Live: What To Know March 26 About COVID-19 In Wisconsin

Number Of Total Cases Of COVID-19 In State Is Rising

Health care worker at a COVID-19 testing site
A medical technician adjusts her gloves at a COVID-19 Community-Based Testing Site at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., March 23, 2020. New Jersey National Guard (CC-BY-ND)

With more testing available, the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in the state continues to grow.

The state Department of Health Services announced Thursday there are 707 positive cases of COVID-19 statewide, as well as 11,583 negative tests. However, the number continues to grow as counties announce positive cases. As of Thursday afternoon, the statewide death total due to COVID-19 was 10.

The Evers administration’s stay-at-home order went into effect Wednesday morning, prohibiting non-essential travel, with some exceptions. For more information on that order, read this story answering frequently asked questions.

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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.

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 Coronavirus In Wisconsin section.

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

4:59 PM: Ford Manufactures Face Shields Designed By Madison Engineers

A plastic face shield designed by a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and Madison-area engineers is now being produced by Ford and other national manufacturers, according to a report by Wired.

Lennon Rodgers, director of UW-Madison’s Grainger Engineering Design Innovation Lab, started working on a face shield for healthcare workers after being contacted by UW Health about a need for more equipment.

He worked with partners at Midwest Prototyping and Delve to create the new shield and posted the design for free online.

In an email to WPR, Rodgers said he’s been working with Ford for nearly a week as they begin production of the shields.

He said small manufacturers have also started producing the shields for their local hospitals. And he’s been contacted by international organizations about how they can start producing the shields for healthcare workers.

4:52 PM: State Insurance Commissioner Calls On Companies To Maintain Health Insurance For Furloughed Workers

Commissioner Mark Afable issued a statement on Thursday calling on health insurance companies to allow small employers to maintain health insurance for furloughed employees or those working reduced hours.

The statement said health insurers often only insure “active status” employees, or those working at least 30 hours per week. But Afable said workers at small businesses may not meet that standard under the new “stay-at-home” order.

“We know that small businesses are doing their best to retain employees even if it means reducing hours or furloughing them. But these changes shouldn’t mean an employee loses access to their health insurance. We’re urging insurers to work in partnership with Wisconsin’s small businesses to help keep folks insured and healthy,” said Afable in the statement.

4:28 PM: Ho-Chunk Nation Issues Temporary Lay Offs As Casinos, Hotels Shut Down

Ho-Chunk Nation President Marlon WhiteEagle announced the tribal nation will temporarily lay off non-essential employees starting April 3.

In a statement on Wednesday, WhiteEagle said layoffs are meant to preserve capital and maintain operations as the tribal nation deals with a loss of revenue during the state’s “Safer At Home” order.

“We are experiencing the financial impact of preventing the spread of the virus with closure of our gaming facilities, hotels, restaurants, fitness centers and branch offices,” said WhiteEagle in a statement. “This eliminates much of our revenue that funds our daily governmental operations.”

WhiteEagle said employees will maintain their health insurance during the temporary layoff.

On March 12, WhiteEagle declared a state of emergency for the Ho-Chunk Nation.

3:55 PM: Gov. Tony Evers Announces PPE Initiative

In order to protect those on the frontlines of the response to COVID-19, Gov. Tony Evers launched an initiative designed to get more personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gowns, gloves and masks.

Wisconsinites can go to to donate or sell large quantities of PPE to the State of Wisconsin — who will work to get it to communities that need it the most.

“As we face a global shortage of PPE, and are competing with other states to acquire limited resources, I am calling on companies, schools, and other organizations that may have unused protective equipment sitting in their facilities to make those materials available to those who need it most,” Evers said in a press release.

The state is seeking the following items:

  • Surgical Gowns (S, L, XL, and XXL)
  • Face/Surgical Masks (adult, pediatric)
  • Gloves (Nitrile, Vinyl, or Butyl)
  • N-95 Particulate Respirators
  • Isolation Gowns
  • Face Shields
  • Tyvek Coveralls
  • Thermometers
  • Foot Coverings

3:04 PM: Milwaukee County Medical Examiner Announces 7th Death From COVID-19

According to a tweet from the Milwaukee County Medical Exameri’s Office, a 65-year-old female from Milwaukee died Thursday afternoon at a local hospital from complications of COVID-19.

She had been hospitalized since Saturday.

That puts the statewide total at 10 deaths, seven of which are in Milwaukee County.

2 PM: Milwaukee County Medical Examiner Announces 6th Death From COVID-19

According to a tweet from the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office, a 79-year-old female from Milwaukee died Thursday at a local hospital from complications of COVID-19.

She had been hospitalized since March 16.

That puts the statewide total at nine deaths, six of which are in Milwaukee County.

1:45 PM: 707 Confirmed COVID-19 Cases In Wisconsin

The state Department of Health Services announced Thursday there are 707 positive cases of COVID-19 statewide, as well as 11,583 negative tests. However, the number continues to grow as counties announce positive cases.

According to figures from DHS and an announcement from the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner, nine people in Wisconsin have died of COVID-19 as of 2:00 p.m. Thursday. There has been one death each in Fond du Lac, Ozaukee and Dane counties, and six in Milwaukee County.

Between Wednesday and Thursday, the number of positive cases jumped by 122, and the number of negative test results increased 1,494.

12:55 PM: Bayfield County Confirms Community Spread Of COVID-19

Bayfield County Health Department has identified the county’s first case of community spread of the new coronavirus.

In an announcement Thursday, health officials said they had received lab results confirming the county’s second COVID-19 case. Officials said the individual did not have a history of travel or contact with a known positive case of COVID-19, making it the first case of community spread.

Department officials said they are actively investigating the case and working to identify anyone potentially at risk of contracting the new coronavirus.

12:35 PM: League of Women Voters Sues State Over Witness Signature Requirement For Absentee Ballots

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin is challenging the state’s requirement for a witness signature on mail-in ballots during the new coronavirus pandemic.

The group, joined by the Wisconsin Alliance of Retired Americans, filed the federal lawsuit against the Wisconsin Elections Commission on Thursday.

The lawsuit asks the court to prevent election officials from rejecting absentee ballots that lack a witness signature during the pandemic. The group argues the injunction would protect the voting rights of individuals in self-quarantine who cannot safely obtain a witness signature on their mail-in ballot for the April 7 election.

11:57 AM: GOP Asks Permission To Oppose Democrats’ Election Lawsuit

The Republican National Committee and the state Republican Party are asking a federal judge to let them officially oppose a lawsuit brought by Democrats seeking to ease voting regulations for Wisconsin’s spring election because of the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.

The Democratic National Committee and the state Democratic Party filed the lawsuit last week.

Republicans have asked U.S. District Judge William Conley to let them join the lawsuit, arguing they should be allowed to protect their constituents from last-minute changes to voting laws and procedures.

The April 7 election includes the presidential primary, a state Supreme Court race and hundreds of local races.

11:52 AM: City of Janesville Reduces Polling Places Over COVID-19 Concerns

The city of Janesville announced it will reduce the number of polling places in the April 7 election.

In a press release Thursday, the clerk-treasurer’s office said it would consolidate voting into four locations that allow for social distancing.

Officials plan to tape 6-foot boxes onto the floor to keep voters separated while in line. Voters are also encouraged to bring their own pens to polling places.

Janesville officials joined others across the state in encouraging voters to vote absentee in the upcoming election.

Earlier this week, cities around the state ended early in-person voting as the new coronavirus continue to spread.

The city of Green Bay and its clerk have filed a federal lawsuit against the Wisconsin Elections Commission and Gov. Tony Evers’ administration seeking to delay the April 7 election. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, argues election officials across the state cannot effectively and safely administer the election and calls for moving to an election conducted entirely by mail.

11:31 AM: Vos Gives More Details On Legislature’s Response

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he and other legislative leaders expect to build the state response to COVID-19 after first understanding what the federal economic stimulus package means for the state.

Vos told WPR’s “The Morning Show” on Thursday that in past stimulus bills, Wisconsin has received about 2 percent of total direct federal aid to states.

“That means we should get around $3 billion,” he said. “Are there strings attached to that? What exactly has to happen for us to access that money? Those are questions we have to ask before the Legislature steps up and says we’re going to spend a million dollars here, or a million dollars there.”

Vos said lawmakers will likely get an analysis of the federal aid package next week.

He said lawmakers should expect a very different fiscal picture than the earlier projections of a state revenue surplus.

“That’s all gone. There is no surplus any longer,” Vos said. “I want to make sure we can fund the basic operations of government and make sure that we do it in a smart way.”

Vos also criticized the lawsuit filed Tuesday by the city of Green Bay to delay the April 7 election, saying that in a republic, elections must go forward.

And he said while there has been discussion about how the Assembly might conduct its business remotely, his preference remains finding a way to meet in-person at the state Capitol.

11:25 AM: DOT Extends Overweight Permits For Trucks Carrying Groceries

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation announced an extension for overweight permits to allow trucks to continue supplying grocery stores during the new coronavirus pandemic.

The two-week extension will automatically cover more than 15,000 trucks that have applied for the permits, which had been set to expire Saturday.

“Truckers across the country are hard at work to keep grocery shelves in stock, and we want to do everything we can to help,” said WisDOT Secretary Craig Thompson in a statement. “The number of these permits in use shows tremendous demand, and I want to thank everyone involved in this effort.”

The agency announced earlier this month it would issue the permits and waive fees for companies supplying grocery stores.

7:30 AM: DPI Cancels State Standardized Testing For The Year

Standardized state testing for Wisconsin students has been canceled this year due to the coronavirus outbreak that has forced schools to temporarily close. The Department of Public Instruction made the announcement on its website Wednesday.

It means elementary and middle school students won’t be taking the Forward Exam or the Dynamic Learning Maps exam for cognitively disabled children. It also cancels the ACT Aspire assessment for ninth- and 10th-graders.

Most 11th-graders have already taken the regular ACT test before schools closed statewide March 18. It’s a requirement for juniors and required for admission to some colleges. The State Journal reports DPI is working to provide an additional ACT exam later this year.

Under the Evers administration’s “safer-at-home” directive, Wisconsin schools will remain closed until at least April 24.

5:46 AM: 5th Person Dies From Coronavirus In Milwaukee County

A fifth person has died from complications of COVID-19, according to a tweet Thursday morning from the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The 57-year-old woman is from West Allis and died at a local hospital. She had been hospitalized since Thursday, March 19.

This brings the statewide death total due to COVID-19 to eight.

WEDNESDAY: State Capital Building To Close Thursday

The State Capital building will close to visitors beginning 8 a.m. Thursday, the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) announced Wednesday. It will be closed until further notice. This comes after Gov. Tony Evers enacted Tuesday’s “safer-at-home” order.

The building will reopen if the Legislature or Supreme Court convenes, according to a DOA news release.

Many of the activities that occur at the State Capital, including public tours, were already limited or stopped before Wednesday’s announcement.

WEDNESDAY: There Are Now 585 Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, DHS Reports

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 585 people in Wisconsin have tested positive for the new coronavirus as of Wednesday afternoon. An additional 10,089 tests have come back negative.

Milwaukee County has the largest number of confirmed cases in the state.

Residents in 33 Wisconsin counties have been confirmed to have the virus, according to DHS.

WEDNESDAY: Wisconsin’s 7th Confirmed COVID-19 Death Is Reported In Milwaukee County

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office tweeted Wednesday afternoon it’s investigating the death of a 60-year-old man due to complications from the new coronavirus.

According to the tweet, the man died at his home.

As of 1:40 p.m. Wednesday, Milwaukee County reported 295 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with the most cases occurring among people in their 40s.

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.