Live: What To Know March 31 About COVID-19 In Wisconsin

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

A homemade sign of encouragement on a garage in a Milwaukee neighborhood.
A homemade sign of encouragement on a garage by artist Fred Kaems in a west side Milwaukee neighborhood. The photo was taken on Saturday, March 28. Lisa Nalbandian/WPR

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

The state Department of Health Services announced Tuesday there are 1,351 positive cases of COVID-19 statewide, as well as 17,375 negative tests. However, the number continues to grow as counties announce positive cases. As of Tuesday, the statewide death total due to COVID-19 was 23 people, according to state and local health officials.

At a Monday press conference, DHS Secretary Andrea Palm said the state had a lower negative test total than reported Sunday. A DHS spokesperson told WPR “the number of people with negative test results now reflects Wisconsin residents only and excludes duplicate lab results.”

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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:

3:56 PM: Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport Employee Tests Positive For COVID-19

The airport is restricting access to certain areas of the airport after an employee, who last worked on March 26, tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement from the airport.

The employee works in a single ground transportation booth on the baggage claim roadway. An airport spokesperson said it is sanitizing the area and has increased cleaning in general.

3:53 PM: 2 More Dane County Sheriff’s Deputies Test Positive For COVID-19

Four sheriff’s deputies have now tested positive for the disease, the Dane County Sheriff’s Department announced on Facebook. Out of 11 total tests, five tests have come back negative, and two are still pending.

The department announced the first two positive results on Monday.

Two Dane County Jail inmates have also tested positive for the disease. One has been released, and the other remains in a segregation cell within the jail, the announcement states.

The announcement also identifies a common thread between the inmates’ and deputies’ cases: They were either housed or working in the same part of the building.

2:39 PM: Voluntary Self-Isolation Shelters To Open In Madison, Milwaukee On Wednesday

Gov. Tony Evers announced Tuesday that people who show symptoms of COVID-19 but do not need to go to the hospital can voluntarily self-isolate at two hotels: the Lowell Center in Madison and a Super 8 in Milwaukee.

“These voluntary self-isolation sites help respond to the pandemic in two ways,” Evers said in a statement. “First, they will provide a valuable resource for those who have mild symptoms of COVID-19, leaving valuable hospital space available for others who need it, and they also provide a safe place for people to stay so they don’t spread COVID-19 to others.”

The shelters are open to people with suspected or confirmed cases, and they must be referred by a medical professional or public health official. Their quarantines are expected to last 14 days, or 72 hours after their last symptoms.

The State of Wisconsin Emergency Operations Center is also offering guidance to communities who want to set up their own self-isolation centers.

2:34 PM: Rock County Confirms First COVID-19 Death

A 53-year-old in Rock County has died of COVID-19, marking the county’s first death related to the pandemic.

The individual “had no known contact with a confirmed positive COVID-19 case, had no known international travel, but had traveled to Milwaukee in the 10 days prior to having symptoms of COVID-19,” a release from the county public health department states.

There have been a total of 16 confirmed cases in Rock County, according to the state Department of Public Health.

The Rock County announcement warns people that COVID-19 is spreading in the community, and people who don’t know they have it could be passing it on. It encourages people to follow Gov. Tony Evers’s stay-at-home order.

2 PM: DHS Confirms 1,351 Positive Cases Of COVID-19 Statewide

The number of positive cases of the new coronavirus in Wisconsin rose to 1,351 Tuesday, according to the state Department of Health Services. The number of negative tests was 17,375.

The number of positive test results increased by 130 from Monday to Tuesday.

According to figures from DHS and local health officials, 22 people in Wisconsin have died of COVID-19 as of Tuesday afternoon. There has been one death each Iron, Rock, Sauk and Waupaca counties, two in both Fond du Lac and Dane counties, three in Ozaukee County and 12 in Milwaukee County.

1:39 PM: Bayfield County Reports Third Confirmed Case

Another person in Bayfield County has contracted COVID-19 from within the community, the Bayfield County Health Department announced in a press release. Community spread had already been confirmed there.

The patient is in their 70s and is currently hospitalized.

12:25 PM: No Injuries In Shots Fired Incident At UW Hospital

The UW-Madison Police Department has announced a suspect is in custody after a shot was fired inside the waiting room of the emergency department at the UW Hospital on Highland Avenue in Madison.

UWPD released a statement describing the incident:

“Two officers with the City of Fitchburg Police Department were transporting a subject into the Emergency Department for evaluation and treatment. When the subject was being moved to another area in the ED waiting room, he attempted to disarm one of the police officers. During the struggle, one round was fired into the ceiling of the waiting room,” the statement reads.

Police said the area is now safe and no one was injured.

The hospital and the emergency department remain open.

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12:02 PM: Evers Requests Presidential Disaster Declaration in Response To COVID-19

Gov. Tony Evers sent a letter Tuesday to the Federal Emergency Management Agency requesting that President Donald Trump issue a major disaster declaration for the entire state of Wisconsin, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The response to this outbreak has caused multiple deaths, exhausted many of our resources, resulted in record unemployment claims, and taken a toll on the community infrastructure that is in place to protect the public,” Evers wrote in the letter. “We need federal assistance to help rebuild those critical safety nets and ensure they remain strong.”

In the letter, Evers asked the federal government to activate the following FEMA programs: Public Assistance, Direct Assistance, Hazard Mitigation, Crisis Counseling, Community Disaster Loans and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Program.

11:55 AM: DHS Secretary Says To Expect Medicaid Enrollment Spike

Wisconsin’s top health official is warning lawmakers that Medicaid enrollment is expected to increase dramatically due to the coronavirus pandemic, requiring the Legislature to take swift action to bolster the program that serves more than 1 million poor, elderly and disabled people, the Associated Press reports.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm sent the warning to the co-chairs of the Legislature’s budget committee on Tuesday. She said the pandemic “is likely to significantly increase Medicaid expenditures” through June 2021. Gov. Tony Evers and Republicans who control the Legislature are discussing a state aid package to complement an estimated $2.2 billion coming the state’s way as part of the federal stimulus.

11:47 AM: Madison Libraries Being Used To Collect Absentee Ballots

Starting April 1 through April 7, City of Madison voters will be able to drop absentee ballots in book drops of local libraries, according to a press release.

The three libraries allowing absentee ballot drop offs include: Central Library, Pinney Library and Sequoya Library.

City Clerk’s Office staff will collect the ballots daily.

Libraries are asking books and other library materials not be dropped in the book drops while ballots are being accepted, saying “we do not want ballots to be damaged.”

11:45 AM: More Wisconsin Newspapers Will Furlough Employees, Cut Pay

According to multiple reports, Lee Enterprises, a media company that owns newspapers in Madison, La Crosse, Lake Geneva, Kenosha, Racine and Chippewa Falls, plans to cut some employees’ pay and put others on two weeks of mandatory unpaid leave — cost-saving measures many newspaper companies are taking as COVID-19 shutdowns continue to hurt newspapers’ ad revenue.

In Madison, the Wisconsin State Journal’s sister publication, The Capital Times, will also be affected, Scott Gordon of Tone Madison reports.

On Monday, the nation’s largest newspaper chain, Gannett, announced its own round of furloughs. Gannett owns many major Wisconsin newspapers, including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

11 AM: Dane County Joins Calls To Delay Spring Election

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced on Twitter that he is directing the county to file a brief in support of pushing back the spring election, currently scheduled for April 7.

The presidential primary and other races are scheduled for that day. The City of Green Bay filed a federal lawsuit last week against the Wisconsin Elections Commission, on the grounds that the election cannot be held safely as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. A federal judge promptly dismissed it, but the fight continues.

Gov. Tony Evers has resisted calls to move the election, instead proposing that every voter should automatically receive an absentee ballot, making the election mail-in only.

9:35 AM: Tourism-Dependent Counties Hard Hit By Virus

Wisconsin’s economy will be harder hit by the coronavirus pandemic in areas where there is more tourism, a study by the Wisconsin Policy Forum released on Tuesday said, as reported by the Associated Press.

The study found that counties that depend heavily on tourism face the greatest challenges due to the concentration of jobs related to hotels, restaurants, entertainment and recreation. The virus outbreak has forced closures of nonessential businesses across the state, including many that rely on tourists like water parks in Wisconsin Dells, professional and collegiate sporting events and historical sites throughout the state.

The forum’s report said in six tourism-dependent counties, at least one out of every four jobs is in a sector heavily impacted by closures due to the virus. That includes Adams County, which covers a portion of the Wisconsin Dells area, Door County and Walworth County, which includes the Lake Geneva area. The other three are Vilas, Bayfield and Sawyer counties.

The longer the current economic situation lasts, the more it will affect summer tourism, particularly in counties where that is the majority of their tourism season, the report said.

In the state’s two largest metropolitan areas, Milwaukee and Madison, large numbers of workers are affected, even though their share of jobs in the affected sectors is not as large as other more tourism-dependent counties, the report said.

9 AM: Report: Municipalities Lack Enough Poll Workers For In-Person Voting

A new report indicates more than 100 municipalities lack enough poll workers to offer any in-person voting on Election Day, according to the Associated Press.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission released documents Tuesday that include findings from a survey of local clerks preparing to run Wisconsin’s spring election on April 7 in the face of the coronavirus.

The survey found 111 municipalities are short 671 poll workers, leaving them too-short handed to offer in-person voting at the polls. Another 126 municipalities are short 2,713 poll workers, leaving them unable to staff all their polling sites. The municipalities are spread across the state.

MONDAY: Kohl’s Stores To Remain Closed, Workers Furloughed

The Menomonee Falls-based retailer announced it will keep its stores closed until further notice. Stores have been closed since March 19, but the company originally set a tentative reopening date of April 1.

Many employees will be furloughed, including store and store distribution workers, as well as some office employees. Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass will not take a salary during the closures, according to the announcement.

MONDAY: UW-Madison Expects To Lose $100M

The University of Wisconsin-Madison expects to lose $100 million because of the coronavirus pandemic, that’s if social distancing is over by June.

The loss includes reimbursing students for room and board after the campus closed because of the pandemic. Chancellor Rebecca Blank told the University Committee on Monday additional expenses include hiring professional cleaners and buying software licenses and programs to move thousands of courses online.

The State Journal reports the loss is about 3.2 percent of UW-Madison’s $3 billion budget. System spokesperson Mark Pitsch said he doesn’t have an estimate for the financial losses at its 26 campuses.

MONDAY: State Sees 109 New Positive Cases As Of Monday Afternoon

The number of positive cases of the new coronavirus in Wisconsin rose to 1,221 Monday, according to the state Department of Health Services. The number of negative tests was 15,856 negative tests.

The number of positive test results increased by 109 from Sunday to Monday.

According to figures from DHS and local health officials, 19 people in Wisconsin have died of COVID-19 as of Monday afternoon. There has been one death each in Dane, Iron, Sauk and Waupaca counties, two in Fond du Lac, three in Ozaukee County and 10 in Milwaukee County.

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 said “the number of people with negative test results now reflects Wisconsin residents only and excludes duplicate lab results.”

MONDAY: More Labs Helping With COVID-19 In Wisconsin

Gov. Tony Evers said 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 conducting tests 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.

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.