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As COVID-19 Numbers Surge Across Wisconsin, National Guard Moves Resources Out Of Milwaukee

Lauren Sigfusson
The National Guard will soon be closing its coronavirus testing locations in Milwaukee. While the city was leading the way in the number of cases early on in the pandemic, the majority of the spread is now being seen across Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is a hotbed of activity for COVID-19 right now. 

On Tuesday, the state recorded more than 2,300 cases and 17 more deaths, bringing the total to 1,300. At the beginning of the pandemic, Milwaukee County was leading the way in the number of cases, but that is not the case anymore. The majority of the spread is now being seen in other parts of the state.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says that’s why the National Guard will soon be closing its testing locations here. The city will take over. Barrett says the state wants to deploy guard members where they are most needed. 

“Our overall plan is to maintain capacity and ease of testing at sites throughout the city. So we’re working again with the National Guard, with local stakeholders as to where the best locations for those sites will be,” Barrett says. 

Barrett says the city will assume coronavirus testing duties for the National Guard at the same time that it’s ramping up city flu clinics. Doctors are urging everyone to get a flu shot this year. The hope is that if people get a flu shot the health care system will be able to handle both flu patients and those with COVID-19 without being overwhelmed. 

Barrett says while Milwaukee is faring better than some other parts of the state when it comes to the spread of the coronavirus, that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem here. The percentage of people testing positive has been on the rise here for several weeks. The positivity rate now sits at around 8%.

“There’s no reason for anybody to say we got this, this is under control — because clearly it’s not,” Barrett says. 

Spread of the virus is being blamed on Labor Day get-togethers, colleges and universities returning to in-person classes, and the cooler weather forcing more people indoors. 

Marlaina Jackson, the interim health commissioner for the city of Milwaukee, says she understands that being inside for long periods can be detrimental to people’s mental health. Jackson says some may decide to get out of the house to fight the isolation. But she says if you spend time with people you don’t live with, make sure you have a real conversation with them about controlling the spread of the virus.

“Make sure that their values match your values. If you are not going to that large party, people in your individual bubbles should not be going to the large party. If you’re avoiding large social gatherings, the people in your bubble should be avoiding large social gatherings. This is making sure that you and the individuals in your bubble are on the same page when it comes to all of the steps that help to mitigate and to decrease the spread of COVID-19,” Jackson says. 

Milwaukee leaders also continue to urge people to not only wear a mask but also to wash your hands and maintain social distance. 

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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