Coronavirus In Wisconsin: 'We Are In A Worse Place Than We Were In March'
Alarming new records have already been set this month in Wisconsin when it comes to the coronavirus. As of Tuesday, Oct. 6, 136,379 people in Wisconsin have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 1,399 have died from COVID-19. The current situation has prompted Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to call this a crisis.
"Today, we are in a worse place than we were in March. The disease activity level of COVID-19 in Wisconsin is so high that going to a gathering puts you at very high risk of exposure," she said at a media briefing Tuesday. According to Palm, in March at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a collective effort to stay home and slow the spread of the coronavirus, or "flatten the curve."
People were taking precautions to protect the healthcare system and public health infrastructure under Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' safer-at-home order. Evers said today that collective action has waned, which is being reflected in the numbers. "It is simply not enough to only wear a mask. We need folks to take further action to help stop the spread of this virus and flatten the curve," he said.
In an effort to grapple with the state's rising numbers, Evers has issued a new emergency order limiting occupancy in indoor spaces to no more than 25% capacity.
"Whether we like it or not, we have to change the course of this virus, and that’s going to take a united effort." @GovEvers & #DHSWI Secretary-designee talked #COVID19_WI & a new order limiting the size of indoor public gatherings. See Emergency Order #3: https://t.co/vT594VuVwy pic.twitter.com/q7uvWXc2Lq— WIDeptHealthServices (@DHSWI) October 6, 2020
Republicans and conservative groups challenged the governor’s previous emergency orders that mandated people to stay home for non-essential trips, and required masks to be worn indoors. Critics argued Evers overstepped his authority with the mandates. Toward the end of September, Wisconsin saw a spike in cases, as many students headed to college. But Secretary-designee Palm said new outbreaks are not just among younger adults.
"We have gone beyond the 18 to 24 year olds, and we are seeing intense community spread in all age groups, and communities all across the state. We've gotten to a place where we're having trouble keeping up with the rapid rise in cases that we're seeing in this state," Palm said. It's not clear whether Gov. Evers' new limit on occupancy will be challenged.
Aides for the Legislature’s top Republicans did not immediately comment on the governor's order. However, the group, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, weighed in, saying, "Businesses have taken countless steps to protect their employees, customers and the public," and "Evers’ order will cause even more harm to already-suffering businesses while failing to actually slow the spread of COVID-19."
Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Medical Society applauded the mandate. In a statement, the organization said, "The state simply must halt its current trajectory," and added, "We want to continue being the state leading the country in high-quality health care, not having one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the country."