Wisconsin business owners are feeling anxious and panicked about losing their livelihoods during the extended “safer-at-home” order, the president of the state’s largest business group said.

“There’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of panic, businesses are scared because they don’t know how long they are going to be able to stay open,” said Kurt Bauer, president and CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

WMC and its members had wanted to be able to begin the process of getting back to work, Bauer said in an interview aired Sunday on “UpFront,” produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.

Instead, Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday extended the safer-at-home order until May 26, in order to keep flattening the COVID-19 infection curve.

“This is far beyond what we expected,” Bauer said.

“I think we understand what the governor is trying to do to keep people safe. We want to protect lives; again, we also need to protect livelihoods,” he said.

Bauer said there are ways for businesses to reopen and keep people safe.

“A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work,” he said.

“We think we can begin the process of responsibly and safely opening up the state if we do it regionally and by sector, because each sector, each region has a separate risk profile that I think we can mitigate through the proper steps,” Bauer said.

Also on the program, incoming Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said he supports the extension of the safer-at-home order.

“We know that we are not over this, and before we start thinking about making sure that people can go back to their living normal lives, we’re going to make sure that it is (safe), so I applaud the governor for extending it,” Crowley said.

“UpFront” host Adrienne Pedersen asked Crowley about the disproportionate effect COVID-19 is having in the black community. In the city of Milwaukee, a majority of COVID-19 deaths have been African-Americans.

Crowley, who is black, said “racial equity” is needed and that will be a “top priority” for his administration.

“It’s going to be a hard pill for some folks to swallow at the federal level, as well as here locally,” Crowley said. “But once we are on the road to an economic recovery, we want to make sure the economy is working for all.”

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