Milwaukee Health Officials Say COVID-19 Likely To Hit City

Impact Of The Virus On Democratic National Convention Unknown

The Milwaukee Riverwalk as ice melts
Downtown Milwaukee. Amy Meredith (CC BY-ND)

The Milwaukee Health Department expects a COVID-19 outbreak in the city. Health officials say how many people the virus will affect or when it will arrive in the city is unknown.

“This pandemic is considered imminent at this point,” said Dr. Nick Tomaro, public health emergency response planning coordinator for Milwaukee.

Health Department officials spoke with the Milwaukee Common Council’s Public Safety and Health Committee Thursday during a special meeting.

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Tomaro said because Milwaukee is currently planning the Democratic National Convention, which is scheduled to take place July 13 to 16, the city has access to several government agencies.

“Right now we have to focus on what we are going to do for the public and take into account the fact that this large event is happening,” Tomaro said, adding there is no way of knowing what will be happening with the virus in July.

The one confirmed case in Wisconsin was someone who returned to Dane County from China. That person is out of isolation and fully recovered, according to state health officials. Tests on 14 other individuals were still pending as of 2 p.m. Wednesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported at least 149 cases of the new coronavirus among Americans on Thursday, up from 129 on Wednesday.

Testing for COVID-19 will be done at two locations in Wisconsin rather than be sent out of state to the CDC in Atlanta, state health officials announced Monday.

Prepping for a potential pandemic will likely include several state agencies, especially those linked to large gatherings or close quarters, like the state departments of tourism and corrections.

Milwaukee Alderman Michael Murphy said he doesn’t want people to panic, but wants to make sure the public is aware there is a possibility there could be an outbreak in Milwaukee.

While he understands people’s desire to buy things like hand sanitizers, he reiterated the need for “trustful and accurate communication.”

Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik has asked the public to do their part to stop the spread of the virus.

Doing so includes taking preventative actions like washing hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap, coughing and sneezing into a tissue or elbow, cleaning frequently touched surfaces, not touching your face and staying home when sick.

The Milwaukee Health Department is also asking travelers returning from China, Italy, Iran or South Korea to self-quarantine for 14 days after leaving the country and follow instructions for people with medium risk of exposure to COVID-19.