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Wisconsin chamber of commerce calls for opening businesses

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s chamber of commerce on Friday called for opening businesses starting May 4, three weeks sooner than will occur under Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce released its plan hours before protesters were expected to converge on the Capitol to call for reopening the state. Evers’ current order closing most nonessential businesses runs until May 26, but Republicans are asking the state Supreme Court to block it and force the Department of Health Services to propose a new rule.

The state chamber said its plan is designed to allow for a safe, phased opening of businesses, taking into account those that are operating in rural or suburban places and have seen relatively little harm from COVID-19. By Thursday, there were more than 5,000 confirmed cases statewide and nearly 260 deaths. More than half of those have been in Milwaukee. But the number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.

The state’s health leaders have said the number of cases appears to be trending downward, but they were watching closely for a yet-to-develop spike tied to in-person voting in the April 7 election. They also urged protesters to keep a safe distance from one another.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce said its plan was developed with advice from a diverse group of business, government and medical interests. They said it draws on recommendations made by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control.

The plan sets up an algorithm that takes into account local infection rates, reliance on health care, population density and other considerations to determine what limitations should be placed on a business. Republicans have been arguing that the state needs to be more flexible in how it approaches closures, given that the majority of coronavirus cases are in urban places like Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay.

Evers did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the plan. But he has consistently argued that his order keeping most businesses closed until May 26 is driven by science and the best way to curb the spread of the virus. Evers has also said he’s open to making revisions as conditions change.

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