It had been two weeks since Gov. Tony Evers and state public health officials summoned the press to discuss the status of the coronavirus in Wisconsin. But Tuesday was not a case of 'no news is good news,' cases of the coronavirus are on the rise. And for the first time, Evers and his colleagues wore face masks as they addressed their virtual audience.
Even had Evers and top state health officials not had their faces shielded by masks because of a new Dane County mandate, it’s unlikely they would have had upbeat expressions.
Evers said it took five months for Wisconsin to reach approximately 15,500 coronavirus cases. And since Memorial Day – a little more than a month’s time — that number more than doubled.
"As of yesterday, nearly 796 Wisconsinites have died from this virus. Families across this state have lost moms and fathers and grandparents and kids and loved ones. Communities have lost leaders, familiar faces and neighbors; and tens of thousands more Wisconsinites have been diagnosed, some fighting for their lives as we speak. It’s not worth it – no party, no bar is worth it,” he said.
Evers said the current uptick in cases is highest among 20 to 29 years olds.
In what felt like déjà vu of his now defunct stay at home order, Evers urged citizens to remain home if they can and take precautions whenever they cannot.
“And that means wearing a mask whenever you go out in public. Physically distancing yourself from anyone outside of your immediate household; That means maintaining 6 feet of distance from others wherever you go. Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water and keep hand sanitizer nearby. And if you’ve been out and about with groups of people, get tested,” he said.
Some states around the country, including Arizona and Florida, are reporting coronavirus cases in the hundreds of thousands.
Chief medical officer of Wisconsin’s Bureau of Communicable Diseases Dr. Ryan Westergaard said while the magnitude may be different here, the state is moving in the wrong direction.
“Meaning there’s more cases this week by far than there were the week before, and the week before that. The other thing that’s very concerning is that it seems like the reasons that the numbers are going up seem to be similar. Meaning the same risk factors of gathering indoors — particularly social gatherings in bars and restaurants — seem to be the same forces at work. So I would say the stage is set for the same types of things happening in other parts of the country to continue to happen in Wisconsin, unless we do things to turn this around,” he said.
Over the months, Westergaard and his colleagues have maintained a positive tone, a 'we can beat this thing and we’re in this together' sort of thing.
Tuesday afternoon Secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Andrea Palm took a stab at maintaining an upbeat tone. “The numbers we’ve shared lately are high, and I know it can feel unsettling to hear we’re in the midst of a surge, however, this data also reminds us that staying home worked. We flattened the curve and we’re slowing the spread and we can do it again,” Palm said.
The last time Wisconsin flattened the curve, our activities were limited by Gov. Evers’ emergency stay at home order. That mechanism is gone, and Evers said he doesn’t think that tool – struck down by a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling – will be an option this time around.
Editor's note: A portion of this audio is from WisconsinEye.
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