Updated: May 15, 2020

Supreme Court of Wisconsin

May 13, 2020 Order:

  • On May 13, 2020, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin issued a decision in the Wisconsin Legislature v. Palm case, which declared Wisconsin Emergency Order No. 28 unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable.  The decision specifically states it does not apply to Section 4.a. of the Emergency Order (relating to public and private K-12 school closures).
  • Since the order has been declared invalid and unenforceable, all restrictions imposed on businesses (except schools) under Emergency Order No. 28 are lifted.
  • However, many counties and cities have issued their own stay-at-home orders, which remain in effect.

Updated: April 16, 2020


  • Wisconsin Emergency Order No. 28 extends prior Safer at Home Order No. 12 through May 26, 2020 and implements additional changes allowing certain businesses and activities to open back up pursuant to Safe Business Practices.
  • Businesses and activities that can ramp up service and operations include public libraries, golf courses, certain non-essential businesses, arts and crafts stores, and exterior work (e.g., construction and lawn care).
  • The order spells out a number of Safe Business Practices
    • Essential Businesses and Operations: Essential Businesses and Operations must increase cleaning and disinfection practices, ensure that only necessary workers are present, and adopt policies to prevent COVID-19 exposed or symptomatic workers from coming to work.
    • Retailers: Retail stores that are Essential Businesses and Operations must limit people in stores, provide proper spacing, and certain large stores must offer at least two hours a week of dedicated shopping for vulnerable populations.
    • Supply Chain: Essential Businesses and Operations that supply, manufacture, or distribute goods and services to other Essential Businesses and Operations can only continue operations that are necessary to those businesses; otherwise only Minimum Basic Operations are permitted.


Executive Summary

Wisconsin Emergency Order No. 12 (Safer at Home order) (1) requires individuals present within the State of Wisconsin to stay at home or at their place of residence; (2) requires non-essential business and operations to cease; (3) prohibits public and private gatherings beyond a household or living unit.  Essential Businesses and Operations and Essential Government Functions, however, shall continue to operate.  The order references the CISA Essential Critical Infrastructure list and also identifies additional industries and businesses that are specifically included as essential businesses and operations under the order. 

Summary of Order

  • Issued on March 24, 2020.
  • The order is effective starting March 25, 2020, at 8:00 a.m. through April 24, 2020 at 8:00 a.m. or until a superseding order is issued.
  • All businesses and operations in the State, except those on the CISA Essential Critical Infrastructure list and enumerated Essential Businesses and Operations, are required to cease activities within the State.
  • In addition to those listed on the CISA Essential Critical Infrastructure list, the order lists Essential Businesses and Operations:
    • Stores that sell groceries and medicine
    • Food and beverage production, transport, and agriculture
    • Restaurants (limited operations)
    • Bars (limited operations)
    • Child care settings
    • Organizations that provide charitable and social services
    • Weddings, funerals, and religious entities (fewer than 10 people)
    • Funeral establishments
    • Media
    • Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation
    • Financial institutions and services
    • Hardware and supplies stores
    • Critical trades
    • Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery and pick-up services
    • Laundry services
    • Supplies to work from home
    • Supplies for Essential Businesses and Operations and Essential Government Functions
    • Transportation
    • Home-based care and services
    • Professional services
    • Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries
    • Critical labor union functions
    • Hotels and motels
    • Higher education institutions
    • WEDC designated businesses

Social Distancing Requirements

  • For purposes of this Order, Social Distancing Requirements includes
    • maintaining social distancing of six (6) feet between people;
    • washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer;
    • covering coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow, not hands);
    • regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces; not shaking hands; and
    • following all other public health recommendations issued by DHS and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.


  • The order is enforceable by any local law enforcement official, including county sheriffs. Violation or obstruction is punishable by up to 30 days’ imprisonment, or up to $250 fine, or both, pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 252.25.


Critical infrastructure sectors listed in CISA guidance (check list at link above for detailed list of worker functions):

  • Healthcare / Public Health
  • Law Enforcement, Public Safety, and Other First Responders
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Energy — Natural Gas, Natural Gas Liquids (NGL), Propane, and Other Liquid Fuels
  • Water and Wastewater
  • Transportation and Logistics
  • Public Works and Infrastructure Support Services
  • Communications and Information Technology
  • Other Community- or Government-Based Operations and Essential Functions
  • Critical Manufacturing
  • Hazardous Materials
  • Financial Services
  • Chemical
  • Defense Industrial Base
  • Commercial Facilities
  • Residential/Shelter Facilities and Services
  • Hygiene Products and Services