Milwaukee-Area Coronavirus Updates: April 13-19
WUWM is providing updates about the coronavirus and COVID-19 in Wisconsin and the Milwaukee area. Find the most recent news and information here.
Wisconsin and Milwaukee by the numbers, according to state Department of Health Services (unless otherwise noted):
- 211 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus (state and Milwaukee County reports) — 122 of those deaths were in Milwaukee County.
- Wisconsin has at least 4,199 confirmed cases.
- Milwaukee County has 2,141 confirmed cases, according to reports from the county. The county also says, "Due to the nature of COVID-19 community spread and testing, the number of positive cases is likely much higher than that listed as a result of unreported or untested cases in our community."
April 18, 7:27 p.m.: CDC Investigates Green Bay Cases, Others Protest In Brookfield
There was new testing and protesting in Wisconsin Saturday as the number of COVID-19 cases in the state rose to nearly 4,200. Hundreds of protesters stood shoulder-to-shoulder in Brookfield to protest Gov. Tony Evers’ decision to extend Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order through May 26. The group is calling for the reopening of churches, parks and the state economy.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was in the Green Bay area investigating a recent surge of virus cases.
April 17, 6:37 p.m.: Uptick In Confirmed Cases At Milwaukee County's House Of Correction
Twenty-seven of Milwaukee County House of Correction's 623 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, facility superintendent Michael Hafemann said Friday at a press briefing. He said 23 correctional staff are also in self-quarantine in their homes — some staff have symptoms, some have tested positive, and some are returning from out of state travel.
The facility had been testing only people who were symptomatic, but with the help of the state, it will begin testing all inmates and staff this weekend.
Hafemann also said an outside vendor will start supporting staff and inmates next week in disinfecting common areas in the facility, in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
“I think this is going to be one of the big first pushes of testing a large population of people who might not be symptomatic," Courtney Day said. She is the director of Health and Human Services in the city of Franklin, where HOC is located. She said this testing may give a good indication of who may be walking around asymptomatic in the general population.
Day said if her organization hadn't already had put a plan in place to respond to positive cases in the facility, she thinks "there would be significantly more cases than we're seeing right now." Local health departments, she said, have been doing follow-up and contact tracing for the staff members who’ve had contact with inmates who’ve tested positive.
Officials said there have been no positive tests at the Milwaukee County Jail.
April 17, 3:15 p.m.: Wisconsin's Bipartisan Detente In Fighting Coronavirus Ends
Wisconsin’s tenuous bipartisan detente in fighting the coronavirus pandemic broke down this week with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ decision to extend a safer-at-home order through Memorial Day. That divide will likely result in lawsuits that may determine who has the power to say when the state can start to reopen.
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Friday on WISN-AM that his goal was to have a legal strategy in place for next week. Other Republicans are calling for Evers' health secretary to be fired and for limits to be placed on powers of the state health department.
April 17, 9:55 a.m.: Interest In Rally Explodes After Evers Order
Interest in a rally at the Wisconsin state Capitol calling for a reopening of the state has exploded after Gov. Tony Evers extended a stay-at-home order until May 26.
The rally scheduled for April 24 had about 700 people who said on Facebook they planned to attend just before Evers announced the order extension on Thursday. As of Friday morning, more than 2,400 said they were attending.
One of the organizers of the rally, Madison Elmer, said Friday that a group of people got together to put it on out of frustration over how Evers has handled reaction to the coronavirus pandemic. She said they have been approached by special interest groups that want to get involved, but they've declined their involvement.
“We didn’t want them hijacking it or turning it into something political to fit their agenda," said Elmer, 33, who said she lives in southeast Wisconsin but declined to say where. She said organizers have been deluged with threats and "people saying they hope we die, people calling us murderers.”
“My personal goal of the rally is to start bringing people together that have common goals in mind, which is to get rid of the stay at home order," Elmer said. "Lots of us want us to demand Gov. Evers and (the Department of Health Services) come up with a plan for ending this. There is no plan in place. He’s not reassuring us this is going to end.”
Evers and state health officials have said their actions have been guided by the science and what steps are most appropriate to save lives. As of Thursday, there were 197 COVID-19 deaths in Wisconsin and nearly 3,900 confirmed cases.
April 16, 2:24 p.m.: 7 Midwest States To Partner On Reopening The Economy
Seven Midwestern governors announced Thursday that they will coordinate on reopening their state economies, after similar pacts were made earlier this week in the Northeast and on the West Coast.
Thursday's announcement covers Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky.
The governors say they will work with experts and take a “fact-based, data-driven approach to reopening our economy in a way that protects families from the spread of COVID-19.”
All together, the 17 states covered by the three pacts are home to nearly half the U.S. population.
April 16, 12:57 p.m.: Evers Extends Wisconsin Safer-At-Home Order Until May 26
Gov. Tony Evers has extended Wisconsin’s safer-at-home order that was originally slated to expire next week for another month.
The Evers extension issued Thursday keeps nonessential businesses closed until May 26 to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Schools will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year.
READ: Safer-At-Home Order FAQs
News of the extension comes amid growing criticism from conservatives who are pushing Evers, and governors in other states, to loosen restrictions to more quickly reopen states. Opponents of the order planned a rally at the state Capitol on April 24, the end date of the original order.
The latest order does allow golf courses to open.
April 16, 8:42 a.m.: Evers Tells Trump Wisconsin Faces $2 Billion In Losses
Gov. Tony Evers is telling President Donald Trump that Wisconsin faces $2 billion in revenue losses due to skyrocketing unemployment and other hits to the economy caused by the coronavirus.
Evers and the governors from Michigan and Pennsylvania sent Trump a letter Wednesday asking him to urge Congress to send $500 billion in budget aid to states and local governments.
The letter was sent that same day that Evers signed a bill passed by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature that clears the way for spending about $2 billion the state is receiving in federal funds.
April 15, 4:06 p.m.: Wisconsin Health Care Workers Call For More Gloves, Masks
Wisconsin health care workers on the front lines of treating patients with the coronavirus are calling on state lawmakers to get them more protective equipment, expand health care coverage and provide fully-paid sick leave and hazard pay.
Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday signed a COVID-19 response bill passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature that does not include any of those provisions. Evers and other Democrats have also called on the Legislature to do more to help those struggling during the pandemic.
A letter signed by 37 Democratic members of the Legislature sent to Republican leaders on Monday called for the increased protections for front-line health care workers.
April 15, 3:13 p.m.: Evers Signs Coronavirus Relief Package
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has signed major state legislation responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor’s action on Wednesday came just a few hours after the state Senate approved a measure the Assembly passed on Tuesday.
The bill comes a few weeks after Congress authorized a federal package that will bring $2 billion to Wisconsin. The state bill makes more than 50 changes related to Wisconsin health care and the economy.
I just signed Assembly Bill 1038, providing critical support and relief for Wisconsinites during the #COVID19 public health emergency. It’s a good first step, but there is still more work to do for Wisconsin workers, families, first responders, businesses, and farmers. pic.twitter.com/igUAkf304D— Governor Tony Evers (@GovEvers) April 15, 2020
April 15, 1:14 p.m: Wisconsin Senate OKs Virus Package In Virtual Session
The Wisconsin state Senate has overwhelmingly approved a sweeping coronavirus relief package in a virtual session. The bill would ensure that Wisconsin can capture $2.3 billion in federal aid, including higher Medicaid payments and unemployment benefits. Lawmakers would be allowed to allocate up to $75 million in funding.
The Senate voted on the bill via videoconferencing Wednesday. Democratic Sens. Lena Taylor and Tim Carpenter complained that Republican Senate President Roger Roth wouldn't let them speak.
The bill passed unanimously in the end and now goes to Gov. Tony Evers, who is expected to sign it.
April 15, 7:33 a.m.: Could Be A Month Before Lockdown Lifts, Evers Says
Gov. Tony Evers is saying it could be at least a month before he starts to relax social distancing mandates.
The governor told KSTP-TV on Tuesday that lifting the mandates won't be “like flipping a switch” and it could be weeks or a month before he starts rolling them back.
Evers said he wants to see more testing for the coronavirus, tracking the sick and more protective gear before he starts thinking about reopening businesses.
Evers' stay-at-home and school closure orders are set to expire on April 24. As of Tuesday the coronavirus had killed 170 people in Wisconsin and infected more than 3,500.
April 14, 5:15 p.m.: Milwaukee Mayor Says More COVID-19 Testing Is Needed
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says when the coronavirus pandemic hit Milwaukee, three issues were paramount as he spoke with hospital leaders: testing, understanding the hospitals’ needs for beds and ventilators, and setting up alternative care facilities.
In a press briefing Tuesday, Barrett said he’s confident in the progress of two of those issues.
“We have a very good read on how many hospital beds we have, how many hospital beds we’re projecting to need, how many ventilators we have, how many we need; the same with ICU units,” Barrett said. “That’s all very positive.”
Barrett said the city is also making progress on arranging alternative care facilities in case there is a surge of infections. But he said progress is still needed to increase community testing.
Darren Rausch, health officer for the City of Greenfield Health Department, addressed an earlier narrative that COVID-19 case increases were some of the lowest over the past month. He said that was a “blip” or a one-day occurrence, and that cases Tuesday increased by 127 statewide and 90 in the county. But there is some good news.
“Our counts in Milwaukee County are doubling approximately every 8.5 days in terms of cases,” Rausch said. “By comparison, in the first week and a half our case counts were doubling in less than two days.”
There was also talk about the April 7 election. Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson says countywide turnout was 41% compared to 57% in 2016. He says the pandemic’s impact on turnout is clear.
- Teran Powell
April 13, 7 p.m.: Health Care Facility At Wisconsin State Fair Park To Open April 21
The alternative care facility being created at Wisconsin State Fair Park to help handle COVID-19 cases is slated to open on April 21. The site will initially have 130 beds. But the facility's CEO, Debra Standridge, says it could eventually serve more than 700 patients if necessary.
“We are an extension of the health care system. How a patient comes here is directly from the hospital and it’s a patient who is beginning to recover ... and they need some extra time to feel better, maybe they need some additional oxygen ... while they are transitioning to go back home,” Standridge said during a press briefing Monday afternoon.
Chief Human Resources Officer Celia Shaughnessy is busy recruiting staff, including physicians, pharmacists and nurses.
“We are at a very critical point in recruiting. We are hoping to start orientation on Monday, April 20,” Shaughnessy said. "These are both paid and volunteer positions."
Officials describe the facility, which is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as an insurance policy they hope doesn't have to be used.
April 13, 5:31 p.m.: Health Officials Cautiously Hopeful That Wisconsin COVID-19 Cases Have Peaked
Public health officials cautiously acknowledge that Wisconsin may have hit its peak in COVID-19 cases on Sunday.
“We hope that it was, but the truth is, we don’t know,” Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer of the Wisconsin Bureau of Communicable Diseases, said during a press briefing on Monday.
Westergaard says what happens over the coming weeks is critical.
“The cases that we’re seeing right now really reflect people who were infected a week or two ago, so the trend that we see now is going to depend on how we maintain our physical distancing and our infection control practices in our health care system,” he said.
But that doesn't mean COVID-19 is eradicated.
"We’ve flattened the curve, but we haven’t smashed the curve down to nothing," Westergaard said.
Amid Wisconsin's safer-at-home order, thousands of citizens voted in person at polling stations on April 7. It will be days before public health officials know if that event causes a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Gov. Tony Evers says he’s not ready to consider when he'll be able to lift the order.
“It’s not going to be flipping a switch. It’s going to be making sure we have the public health system in place so that we don’t return where we are today," Evers said.
During this pandemic, WUWM's Bubbler Talk is focusing on the coronavirus and its impact on the Milwaukee area. If you have a question, submit it below.