Coronavirus: Wisconsin Now Has 27 Confirmed Cases; MPS Employee May Be Infected
For the most up-to-date information, read WUWM's March 15 coronavirus post.
Updated Saturday at 8:42 p.m. CT
As of Saturday afternoon, state health officials say Wisconsin now has 27 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. This is up from 19 reported cases on Friday. Twenty-six of these cases were confirmed this week and are active, while one case was reported in February in Dane County and that person has since recovered.
On Saturday night, health officials announced Milwaukee's second presumptive case — an employee of Hopkins-Lloyd Community School, a Milwaukee Public School. This news comes after Gov. Tony Evers' order on Friday to close all Wisconsin K-12 schools by March 18.
MPS Superintendent Keith Posley and Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik held a press conference Saturday night to update the community about the infected MPS employee. They declined to say what job the employee held at Hopkins-Lloyd.
"Close contacts" of the person will be quarantined for 14 days and monitored for symptoms. Kowalik said the person is thought to have contracted the virus while traveling in the U.S. and is now under "medical supervision."
MPS schools are closed beginning Monday until at least April 14 as a precaution against the coronavirus.
"This gives us time to do contact tracing from this individual and also for MPS to be able to disinfect the building where this person was located," Kowalik said.
Wisconsin's COVID-19 cases include six in Milwaukee County, one in Racine County, three in Sheboygan County, six in Fond du Lac County, six in Dane County, one in Pierce County, three in Waukesha County, and one in Winnebago County. State officials won't say much about the COVID-19 patients, except that there's a range of ages.
On Thursday, the Milwaukee Health Department (MHD) reported the city's first presumptive case. The individual, a female aged 30-35 and currently isolated at home, was a close contact to a confirmed COVID-19 case.
Wisconsin Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk says the increase in the number of cases was expected. She urges people to follow state recommendations on who should get tested and canceling gatherings with more than 250 people.
"This is all about preventing the speed and spread of COVID 19, and it is very important that we are all in this together,” she says.
From politics to essential services, the coronavirus is having a serious impact on Wisconsin and beyond. Here are some of the latest developments from Friday.
Criminal Justice System
Milwaukee County Courthouse
Jury trials and service is now canceled for anyone requested to appear at the Milwaukee County Courthouse March 16-April 3. The court will provide updates to any jurors requested to appear after April 3.
Jurors summoned for this time period are not required to report. The court will provide updates to any jurors requested to appear after April 3. The court will be giving updates on juror service here.
Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department
The department reports that it’s “aggressively” enforcing social distancing among its deputies and employees. It has suspended face-to-face meetings and large gatherings, and restricted all non-essential access to the Milwaukee County Jail — including in-person lawyer visits. Lawyers, and the public, are visiting inmates via video conferencing.
In addition, the Sheriff’s Office and the jail health care provider have implemented a detailed three-phase strategy for infectious disease prevention, containment, and mitigation. Patrol units are enacting the “frequent and thorough” disinfection of all surfaces, vehicles and equipment as well as preparing contingency plans.
Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
PSC directed water, electric, and natural gas utilities to cease disconnecting residential service for nonpayment until the state public health emergency has been lifted. Also, utilities must make reasonable attempts to reconnect service to an occupied dwelling that has been disconnected.
A presidential primary and Wisconsin Supreme Court election is currently scheduled for April 7. Due to the coronavirus, people are being encouraged to request an absentee ballot, which can be done through April 2 at 5 p.m.
Democratic Party of Wisconsin
Wisconsin Democrats are shifting to all-virtual organizing and will postpone in-person events, given coronavirus concerns. The Democrat Party says it's following guidance from health officials to practice social distancing and cancel gatherings of more than 250 people. The party is also canceling its annual Founder's Day dinner scheduled for April 4.
Effective immediately, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is ending all in-person canvassing and postponing in-person events. We are shifting to a fully virtual organizing operation to elect Jill Karofsky to the state Supreme Court on April 7, 26 days from now. #Coronavirus 1/ pic.twitter.com/RUBbQq2FyJ— Ben Wikler (@benwikler) March 12, 2020
"The health and safety of Wisconsinites is our number one priority," said Ben Wikler, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, in a statement. "It's time for all groups and institutions with events planned in the next few weeks to take swift action to slow the spread of coronavirus."
Republican Party of Wisconsin
Alesha Guenther, research and communications director for the Wisconsin Republican Party, says the GOP is monitoring the situation closely. She says that some county GOP parties have chosen to cancel large events in light of CDC guidelines.
She did not say that the GOP is canceling traditional canvassing at this point.
Wisconsin Elections Commission
To protect the most vulnerable voters, the Wisconsin Elections Commission is making changes for the April 7 election. It is canceling teams of special voting deputies that go into nursing homes or other care facilities to help residents with voting. Instead, election clerks will mail absentee ballots directly to those facilities.
Also, municipal clerks are now allowed to relocate polling places slated to be in nursing homes or other places where public health is a concern without obtaining prior approval of the local government or municipal elections commission.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.
Johnson met with a member of the Spanish parliament who has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a spokesperson for Johnson.
“Senator Johnson is consulting with doctors about the need to self-quarantine, but he feels healthy and well," the spokesperson wrote in a statement.
Editor's note: In an earlier headline we said that the MPS employee case was included in the 27 confirmed cases on Saturday, but it is not. As of Saturday night, the MPS employee is presumed to be infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. The headline has been updated.