the United States. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports there have been more than 33,000 COVID-19 cases in the United States with 400 deaths.


No mass gatherings

Gov. Evers last week directed DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to issue an agency order prohibiting mass gatherings of 10 people or more to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

The updated order maintains the ban on gatherings of 10 or more people and indefinite school closures, but included some changes and clarifications (these are expected to be updated on Tuesday):

• Bars and restaurants are treated the same. Bars will be able to have carryout sales of alcohol and food, if allowed by local ordinances and state law. This will help ensure thousands of establishments can stay in business during this unprecedented health emergency.

• Media and news organizations can remain open to provide the public with vital information.

• Laundromats may remain open.

• Banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions may remain open if they practice social distancing.

• All parts of the food delivery system — from farms to stores — may remain open.

• Cafeterias in health-care facilities may remain open to serve health-care workers.

• Allied health professions, such as acupuncturists, are unaffected by the mass gathering ban.

• All parts of the state’s transportation system can continue to serve the economy.

• Any facility used for in-person absentee voting or as a polling location may remain open for voting, except for sites at long-term care and assisted-care facilities.

• Hair salons, day spas, nail salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors, body art establishments and tanning facilities were required to close last Friday.

Social distancing

Linda Conlon, Oneida County public health officer, said social distancing is a strategy to limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel (new) coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2.

“This is a conscious effort to reduce contact between people to slow the spread of the virus. Social distancing will help keep you, your family, and our community from increased risk of exposure,” said Conlon.

“Even if you are symptom-free and not part of an at-risk group, you still need to change your lifestyle starting today,” said Conlon. “The number of confirmed cases in Wisconsin reminds all of us about the importance of social distancing and maintaining good hygiene to prevent the spread of disease.”

According to DHS, avoid public places, avoid public spaces, stay 6 feet away from other people, and stay home as much as possible. 

Oneida County Health Department is keeping track of the COVID-19 spread in Wisconsin. 

“We are working with our local, state and federal partners to deal quickly and effectively in the event people have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been around people who have been infected with the new coronavirus,” said Conlon.

“The health department wants everyone to know that while the risk of getting the illness remains low, people should follow simple steps to avoid getting sick, including:

— Frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water;

— Cover coughs and sneezes;

— Avoid touching your face;

— Stay home when sick;

— Practice social distancing; and

— Avoid social gatherings with people of all ages (including play dates and sleepovers, parties, large family dinners, visitors in the home and nonessential workers in the house).

“This is a rapidly evolving situation. This is what we know now, and information may change,” said Conlon. 

Evers also directed Palm to restrict the size of all child-care settings last week. 

Centers may not operate with more than 10 staff present at a time and may not operate with more than 50 children present at a time. 

The closure will remain in effect for the duration of the public health emergency declared by Executive Order No. 72.

To read the latest information about COVID-19, check the DHS website at and the CDC website at