Gov. Tony Evers Urges GOP Lawmakers To Act As COVID-19 Cases Again Hit Record High

DHS Reports Daily Record Of 3,747 New COVID-19 Cases

A man in a face shield and mask hods up a phone to a driver's phone as he manages a line of cars
A worker wears a mask and face shield as he helps people prepare to be tested for COVID-19 on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. Angela Major/WPR

New reports of COVID-19 cases once again set a single-day record in Wisconsin, based on the latest data reported by the state Department of Health Services, as Gov. Tony Evers called on lawmakers to take steps to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in the state.

The governor’s plea came several days after a report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force on Oct. 11, which expressed concern that the state’s outbreak would worsen without more intense mitigation efforts.

“Localized, more intense mitigation measures in high incidence jurisdictions are recommended, including limiting indoor gathering sizes, both in public and especially private spaces (gatherings of friends and families), to help limit the super-spreader events that disproportionately contribute to increased or maintained epidemic spread,” the report’s authors wrote.

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The report warned lack of compliance would lead to deaths that could be prevented and recommended that state leaders should work with communities on a “clear and shared message.”

The recommendations came just days before a judge temporarily blocked the administration’s most recent emergency order limiting public gatherings and capacity in bars and restaurants. Evers called the judge’s ruling a dangerous decision, urging people to stay home and limit outings as much as possible.

“It seems inconceivable to me that southern states with Republican governors and Republican legislators can and have implemented severe mitigation strategies — not just 25 percent (capacity limits), but closing things down just within the last couple of months,” said Evers. “So I, I’m hopeful that the Republicans will come up with a plan that will actually bend this curve.”

Representatives for top Republican leaders Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald did not return a request for comment on Thursday afternoon.

The number of new cases brought the average over the past seven days to 2,927 new cases per day, a figure that’s four times what it was six weeks ago.

DHS Secretary Andrea Palm said more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, with some medical facilities at more than 90 percent capacity.

There were 1,017 people hospitalized and 246 people in intensive care units due to COVID-19 as of Wednesday afternoon. There were 17 new deaths from COVID-19 reported Thursday, bringing the average of new reported deaths in the last week to 18.

Palm said the state is receiving testing supplies from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to address the surge in cases.

“We will start to deploy those in the Fox Valley in the coming days with some additional community testing capacity there,” she said.

The state health secretary also said members of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response team at the Health and Human Services Office visited the state this week and its newly opened alternate care facility.

Officials have said up to 50 patients could initially be transferred to an alternate care facility on the grounds of the Wisconsin State Fair. The site is designed for patients who need limited care as they recover from COVID-19, but who still aren’t well enough to go home. No admissions were planned at the facility Thursday, although it could eventually treat up to 530 patients.

Of people who got tested for COVID-19 over the past week, 20.8 percent were positive for the disease, according to DHS. That rate has been on the rise over the past week.

The positivity rate is often read by public health officials as a measure of overall testing levels. A high rate could indicate that testing in the state is limited, and skewed toward those already flagged as potentially having COVID-19. A lower rate could indicate testing is more widespread. Changes in the test positivity rate can also speak to COVID-19’s spread, if the size and makeup of the testing pool stays consistent.

On Sept. 30, DHS also introduced an alternative positivity rate, one that measures the percentage of tests that are positive, instead of the percentage of people who get a positive result. The new metric takes into account people who have been tested multiple times. The seven-day average for that number is at 10.6 percent.

According to DHS, there were an additional 138 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Thursday. A total of 8,892 people have been hospitalized because of the disease, or 5.5 percent of all positive cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 162,325, according to DHS. A total of 1,553 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19.

COVID-19 activity varies heavily from county to county. The latest activity data from DHS, released Wednesday, showed 57 counties had a “very high level” of COVID-19 activity, two higher than in the previous week’s report. The rest had a “high” level of activity. Wisconsin overall had a “very high” level of activity, according to DHS.

COVID-19 activity designations are based on the number of new cases per a county’s population over a 14-day period, as well as whether there’s an upward or downward trend in new cases.

On Wednesday, the state’s Fox Valley region had the most new cases per capita over the previous two weeks, while Wisconsin’s South Central region saw cases rise most rapidly.

Wisconsin’s daily testing capacity — based on the availability of test supplies and adequate staffing — has grown from 120 available lab tests in early March to 42,251 as of Thursday. The number of actual people with new test results reported Thursday was 15,202.

A total of 1,742,169 people have been tested over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 1,579,844 have tested negative.