Live: What To Know March 30 About COVID-19 In Wisconsin

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

sign, COVID-19, coronavirus
This March 27, 2020 photo shows a no visitors allowed sign at Village Pointe Commons, a senior care facility in Grafton, Wis. Health officials say two more people at a senior care the facility have died after testing positive for the coronavirus. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. Gretchen Ehlke/AP Photo

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

The state Department of Health Services announced Monday there are 1,221 positive cases of COVID-19 statewide, as well as 15,856 negative tests. However, the number continues to grow as counties announce positive cases. As of Monday, the statewide death total due to COVID-19 was 19 people, according to state and local health officials.

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 Coronavirus In Wisconsin section. For Monday’s state and local totals and other news, click here.

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

7:15 PM: Essentia Health Lays Off 500 Workers

Duluth-based Essentia Health announced Monday that it’s laying off more than three percent of its workforce.

Around 500 staff who are not involved in direct patient care are being placed on special administrative leave across its system. The health care provider has about 14,500 workers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Idaho.

“The decision to refocus our operations for the coming COVID-19 surge is difficult because we deeply appreciate the contributions of all our Essentia colleagues,” said David C. Herman, MD, chief executive officer at Essentia in a news release. “We recognize and regret the hardship this uncertainty will have on our coworkers and their families.”

Essentia expects to see a 20 to 40 percent drop in revenues because of a decline in the overall number of patients being served due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Those being placed on leave can apply for unemployment benefits while still being able to retain access to their health insurance in the short term.

4:03 PM: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore May Delay Season

One of northern Wisconsin’s most popular tourist destinations might see its season delayed as efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 continue. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore might delay opening its visitor services, which in a normal year are available in mid-May.

“The health and safety of our employees, local residents, volunteers and visitors to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is our No. 1 priority,” park superintendent Lynne Dominy said in a release. Officials will work with federal, state, and local authorities and “will notify the public when we resume normal park operations,” Dominy said.

In the meantime, seasonal employees and volunteers are being delayed and asked to stay home rather than travel to the park to prepare for the tourist season, according to the release.

3:18 PM: Waukesha Will Have A Single Polling Place Open April 7

Voters in the city of Waukesha will have a single polling place open for the April 7 election, a measure the city says is due to a lack of available poll workers.

“All residents are strongly encouraged to vote absentee by mail … for their safety, the safety of the poll workers and the safety of city staff,” a message from the city read. All residents who do not vote absentee or in advance will vote from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Schuetze Recreation Center, 1120 Baxter St.

More than 72,000 people live in Waukesha, making it Wisconsin’s seventh most populous city. Some city officials in Wisconsin have urged the governor and state legislators to act to postpone the election or convert it to entirely vote-by-mail as a health measure. On Friday, a federal judge blocked a lawsuit by the city of Green Bay aimed at forcing a delay.

2:53 PM: State Will Need ‘Flexibility’ In Use Of Federal Relief Funds, Evers Says

Gov. Tony Evers said state agencies have been “working around the clock to keep our communities safe,” and the state has been working “aggressively” to acquire supplies including ventilators, personal protective equipment for health care workers and additional testing supplies.

“Wisconsin is competing not just with other states and with the federal government but with the entire world to get these supplies,” Evers said at a Monday afternoon press conference. “We are aggressively pursuing any and every lead to purchase these supplies.”

The state has established the website for companies or individuals who have large quantities of supplies to donate.

Evers also said the state will need flexibility in how aid from the federal government can be used. That includes the elimination of what he called “bureaucratic hurdles” such as pre-authorization requirements to the state Department of Health Services, and the ability to add staff and capacity at the state Department of Workforce Development, which received more than 1.5 million calls at its unemployment insurance call center last week. That’s an increase of 6,208 percent over its average weekly call volume, Evers said.

More information on Monday’s totals is available here.

1:43 PM: State Sees 109 New Positive Cases As Of Monday Afternoon

Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm released the state’s latest numbers of COVID-19 in Wisconsin at a Monday afternoon press conference. The state has had:

  • 15,856 negative tests
  • 1,221 positive tests

It’s a growth of 109 positive tests in the last day. Palm reported one new death from the virus, a man in his 40s. That brings the total number of deaths related to the virus in the state to 19, according to state and local health officials.

At a Monday afternoon press conference, DHS Secretary Andrea Palm said the state has had 15,856 negative tests. That figure was fewer than what the department released Sunday, when it said there had been 16,550 negative tests. A DHS spokesperson told WPR “the number of people with negative test results now reflects Wisconsin residents only and excludes duplicate lab results.”

Find more information on latest state data from Monday here.

11:59 AM: More Labs Helping With COVID-19 In Wisconsin

Gov. Tony Evers says Wisconsin will be able to double its capacity to process COVID-19 under a new public-private partnership, the Associated Press reports.

The partnership announced Monday includes laboratory support from Exact Sciences, Marshfield Clinic Health System, Promega and UW Health.

Existing labs that had been doing testing were able to complete between 1,500 and 2,000 a day, but that is expected to double initially and grow as more supplies become available, Evers’ office said in a statement announcing the agreement.

The Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene and the Milwaukee Public Health Lab have been leading the network to get additional testing.

11:49 AM: Milwaukee Art Museum Cancels Art In Bloom, Lakefront Festival Of The Arts

The Milwaukee Art Museum has closed until further notice and will cancel all events, including the popular Art in Bloom and Lakefront Festival of Arts.

Art in Bloom was scheduled from April 30 to May 3. The Lakefront Festival of the Arts was scheduled in June.

“The health and safety of the Milwaukee community is our highest priority,” museum spokesperson Josh Depenbrok said in an email to WPR.

11:13 AM: Reports: Gannett Will Furlough Newspaper Employees

The owner of 11 daily newspapers in Wisconsin will furlough employees as a way of “address(ing) the financial impact of this pandemic,” according to multiple reports. Gannett Co. Inc. is the largest national newspaper chain and is the owner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Green Bay Press Gazette, Appleton Post-Crescent and other newspapers in Wisconsin. The company-wide email went out Monday morning.

According to reports, the company’s senior management and executives will see a 25 percent pay cut, and employees making more than $38,000 per year will face furloughs, which are unpaid time off. No layoffs have been announced, but the company has not ruled them out. A Gannett employee tweeted that employees would be furloughed for one week per month in the second quarter.

Other daily newspapers in Wisconsin owned by Gannett are the Sheboygan Press, Wausau Daily Herald, Oshkosh Northwestern, Marshfield News-Herald, Stevens Point Journal, Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, the Manitowoc Herald-Times Reporter and the Fond Du Lac Reporter. The company also publishes the weekly Door County Advocate.

8 AM: Wausau Nursing Home Employee Tests Positive For COVID-19

According to the Wausau Pilot and Review, an employee at Mount View Care Center in Wausau has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee is currently in isolation.

“We are taking every step as recommended by authorities to contain the spread and working closely with our partners at the Marathon County Health Department. We want to make residents, their families, our dedicated staff, and our community aware of this situation and reassure everyone that we are taking appropriate steps to contain the spread of illness,” said Michael Loy, CEO of North Central Health Care.

The employee went to work on March 22 and was asymptomatic, but developed symptoms during their shift. All staff, residents and families have been notified of potential exposure to the diagnosed employee and North Central Health Care officials are continuing to monitor residents and staff.

7:16 AM: Wisconsin Dairy Farmers Hit Hard By Coronavirus

The coronavirus has delivered a severe blow to Wisconsin dairy farmers who rely on selling milk to restaurants, schools and the hospitality industry.

The Journal Sentinel reports about one-third of Wisconsin dairy products, mainly cheese, are sold in the food service trade.

Farmers say the coronavirus outbreak has caused milk prices to drop to unprofitable levels this spring, at a time when money is needed for the upcoming planting season. Dairy farmers are worried about processing plants closing or cutting production, forcing them to dump milk.

SUNDAY: Milwaukee’s Homeless Population At Risk For COVID-19 Could Be Housed In Former Seminary

Milwaukee’s homeless population who is susceptible of contracting COVID-19, or showing symptoms of the virus, could be staying at a former seminary, Mayor Tom Barrett announced Sunday.

The city has been working with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County and the city of St. Francis, where the seminary is located to make arrangements.

Two wings of the seminary’s Clare Hall will open, one for people showing symptoms, the other for people at risk. There are a total of 90 beds.

The city’s Department of Health Services will work with 14 homeless shelters to make referrals.

“These are individuals who do not have stable homes,” Barrett said. “As a society we have an obligation to make sure they are not exposing others to COVID-19 but that they do not get COVID-19 if they are in a high-risk category.”

SUNDAY: Milwaukee County Has 10 COVID-19 Deaths

The Milwaukee County medical examiner has reported a 71-year-old man has died from complications of COVID-19. The man had underlying health issues, according to the medical examiner.

This is the 10th death related to COVID-19 in Milwaukee County. All of the people who have died related to the new coronavirus in Milwaukee County are African American, according to medical examiner reports.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is in Milwaukee researching why the city’s African American community has had a disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths.

As of Sunday morning, Milwaukee County had 559 positive COVID-19 cases, according to Milwaukee County’s COVID-19 dashboard.