Coronavirus: Democratic Lawmakers Call For Racial Data In Virus Testing

23 hours ago

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):

  • 19 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus (state and Milwaukee County reports) — 10 of those deaths were in Milwaukee County.
  • Wisconsin has at least 1,221 confirmed cases.
  • Milwaukee County has 663 confirmed cases, 525 of those cases are in the city of Milwaukee. This is 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."

>>The Latest WUWM & NPR Coronavirus Coverage
>>WUWM Coronavirus Blog: March 23-29
>>Coronavirus: Milwaukee-Area Higher Education Updates
>>Coronavirus: Milwaukee-Area K-12 School Updates

March 30, 4:38 p.m.: Democratic Lawmakers Call For Racial Data In Virus Testing

Democratic lawmakers are calling out an apparent lack of racial data that they say is needed to monitor and address disparities in the national response to the coronavirus outbreak. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley say in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar dated Friday that comprehensive demographic data on people who are tested or treated for the coronavirus does not exist.

Cities with large black and nonwhite Hispanic populations have emerged as new hot spots for the virus. As of last Friday, African Americans in Milwaukee have been the most affected by the new coronavirus, with a majority of positive cases in black neighborhoods on the city's north side.

California Sen. Kamala Harris, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Illinois Rep. Robin Kelly also signed the letter.

-Associated Press, Lauren Sigfusson

March 30, 3:27 p.m.: Wisconsin Unemployment Calls Mushroomed Last Week Due To Coronavirus

The Monday afternoon Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) briefing gave a closer look at the toll the coronavirus pandemic and related business shutdowns have taken on employees in Wisconsin. Gov. Tony Evers said last week, more than 115,000 new preliminary unemployment insurance applications were filed with the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). A state call center for unemployment insurance received 1.5 million calls during that time, an increase of 6,208% over their average weekly call volume.

"Just to underscore how significant the need is for these benefits, " Evers said. "Last Thursday, DWD received 400,000 calls between 6 and 10 a.m. The system was not built to handle this call volume."

He says the state is working to increase the call center's capacity, and now allows 690 simultaneous calls. Thirty-five staff members have been added to the center, bringing the total to 92. But Evers says DWD needs at least 80 more workers "to help triage calls for unemployment."

Evers called on state lawmakers to help him eliminate the state's one-week waiting period before people can start receiving unemployment benefits. Evers, a Democrat, says he continues to reach out to Republican leaders who control the Legislature to come into session.

-Chuck Quirmbach

March 30, 1:55 p.m.: Waukesha Will Only Have 1 Polling Place Open On Election Day

The city of Waukesha announced Monday that it will only have one polling place open on April 7 due to a lack of poll workers. Schuetze Recreation Center, which is located at 1120 Baxter Street in Waukesha, will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., on Election Day.

Typically, Waukesha has 15 polling places open on Election Day.

-Lauren Sigfusson

March 30, 12:01 p.m.: Evers Announces Public-Private COVID-19 Testing Partnership

On Monday, Gov. Tony Evers announced Wisconsin industries will help bolster the state's capacity to test for COVID-19. Laboratories, including Exact Sciences, Marshfield Clinic Health System, Promega, and UW Health, will add their expertise, resources, and technology to efforts being led by the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene and the Milwaukee Public Health Lab.

The existing network has been averaging 1,500 to 2,000 tests per day. According to Evers’ office, the new public-private partnership is expected to double that capacity initially, and expand as additional platforms and supplies become available.

"Just like during the H1N1 outbreak, we knew testing for this virus would require assets beyond the state lab [of Hygiene at UW-Madison]. And for this response, that has taken the form of a strong partnership between government and some of the best and brightest minds in business and technology," said state Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm during a Monday news conference.

Evers added a cautionary note: "While I am excited to announce these critical partnerships that will increase our capacity to fight this outbreak in Wisconsin, there are still very real challenges to obtaining supplies of critical laboratory materials. We are working day and night to reinforce our sources of these supplies.”

-Susan Bence, Chuck Quirmbach

March 30, 8:08 a.m.: St. Francis Seminary Building To House Homeless

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced Sunday that people who are homeless and especially vulnerable to the coronavirus will be housed in a vacant seminary building in Saint Francis. Barrett said the city and county have worked with the Milwaukee Archdiocese to set up a building on the Saint Francis de Sales seminary grounds as temporary housing during the public health crisis.

>>Read the full story here.

-Emily Files

March 30, 7:51 a.m.: Wisconsin Dairy Farmers Hit Hard By Coronavirus

The coronavirus has delivered a severe blow to Wisconsin dairy farmers who rely on selling milk to restaurants, schools and the hospitality industry. The Journal Sentinel reports about one-third of Wisconsin dairy products, mainly cheese, are sold in the food service trade.

Farmers say the coronavirus outbreak has caused milk prices to drop to unprofitable levels this spring, at a time when money is needed for the upcoming planting season. Dairy farmers are worried about processing plants closing or cutting production, forcing them to dump milk.

-Associated Press

March 30, 7:49 a.m.: Wisconsin Elections Commission Won't Investigate 2 County Clerks

The Wisconsin Elections Commission will not investigate two county clerks for encouraging absentee voters staying home because of the coronaviorus outbreak to use a provision to avoid the state's photo ID requirement.

The commission deadlocked 3-3 Sunday on motions that would have tabled investigations into the two clerks while warning them that their use of indefinite confinement violated state elections laws.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports motions by Democratic members to do away with the proposed investigations entirely also failed along party lines. No one on the commission then proposed investigations, so the issue appears moot.

Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell and Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson have encouraged voters to indicate on their absentee ballot they are indefinitely confined due to the coronavirus pandemic.

-Chuck Quirmbach, Associated Press

>>Ahead Of April 7 Election: Milwaukee Pollworker Shortages, Demand For Absentee Ballots

March 30, 7:43 a.m.: Evers To Buy 10,000 Ventilators, 1 Million Masks

Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' administration is moving ahead with plans to buy 10,000 ventilators and 1 million protective masks in the fight against the coronavirus.

The effort comes after Evers' administration had clashed with Republican lawmakers over whether he needed their permission to make such purchases. GOP leaders contended he already had that power after Evers gave them a bill calling for spending more than $700 million to help care for thousands of sick and jobless people in Wisconsin.

Evers' chief of staff said Saturday night that the administration has been making smaller purchases and will now move forward with the large purchase of ventilators and masks.

-Associated Press