Live: What To Know April 16 About COVID-19 In Wisconsin

New Coronavirus Cases In State Continue To Rise

Nurse and medical workers are celebrated by New Yorkers
Nurses and medical workers react as police officers and pedestrians cheer them outside Lenox Hill Hospital Wednesday, April 15, 2020, in New York. Frank Franklin II/AP Photo

The number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin continues to grow.

The state Department of Health Services announced Thursday there are 3,875 positive cases of COVID-19 statewide and 197 deaths.

As the response to the virus evolves, Wisconsin Public Radio will be keeping track of up-to-date happenings here, and in our broadcast and online coverage. If you have questions or concerns about COVID-19 — either about the virus, prevention or preparation — ask us and we’ll do our best to answer.

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For explanations for common questions and additional information about COVID resources, read WisContext’s story listing 10 things to know about the pandemic and public health in the state.

For a compilation of all WPR’s coverage, visit WPR’s Coronavutiirus In Wisconsin section.

Here are the latest updates on the new coronavirus in Wisconsin:

4:41 PM: Longtime Milwaukee Journalist Dies At 63; COVID-19 Test Pending

A longtime columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and respected black journalist has died at 63, and whether his death was due to COVID-19 is under investigation. Eugene Kane died Thursday, according to multiple reports citing the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner.

Kane was best known as a metro columnist for the Journal Sentinel, where he won numerous awards. He took a buyout from the newspaper in 2012, after writing his column for 18 years. He continued to write op-eds for the Journal Sentinel and later for other Milwaukee media, and he appeared frequently on WPR’s Ideas Network. He also maintained a presence on Twitter, where he was sharp-elbowed about his liberal politics and free with jokes. On April 3, he tweeted, “It’s amazing to remember how anxious I was for the year 2020 to finally get here. What the hell was I thinking?”

3:35 PM: GOP Leader Will Seek ‘Legal Or Legislative’ Ways To Block Extension Of Stay-Home Order

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he’s against the governor’s extension of the safer-at-home order and will try to stop it from going into effect.

“Health and safety are a priority, however to extend this order for another month without a plan for how to reopen the state or clear benchmarks for an early expiration is simply unacceptable,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. He said the Senate is “planning to look for legal or legislative relief” to change the order.

At a Thursday press conference, Gov. Tony Evers’ legal counsel Ryan Nilsestuen said the extension of the order is legal under longstanding powers held by the state Department of Health Services to fight infectious disease outbreaks, such as closing down businesses found to cause a public health risk.

Fitzgerald said since rural counties haven’t seen the number of cases as urban and suburban areas have, they should not have to have the same restrictions. The Evers administration’s position is that because people travel throughout the state for work or for other reasons, it’s necessary to have a statewide policy.

2:23 PM: Evers Says Bipartisan Coalition Of Governors Will Work Together To Reopen States

At a Thursday press conference, Gov. Tony Evers said Wisconsin has joined a partnership with other Midwestern governors who will coordinate on ways to reopen the economy in the Midwest region.

The announcement comes the same day Evers announced the state would extend its safer-at-home order through May 26, and that schools would remain closed through the end of the school year.

“We can’t think about this like flipping a light switch,” Evers said of reopening the economy. “It’s like turning a dial.”

The other governors participating in the coalition are Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Tim Walz of Minnesota, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Eric Holcomb and Indiana and Andy Beshear of Kentucky.

1:45 PM: DHS Reports 3,875 COVID-19 Cases, 197 Deaths In Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 154 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin on Thursday afternoon, taking the statewide total to 3,875. The disease has caused 197 deaths.

Sixty-five of the state’s 72 counties have confirmed cases. As of Thursday afternoon the following counties still have no confirmed cases: Burnett, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Pepin, Taylor and Vernon.

According to DHS, 1,121 people across the state have been hospitalized for the disease.

As of Wednesday, 40,974 Wisconsinites have tested negative for the virus.

1 PM: Gov. Tony Evers Extends Safer-At-Home Order

Gov. Tony Evers has directed the state Department of Health Services to extend the state’s safer-at-home order several weeks.

The order, which was set to expire Friday, April 24, will now end at 8 a.m. Tuesday, May 26.

The goal of such orders is to slow the spread of COVID-19 and lower the number of cases the state sees at its peak.

The order extending the timeframe states all public and private K-12 schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year.

Essential businesses and operations, such as hospitals, grocery stores, hardware stores and pharmacies, will continue operations and don’t need any special certification to do so.

12:26 PM: Wisconsin Congressional Democrats Demand Delayed COVID-19 Testing Materials From Federal Government

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) never sent requested testing materials to Wisconsin, which is preventing the state from performing more tests for COVID-19, three of Wisconsin’s U.S. representatives wrote in a letter to FEMA.

Reps. Ron Kind, Gwen Moore, and Mark Pocan, all D-Wisconsin, sent the letter following up on various requests for critical supplies, like personal protective equipment. The letter states that Wisconsin has received three shipments of supplies from the national stockpile, but the third shipment contained 50 percent fewer N95 masks than expected, and none contained the requested testing materials.

“The State of Wisconsin needs FEMA’s support in providing testing supplies to be able to test at our full lab capacity to effectively respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. Therefore, we respectfully request you expedite the supplies included in the State’s March 28th and 29th request to FEMA,” the letter reads.

The representatives asked for a response no later than April 17 and a timeline for the delivery of the supplies.

12:18 PM: Report: Counties Face ‘Significant Revenue Challenges Ahead’

The Wisconsin Policy Forum in a new report says Wisconsin counties “are likely to face the greatest fiscal challenges among Wisconsin’s local governments.” That’s because counties are the only governments that receive significant sales tax revenues, which are especially affected by the downturn imposed to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The effects may be worst in regions where the economy depends on tourism.

“Sixty-eight of the state’s 72 counties collect a 0.5 percent sales tax, which will see diminished revenues and potentially stunning drops in some regions with significant visitors,” the report warns.

11:52 AM: Wisconsin Bankers: More Small Business Loans Needed

The $349 billion federal aid program for small businesses has run out of money, officials announced Thursday.

In response to the news that the Paycheck Protection Program had dried up, the Wisconsin Bankers Association called on lawmakers to take further action to provide relief:

The bankers are “strongly advocating for Congress immediately to authorize new PPP funding to meet the payroll needs of small businesses struggling during the coronavirus pandemic,” said WBA CEO Rose Oswald Poels in a statement. “We again call on lawmakers to approve additional funding expeditiously, so Wisconsin’s banks can continue to provide this important financial lifeline to small businesses.”

10:15 AM: Superior Mayor Unveils $667K Aid Package For City Residents

Families in need would get assistance with rent, small businesses will get emergency grants, and wastewater and landfill late fees will be waived under a new COVID-19 relief package unveiled Thursday by the mayor of Superior.

The Superior Coronavirus Relief Package amounts to $667,000, according to a release from Mayor Jim Paine. That includes $250,000 in emergency Community Development Block Grant funding that will go toward rent for low- and moderate-income families. Another $50,000 will go to fund housing for the homeless who have potentially been exposed to the virus.

Other grants in the package will go to nonprofits in Superior that have responded to the pandemic, an emergency grant program for small businesses and waiving some fees for businesses and property owners.

“The proposals we are announcing today cannot and will not solve the economic problems created by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Paine said in a statement. “But, in partnership with our state and federal governments, we hope to limit the damage and speed up the recovery for the people of Superior.”

The proposals will need to be passed by City Council to become law. Paine said he “look(s) forward to (Council’s) questions and support.”

9:50 AM: Protest Of Stay-At-Home Orders Planned In Madison For April 24

Online organizers are calling for a protest at the state Capitol on Friday, April 24 seeking an end to Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order.

The Evers administration’s order aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 expires next Friday, but the governor has indicated that, on the advice of public health experts, he is likely to extend it beyond that date.

In Ohio and Michigan, protests against those states’ restrictions attracted more than 100 people each Monday.

The Marquette University Law School poll on April 1 found overwhelming support for Evers’ stay-home order, with 86 percent of Wisconsin voters saying it was appropriate for the governor to close schools and businesses.

9 AM: UW Regents To Take Up Furloughs Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

The UW System Board of Regents will meet Thursday to consider granting UW System president Ray Cross and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank authority to put furlough policies into place.

According to the meeting agenda, “The furlough policies will provide options in addition to the other workforce reduction and cost saving measures, to address these financial challenges in a way that minimizes layoffs and maximizes the UW System’s ability to continue to perform its critical educational and outreach mission.”

The meeting, which will take place at 2:30 p.m., comes after UW System announced it is expecting to lose nearly $170 million in revenue this spring due to the new coronavirus.

WEDNESDAY: Smithfield Foods Inc. To Close Pork Plants Due To Pandemic

The Wall Street Journal reports that Smithfield Foods Inc. will close two more pork-processing plants due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smithfield Foods is the top pork producer in the United States. It announced it will close plants this week in Wisconsin and Missouri.

WEDNESDAY: Edgewood College Announces $500K Fund For Students

Edgewood College undergraduate students can apply for up to $1,500 though a new Presidential Relief Fund, The Cap Times reports.

The goal of the fund is to assist as many students as possible to continue their course of study at Edgewood College in the fall.

The Edgewood Board of Trustees approved the $500,000 fund earlier this month to provide immediate cash relief to students.

“So many service industries that our students rely on for employment are affected,” Edgewood Interim President Sr. Mary Ellen Gevelinger said in a statement. “We are fortunate to be able to offer a program that will provide some support for our students to help with basic needs like groceries, rent and unexpected expenses during this national and global health crisis.”

WEDNESDAY: Gov. Tony Evers Sign COVID-19 Relief Bill

Within hours of its passage by the state Senate, Gov. Tony Evers signed the COVID-19 relief bill. The bill lifts a one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance in Wisconsin. It would also require health insurers to cover COVID-19 testing and bars those insurers from discriminating against people who have or have had the virus.

“Although I remain concerned about what is missing from this legislation I have called for this bill to be sent over for my signature as soon as possible,” Evers said in a written statement. “The bill I will sign falls short of what is needed to address the magnitude and gravity of what our state is facing, but I am not willing to delay our state’s response to this crisis.”

Evers said he was disappointed that the bill does not provide hazard pay or workers compensation for all frontline and critical workers like first responders, childcare providers, and healthcare workers.

WEDNESDAY: DHS Reports 3,721 COVID-19 Cases, 182 Deaths In Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 166 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin on Wednesday afternoon, taking the statewide total to 3,721. The disease has caused 182 deaths.

Sixty-five of the state’s 72 counties have confirmed cases. As of Wednesday afternoon the following counties still have no confirmed cases: Burnett, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Pepin, Taylor and Vernon.

According to DHS, 1,091 people across the state have been hospitalized for the disease.

As of Wednesday, 39,326 Wisconsinites have tested negative for the virus.

Resources For Food, Housing Help And More In Wisconsin

Are you in need of food? Do you need someone to pick up groceries? Are you looking for ways to help during the COVID-19 pandemic? WPR is keeping an updated list of resources across Wisconsin. If you don’t find what you’re looking for here, you can search for services online at 211 Wisconsin, dial 211 on your phone, or text your ZIP code to 898211.