Wisconsin – Coronavirus State Actions

Governors are working closely with federal and local officials as well as private sector partners to address the threat of the novel coronavirus. This page lists select actions through 31 July 2020. It is not intended to be exhaustive but is meant to highlight key actions and resources that may inform other states and territories as they prepare for and respond to the novel coronavirus. All state actions can be viewed here, or visit Coronavirus: What You Need To Know for additional information and resources.


Wisconsin Department of Health Services coronavirus resource page.

  • March 6, 2020—The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance released a bulletin with insurance-related information regarding COVID-19.
  • March 12, 2020—Governor Evers declared a public health emergency
  • March 12, 2020—Governor Evers declared a public health emergency and restricted state employee travel.  
  • March 14, 2020 – The Governor ordered K-12 school (public and private) to close starting March 18 with an anticipated reopening date of April 6.
  • March 16, 2020 – The Governor directed the Department of Health Services secretary to issue an agency order prohibiting mass gatherings of 50 people or more statewide to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Restaurants and bars are required to operate at less than 50 percent capacity or have fewer than 50 people, whichever is less.
  • March 17, 2020 – The Governor directed the Department of Health Services to issue an emergency order prohibiting mass gatherings of more than 10 people.
  • March 18, 2020 – The Economic Development Corporation is administering the Small Business 20/20 program to support small businesses and micro-enterprises adversely economically impacted by the COVID-19 Virus.  The program provides funds to Wisconsin-based Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to make grants to existing loan clients to mitigate short-term cash flow issues.
  • March 18, 2020 – The Governor issued an emergency order waiving work search requirements and modifying eligibility requirements for unemployment insurance benefits.
  • March 18, 2020 – The Governor requested Economic Injury Disaster Loan Assistance for Wisconsin small businesses, private, and non-profit organizations to alleviated economic impacts.
  • March 19, 2020 – The Governor urged the public to follow CDC and Wisconsin Department of Health Services guidance by staying home and self-isolating.
  • March 20, 2020 – The Governor announced approval of Economic Injury Disaster Loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration to Wisconsin small businesses.
  • March 20, 2020 – The Governor directed the Department of Health Services to issue updates to a previous order regarding the prohibition of mass gatherings. The changes include:
    • Permitting bars and restaurants to have carryout sales of alcohol and food;
    • Allowing media and news organizations to remain open;
    • Allowing banks, credit unions, and financial institutions to remain open if they maintain social distancing;
    • Allowing all actors in the food delivery system to remain open;
    • Clarifying that cafeterias in healthcare facilities may remain open;
    • Exempting health professionals from mass gathering bans;
    • Permitting facilities used for in-person absentee voting or polling locations to remain open, except for long-term care facilities and assisted care facilities; and
    • Closing hair salons, spas, nail salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors, body art establishments, and tanning facilities.
  • March 20, 2020 – The Governor requested the federal government to take steps to ensure access to personal protective equipment (PPE) from the National Strategic Stockpile (NSS).
  • March 20, 2020 – The Governor urged residents to follow CDC and Wisconsin Department of Health Services guidance to stay home as much as possible.
  • March 21, 2020 – The Governor requested the assistance of FEMA in obtaining PPE for law enforcement officers and firefighters at risk of direct exposure.
  • March 22, 2020 – The Governor directed the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to suspend administrative rules to grant flexibility to school systems. The order will:
    • Streamline waivers regarding required hours of instruction in public schools;
    • Allow students in teacher preparation programs to graduate on time; and
    • Provide flexibility in upcoming due dates.
  • March 22, 2020 – The Governor issued Emergency Order #11, suspending utility-related administrative rules to allow the Public Service Commission to temporarily order consumer protection measures.
  • March 24, 2020 – The Governor directed the Department of Health Services Secretary-designee to issue a “Safer at Home” order, prohibiting non-essential travel, with certain exceptions. The order will remain in effect until April 24. 
  • March 26, 2020 – The Governor launched the COVID-19 PPE Program to more efficiently move personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves, to healthcare workers and first responders. The program also allows Wisconsinites to donate or sell large quantities of PPE here.
  • March 27, 2020 – The Governor directed the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to temporarily order the suspension of evictions and foreclosures.
  • March 27, 2020 – The Governor and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee issued an Executive Order to simplify healthcare license renewals and streamline workforce re-entry of retired healthcare practitioners, out-of-state practitioners, and practitioners holding expired licenses.
  • March 30, 2020 – The Governor announced a public-private partnership among Wisconsin industry leaders to increase Wisconsin’s laboratory testing capacity for COVID-19.
  • March 31, 2020 – The Governor issued an emergency order, suspending administrative rules for the Department of Children and Families to grant flexibility for the provision of child care.
  • March 31, 2020 – The Governor sent a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requesting a major disaster declaration for the state.
  • March 31, 2020 – The Governor announced the Emergency Operations Center will open two state-run voluntary isolation facilities in Madison and Milwaukee.
  • April 1, 2020 – The Governor announced a package of legislative proposals to respond to COVID 19. Proposed legislation would:
    • Provide investments in health services;
    • Establish a COVID-19 reinsurance program to reduce health insurance premiums;
    • Prohibit utility cooperatives from disconnecting customers;
    • Increase Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income families; and
    • Provide grants funding for small businesses and workers through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
  • April 2, 2020 – The Governor issued a statement regarding absentee voting for the April 7 election. The decision by U.S. District Judge William Conley will:
    • Extend the deadline to request an absentee ballot until April 3;
    • Allow ballots to be counted that are received after the election until April 13; and
    • Ease requirements for a witness signature.
  • April 3, 2020 – The Governor issued an executive order calling a Special Legislative Session on Saturday, April 4, to address changes to the spring election.
  • April 6, 2020 – The Governor signed an executive order suspending in-person voting for the April 7 election until June 9, and calling the Legislature to a special session to address the election date.
  • April 8, 2020 – The Economic Development Corporation announced a new $5 million program created to assist small businesses and micro-enterprises in Wisconsin.
  • April 9, 2020 – The Governor directed the Department of Natural Resources to close several state parks beginning April 10.
  • April 9, 2020 – The Governor announced that the Army Corps of Engineers has begun mobilizing at the Exposition Center at Wisconsin State Fair Park to begin developing an alternative care facility (ACF).
  • April 9, 2020 – The Governor reiterated options for religious gatherings and services while complying with the “Safer at Home” order.
  • April 10, 2020 – The Governor announced that the state is seeking active and retired healthcare professionals to volunteer to support the healthcare system.
  • April 11, 2020 – The Governor announced the state’s application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to begin development of a second alternative care facility in Wisconsin.
  • April 16, 2020 – The Governor directed the Department of Health Services to extend the existing Safer at Home order until May 26. The new order implements further public health measures, and guides businesses in ramping up operations.
  • April 20, 2020 – The Governor announced a collaboration with the Wisconsin Clinical Lab Network to increase testing capacity.
  • April 20, 2020 – The Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee issued an Emergency Order establishing the official process for the Badger Bounce Back reopening plan.
  • April 20, 2020 –The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Wisconsin’s request for a Section 1135 Medicaid waiver. The approved waiver enables Wisconsin to provide flexibilities in Medicaid provider screening and enrollment, forgo certain pre-admission screening and annual resident review assessments, lift prior authorization requirements, allow for reimbursement facility services in alternative settings, extend fair hearing timelines and waive public comment and tribal consultation requirements for certain changes to the Medicaid state plan.
  • April 23, 2020 – The Governor and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee signed Emergency Order #32, regarding the operation of an alternative care facility at State Fair Park in West Allis.
  • April 27, 2020 – The Governor signed Emergency Order #34, expanding allowed operations for essential businesses, and allowing nonessential businesses to do curbside drop-off of goods and animals.
  • April 28, 202 – The Governor directed the Department of Natural Resources to re-open several state parks, forests, and recreational areas beginning May 1, under special conditions to minimize overcrowding and meet social distancing requirements.
  • April 29, 2020 – The Governor announced that dozens of organizations filed an amicus brief asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to uphold the Governor’s Safer at Home Order.
  • May 1, 2020 – The Governor announced coordination with local health departments to create community testing events in locations with a known lack of access to testing and locations that need additional testing due to high rates of COVID-19.
  • May 4, 2020 – The Governor announced the state’s plan to make Wisconsin one of the top states in testing per capita.
  • May 5, 2020 – The Governor announced enhanced contact tracing efforts as part of the Badger Bounce Back Plan.
  • May 8, 2020 – The Governor outlined best practices and safety guidelines for Wisconsin businesses as they begin reopening.
  • May 8, 2020 – The Governor announced that 1,000 ethnically diverse micro-businesses  that have not received SBA Paycheck Protection Program or state relief are eligible for $2,000 grants to assist with losses due to COVID-19.
  • May 11, 2020 – The Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee signed Emergency Order #36, allowing standalone or strip-mall based retail stores to offer in-person shopping for up to five customers at a time, and drive-in theaters to operate with some restrictions.
  • May 11, 2020 – The Governor announced that the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Wisconsin National Guard will support two new community-based testing locations in Milwaukee and in Madison.
  • May 18, 2020 – The Governor announced a donation of 210,000 procedural masks from international businesses and the Taiwanese government, increasing the state’s supply of personal protective equipment.
  • May 18, 2020 – The Governor announced a $75 million grant program to provide assistance to small businesses as part of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s We’re All In Initiative.
  • May 19, 2020 – The Governor announced a $1 billion statewide effort to support COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, acquisition of supplies, emergency operations, and resources for local communities.
  • May 20, 2020 – The Governor launched a $25 million Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program for Wisconsinites who have experienced income loss as a result of COVID-19.
  • May 20, 2020 – The Governor announced the Wisconsin Farm Support Program, a $50 million investment to provide direct payments to Wisconsin farmers in support of the agricultural sector, and a $15 million Food Security Initiative.
  • May 21, 2020 – The Governor announced a $100 million grant program to support providers most at risk for financial hardship during COVID-19. Financial assistance will target emergency medical services, home and community-based services, and long-term care providers such as skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities.
  • May 27, 2020 – The Governor launched the “Route to Recovery: Local Government Aid Grants” program, a $200 million effort aimed at helping local leaders address their urgent and unique recovery needs. Through the Department of Administration (DOA), recovery grants will be allocated to every Wisconsin county, city, village, town, and federally recognized tribe.
  • June 11, 2020 – The Governor announced that hospitals across the state will receive direct payments from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WDHS) to assist with lost revenue and expenses incurred related to the COVID-19 pandemic. WDHS will distribute payments from the $40 million provided to Wisconsin under the CARES Act.
  • June 17, 2020 – The Governor announced more than $80 million in financial assistance to Wisconsin’s K-12 schools and higher education institutions to assist with challenges faced in light of COVID-19.
  • July 7, 2020 – The Governor announced additional efforts to distribute PPE to schools, food processors, and businesses. Wisconsin Emergency Management will begin shipping more than 2 million face cloths and more than 4,200 infrared thermometers to K-12 public, charter, and private schools. Additionally, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection is facilitating the delivery of approximately 60,000 masks to local food processors and businesses.  
  • July 23, 2020 – The Governor announced that 155 local education agencies (LEAs) are eligible to apply for the $46.4 million provided through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. Eligibility for funding is based on economic disadvantage, access to personal computing devices, access to internet, and students’ score on the English Language Arts Assessment.