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Wisconsin Health Officials Release COVID-19 'Decision Tool,' Guidance For Schools

DHS interim Administrator Stephanie Smiley updates recent plans and tools centered around the coronavirus.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is rolling out a new decision-making tool in the fight against the coronavirus. The online survey helps people determine if they should participate in group activities during the pandemic. The move comes as Wisconsin has seen a jump in coronavirus cases whose origin can be traced to group gatherings.  

Stephanie Smiley, interim administrator of the state Division of Public Health, says in May, 7% of coronavirus cases that the state traced came from gatherings. June saw a jump to 21%. The rate was similar in July, at 20%.

“We know that people are making decisions to see friends and family and we want you to make the safest decisions possible ... To be clear, the safest decision really is the decision to stay home,” says Smiley.

Smiley told reporters Wednesday that the decision-making tool isn’t meant for people going to work or making essential trips out of the home. Instead, it’s designed more for nonessential activities like going pumpkin picking.

"Here's a few examples of questions that that decision tool provides: Are you or someone you live with at high risk for severe infection or becoming hospitalized from COVID-19? Will the activity take place indoors or outdoors? Will you have to share anything food tools with other people?” she explains.

Smiley hopes the online tool helps inform people, so they can do as much as possible to protect themselves and others if they do pursue a social gathering.

The Department of Health Services will hold a Facebook live event to help roll out the tool.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the department also released guidance regarding the coronavirus and schools.

The department doesn’t give a specific number of cases that should trigger a school shutdown. But it does say schools may decide to close if they're contact tracing for a positive case, if a significant number of students or staff are out sick, or as a last resort to halt an outbreak.

DHS advises schools to report every positive case to local health officials and keep a detailed log of illness-related student absences.

State agencies have stayed out of the debate about whether to reopen schools. That’s led to a patchwork of reopening decisions across the state.

Editor's note: A portion of this audio is courtesy of WisconsinEye.

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Olivia Richardson
Olivia Richardson became WUWM's Eric Von Fellow in October 2019.
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