Updated Wednesday at 8:11 a.m. CT
Wisconsin has hit a pair of grim coronavirus milestones, with record highs for positive cases and deaths reported Tuesday. Officials are expanding the fight against the virus by opening an alternate care facility at Wisconsin State Fair Park Wednesday.
The state Department of Health Services reported 3,279 confirmed new cases Tuesday, breaking a record of 3,132 set just five days earlier. There were 34 deaths reported, also a new high, bringing the total number of people who have died to 1,508. To date, more than 155,000 people in Wisconsin have tested positive.
Wisconsin's death count as of Monday was the 30th highest in the country overall and the 42nd highest per capita at more than 25 deaths per 100,000 people. The 595 new cases per 100,000 people in Wisconsin over the past two weeks, which ranks fourth in the country for new cases per capita.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers attributed the increase to the Wisconsin Supreme Court striking down his safer-at-home order in May at the request of Republicans opponents, as well as fatigue over wearing masks and taking other steps to slow the spread.
“We let down our guard,” he said on a conference call.
Outbreaks have also been reported at three state prisons — the Racine Correctional Institution/Sturtevant Transitional Facility, the Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution and the Oshkosh Correctional Institution.
Evers said those outbreaks reflect the continued spread of the virus.
“The numbers are very, very concerning,” he said.
Evers urged people to stay at home, wear masks when they go out, limit exposure to others and maintain a social distance.
“We have to get this virus under control and help flatten the curve to prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed," he said.
Hospitals recorded a record high number of patients on Monday at 950, with 240 in intensive care.
In southeastern Wisconsin, cases and hospitalizations are not increasing at quite the record levels of other areas of the state. But it’s still increasing said Cathy Jacobson, CEO of Froedtert Health.
At a hospital CEO roundtable conversation Tuesday, she said less than a month ago, the Froedtert system had the fewest COVID-19 hospitalizations ever since the start of the pandemic, at 27 patients.
“[Tuesday] morning, we're at 87. And I would say that that's accelerating, you know, I think that's the other thing you watch with COVID, we've seen these waves and many waves kind of go since April. And they kind of slowly come up and then they come down, we've been as high as as low 60s before, this is going very fast. And when it starts to go very fast, that's when you actually have to start logging some concerns," Jacobson said.
The current surge in cases will inevitably lead to more hospitalizations, said Wisconsin health secretary-designee Andrea Palm.
Which is why the state is opening an alternate care facility opening at State Fair Park. It will be prepared to handle up to 50 patients starting Wednesday and can increase from there depending on need, said state Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm.
Palm said the facility is not a hopsital and will not accept walk-in patients. Patients will only be admitted in coordination with doctors.
In the meantime, Palm said stay home as much as you can. She urged people to “double down” on taking steps to prevent a spread of the virus so hospitals won't become overrun, forcing patients into the overflow facility.
Evers also called on Republicans who control the Legislature to come forward with their plans for fighting the virus. Republicans successfully sued to overturn Evers' safer-at-home order earlier this year and are now suing to overturn the statewide mask mandate Evers enacted. A GOP-controlled legislative committee took steps on Monday to block new indoor capacity limits Evers ordered.
The committee directed the Department of Health Services to submit a rule on the capacity limits, which the Legislature could then vote to overturn. Evers said there was no reason to submit a rule given that his order is in place.