Gov. Evers unsure about when stay at home will end, executives expect extended recovery
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said Monday he can't yet predict when the stay at home order can safely lift. Even after it does, economic recovery from COVID-19 will take at least until late 2020 to fully materialize, business executives said.
Before more businesses can reopen their workplaces, there must be a consistent slowing of COVID-19’s spread, said Evers and others. There must be more testing to identify people who catch the disease after returning to work, and large numbers of investigators who can then figure out who they came into contact with. Those people would then be asked to self-quarantine.
“Public health is going to look different in the future,” Evers said.
Evers and others discussed a potential return to work during a Monday teleconference organized by the Greater Milwaukee Committee.
The shared wisdom among speakers on that conference was the return to work will happen gradually, as will an overall economic recovery. Jonas Prising, chairman and CEO of ManpowerGroup, said a V-shaped recovery with a swift rebound is “extremely unlikely.” He predicted the economy won’t return to its pre-pandemic “rhythm” until late 2020 or early 2021.
“The idea that demand would bounce back the minute we feel we are in a better place is unlikely to happen, as much as I would like to think it would happen,” he said. “I think we are in for a long 'U' of a recovery.”
Regarding the timing to lift his stay at home order in Wisconsin, Evers said “we just don’t know yet.”
“I’d love to have this over tomorrow, but at the end of the day I don’t want to be here talking to you about it a year from now,” Evers said.
Evers issued his “safer at home” order on March 24, telling companies whose work is not deemed essential to close their doors. Workplaces allowed to remain open must implement social distancing and other precautions that often include checking employees for fevers at the door. Those practices would continue even after stay at home is lifted.
The order has slowed the spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin. Medical College of Wisconsin president and CEO Dr. John Raymond Sr. said the daily growth rate is down to 9.7%, compared with 35% three weeks ago. He said the potential impact of Tuesday’s elections and gatherings over last week’s holidays isn’t yet known because their impact on the virus’ spread would take about seven days to materialize.
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce last week lobbied Evers to lift the stay at home order on April 24, rather than extend it.
David Lubar, president and chief executive officer of Lubar & Co. and GMC chairman, said the GMC is open to working with both political parties on the question of when to return to work.
“The decision-making process of reopening the state involves a lot of judgment, and we are not naive that there is a lot of politics involved in making those decisions and executing them, and not everyone is on the same page,” Lubar said.
Evers said he had a conference call with the governors of Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota on Monday to discuss planning efforts for return to work. That includes making sure there are enough face coverings and hand sanitizer.
Prising said other countries are having the same conversations around lifting stay at home orders, including Spain, Austria and Denmark. Those countries have followed many of the same practices as they get back to work, he said, including extensive testing and “contact tracing” after someone is found to have the disease.
Companies that reopen must continue distancing employees through staggered shifts, and letting people who can work remotely continue doing so. “In the end this is all about people,” Prising said. “You can really see that in the end what determines the flattening of the curve is whether the population at large takes it seriously.”