Palm Issues Order Restricting Mass Gatherings And Encourages Tighter Municipal Restrictions

October 7, 2020

Secretary Designee Andrea Palm signed a new COVID-19 emergency order yesterday, limiting the number of people who can occupy a public indoor space to 25% normal capacity. The order applies to any indoor place open to the public, such as grocery stores, businesses, office lobbies, bars, restaurants, and “ticketed events” like movie theaters.

The order also applies to events open to the public in a private residence, limiting that type of gathering to 10 people or less.

Public indoor spaces without an occupancy limit may only allow 10 people inside.

Public events that take place outdoors, like at a park or in an outdoor seating area for a restaurant, are exempt from the order.

Other exemptions include invite-only events, religious, political, and First Amendment-protected events, childcare and healthcare facilities, K-12 schools, and colleges.

During a Department of Health Services press conference with Governor Tony Evers, Palm stated multiple times that “We encourage local leaders to respond by putting additional mitigation orders in place in your communities.” The Emergency Order directly says the same: “Local governments may issue orders that are more restrictive than the provisions in this order.”

This order, Emergency Order #3, was issued under Executive Order #90. This is Governor Evers’ third state of emergency order related to COVID-19 in Wisconsin. 

The public reaction to the order was mixed.

“Today’s mass gathering order is the first attempt at creating shutdown conditions in Wisconsin. If Evers and Palm are not stopped now, the damage to Wisconsin families and businesses will lead to irreversible social and economic consequences,” said Senator Steve Nass (R-Whitewater).

Senator Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) wrote on Twitter, “My opposition to @GovEvers’ illegal orders was never about his mask mandate. Today’s order makes it clear he will continue unilaterally setting policy as long as we let him. It’s past time to come in & rescind his emergency declaration so he begins working with the Legislature.”

CEO of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, Kristine Hillmer, reacted, saying “I think it’s safe to say that right now the city of Milwaukee restaurants are feeling blindsided.” She believes that, without help, half of all restaurants will shut down after this order.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley (D-Milwaukee) said on his Twitter page, “With COVID cases & hospitalizations on the rise, it is imperative that we do everything possible to slow the spread. This order will help slow the spread and get us back on track.”

Sen. Nass continued “Evers and Palm are now openly abusing the rule of law for politically motivated purposes relating to the November election. Assembly Speaker Vos continues to enable the illegal conduct of this administration by blocking the Legislature from meeting to put an end to the improper emergency declaration and emergency orders issued under it.” 

Violators of Emergency Order #3 can be fined by local officials per Wis. Stat. § 252.25. The order takes effect from 8:00 AM on October 8, 2020 until November 6, 2020.