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Coronavirus: Health Official Says Wisconsin Is In 'Tough Spot;' 71 New Testing Sites To Open

Wisconsin Department of Health Services / YouTube
Wisconsin Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk speaks during a media briefing on Thursday.

Updated at 12:12 p.m. CT

COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Wisconsin. On Friday, the state Department of Health Services reported more than 5,096 new cases. That brings the total number of cases in the state to more than 220,000.

Health officials announced Thursday that they’re expanding free community testing sites. The department is expanding free access to testing with 71 new sites in Wisconsin through Dec. 10. That’s in addition to testing sites already in Milwaukee, Dane, and Winnebago Counties.

During a media briefing Thursday, DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said Wisconsin is in a tough spot.

"Seventy out of 72 counties in our state are at the very high COVID-19 disease activity level," Willems Van Dijk says.

She says Wisconsin's hospital capacity is strained.

"[On Wednesday,] 1 in 5 Wisconsin hospitals reported a critical staffing shortage. This past week, we saw a 16% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the week before," Willems Van Dijk says. "We continue to accept patients into our alternative care facility and the number of COVID-19 patients in our intensive care units across the state continues to grow."

As of Friday, 1,972 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19.

Despite the climbing numbers, Gov. Tony Evers said Friday that local clerks and poll workers are prepared to handle voters on Tuesday.

“For those who are voting in person now, I believe it's safe," Evers said a virtual briefing Friday, adding that polling places have adequate supplies to protect voters.

Some 400 Wisconsin National Guard members will help staff the polls statewide, Evers added.

“If we want to do this right ... and stop it in it's tracks, we have to wear a freaking mask,” the governor said.

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