Some Wisconsin business owners feared COVID-19 shutdown

As Wisconsin's COVID-19 numbers spike again, with the state breaking its records this week for new cases and deaths, some business owners feared another shutdown. That fear grew as Gov. Tony Evers scheduled a rare Tuesday evening speech on Nov. 10.

"It’s tough, it’s really tough to survive right now and I really think that half the restaurants after winter won’t, to be frank," said Omar Shaikh, co-owner of Carnevor Steakhouse in Milwaukee. Shaikh, who is also board chair of VISIT Milwaukee, said his phone rang and rang on Tuesday -- business owners calling, worried about another shutdown.

It turned out, Gov. Evers did not mandate another stay-at-home order, instead he warned the state and offered an official order suggesting residents stay at home. 

"It's not safe to go out, it’s not safe to have others over. It's just not safe. And it might not be safe for a while yet," Gov. Evers said in his Tuesday evening address.

Carnevor will stay open, although Shaikh said he understands the governor's warning.

"I think he has to, to speak frank. We are in the middle of a pandemic, with cases spiking, I think that’s his job to do so," said Shaikh. "I think that businesses that run a responsible business, can keep people safe."

In March and April, restaurants, bars, schools and churches were closed. In May, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin struck down the Evers administration's "Safer at Home" order, which placed statewide health and safety restrictions on businesses.

"I'm just thankful that it’s not a complete shutdown right now. I think there would be very few restaurants that make it through if we have a complete shutdown. We all understand we’re in the middle of a pandemic," Shaikh said. "But, take into consideration there are some restaurants that spent months putting together a plan with the health department, with the medical college, to keep people safe. And, we take it very seriously."

At Carnevor, they're implementing a 58-page document on safety protocols, approved by the city's health department. It includes the use of a disinfectant sprayer between visits of guests, mask-wearing, hand sanitizer, frequent hand-washing, and eliminating tables.

Disinfecting sprayer used at Carnevor Steakhouse in Milwaukee

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As businesses try to stay afloat during the pandemic, the Wisconsin Hospital Association briefed members of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce -- the state's chamber of commerce. While sharing statistics on how Wisconsin is one of the hottest hotspots in the country, the hospital group said the state needs to triple-down on protective measures, like mask-wearing, to successfully manage the virus' spread.

Gov. Evers on Tuesday said he wanted to introduce new legislation to help Wisconsin during the pandemic. After the governor's speech, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he wants to negotiate with Gov. Evers to come up with a package of COVID-19 bills. In the spring, legislative Republicans won their case challenging the stay-at-home order.

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