Wisconsin DHS Identifies 187 Facility-Based COVID-19 Outbreaks

Apr 29, 2020

There are 187 COVID-19 outbreaks at facilities across Wisconsin, including nursing homes, workplaces and health care locations.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services released the new outbreak information in an online dashboard on Wednesday. DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said the dashboard is meant to provide a more complete picture of Wisconsin’s coronavirus numbers.

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But the dashboard does not provide detailed information about the specific facilities where workers or residents have fallen ill. For example, it shows 59 outbreaks at long-term care facilities, like nursing homes and assisted living centers, in the southeast region of the state. That region encompasses seven counties.

Palm said Wisconsin is not identifying facilities to protect patient privacy.

“Long-term care facilities are people’s residence, and so we are interested in protecting the privacy of the residents of those facilities,” Palm said. “We want to make sure we are being as transparent as we can without exposing individuals and their privacy in a way that does not advance the public health.”

Some family members of residents at long-term care facilities have criticized the state's lack of transparency around outbreaks where their loved ones reside. Even in cases where it is clear which facility has an outbreak, some local health officials have declined to confirm the name of the facility.

As of Wednesday, there were 93 outbreaks identified at long-term care facilities like nursing homes, 48 outbreaks at non-health care-related workplaces, 25 at group housing facilities (including correctional centers), 11 at health care facilities, and 10 in other settings, like daycares or restaurants.

Palm said because long-term care facilities serve populations especially vulnerable to severe illness, it only takes one confirmed COVID-19 case for DHS to consider it an outbreak and trigger an investigation that includes thorough testing.

“One case is enough for us to wrap around that facility, to make sure we are in very close contact with local public health, to make sure they have what they need to do an investigation that ensures we stop the spread as quickly as possible,” Palm said.

One of Wisconsin’s largest coronavirus outbreaks in recent weeks was at a meatpacking plant in Green Bay. 

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