Gov. Tony Evers is pleading with Wisconsinites to do everything they can to stop the spread of the coronavirus. On Thursday, 2,887 people tested positive, a record number, and 21 additional people died of the illness since the state released its last count on Wednesday.
Evers and Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm issued an emergency order to allow health care workers from other states to assist here in light of the rising numbers.
Evers says people can’t afford to act like it’s business as usual. He says the state needs to get back to the basics in fighting the virus.
“First and foremost, I'm asking you to stay at home,” says Evers. “Cancel the play dates and the dinner parties. Tell your friends and family members you'd rather hang out virtually because you care about them and you want to keep them safe. Grab a six-pack to drink at home, grab your food to go and head out only when it's absolutely necessary. You are safer at home.”
Evers says residents should wear a face mask when they’re out and about, whether that’s at the gas station or the grocery store, and people should stay 6 feet apart even if they’re wearing masks.
He's asking businesses and local leaders to help too, saying public health is a team sport.
Evers reiterates Wisconsin was able to flatten the curve — and slow the spread of the coronavirus — with these methods back in the spring.
Meanwhile, one health official shared some grim statistics at the state update on Thursday. Dr. Imran Andrabi, president and CEO of Thedacare, spoke of his medical facilities in the Fox Valley.
“About four weeks ago, I had 13 COVID patients in our hospitals,” says Andrabi. “Today, I have 64. That's a six-fold increase in the number of people admitted. Ninety-five percent of my beds are full. Two hundred and fifty of my workers today at Thedacare, team members, did not show up for work.”
Andrabi says there aren’t enough workers to treat COVID-19 patients and also to tend to people with other health problems like heart attacks or strokes.
Palm announced that she and Evers have signed an emergency order to allow health care providers licensed in other states to practice in Wisconsin.
“While I'm grateful that we were able to take this step to facilitate additional staffing support for our health care systems, I'm saddened that we needed to do it,” she says. “However, due to the surging hospitalizations and staffing shortages, it is a step that we must take.”
Officials say the surge in cases is maxing out contact tracers and that they’re looking for more. Contact tracers quickly locate patients, help them isolate and identify people patients have been in close contact with so the contact tracer can warn them.
When it comes to testing, Wisconsin needs to prioritize people who have symptoms and who have been exposed, says Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer of the state Bureau of Communicable Diseases. He says there aren’t enough tests for just anyone who wants one.
“Testing plays an important part of our response because it tells us where the virus is spreading,” he says. “And then, therefore, where do we need to specifically focus our efforts on breaking chains of transmission. But right now, that's very difficult because of the high the very high number of cases that we're seeing.”
So, Westergaard says, right now, the state needs full public cooperation in flattening the curve.