On Oct. 6, 2020, Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm issued Emergency Order #3, Limiting Public Gatherings (Order #3) to slow the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Wisconsin by limiting public gatherings in businesses, stores or facilities that are open to the public. Order #3 does not specifically close any business or locations, but does enact capacity restrictions.

Indoor locations and ticketed events that are open to the public such as bars, restaurants and stores must limit their capacity to 25 percent of the occupancy limit established by the local municipality. For spaces without an established occupancy limit, public gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people.

Places not open to the public are exempted from Order #3. These locations include office spaces, manufacturing plants and other facilities that are accessible only by employees, authorized personnel or invited guests. Businesses should be aware that locations that are accessible to the public, such as a lobby, would still be subject to the capacity restrictions established in Order #3.

Invitation-only events that exclude uninvited guests and private residences that are not open to the public are also exempt from Order #3.

Order #3 provides a wide list of specific exemptions as well, including child care settings, schools, colleges, universities, a wide array of health care and human services operations, state and local government operations (including polling places), places of religious worship, and political rallies, demonstrations and other speech protected by the First Amendment. 

Businesses should keep in mind that they must also comply with any orders from local health departments that remain in effect, including those that are more restrictive than Order #3.

Order #3 takes effect Oct. 8, 2020, at 8:00 a.m. and will remain in effect until Nov. 6, 2020. Order #3 is enforceable by civil forfeiture of no more than $500 per violation. The Evers administration has also put out a Frequently Asked Questions document providing additional guidance.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.