COVID-19 cases still rising; communities get CARES funds

By: - May 27, 2020 9:33 pm

COVID-19 (U.S. Army Photo)

Wisconsin COVID-19 cases continue to rise, but so does testing, state officials said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Gov. Tony Evers announced $200 million in grants to local governments to deal with costs imposed as a result of the pandemic. The funds come from the state’s allotment under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The grants will go to reimburse counties, cities, villages and towns for expenses including emergency operations and public health and safety; purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE); temporarily isolating people infected with or at risk for the illness; additional testing and contact tracing; and other expenses related to dealing with COVID-19.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the state had recorded 16,462 people who have tested positive for COVID-19, up 599 from the day before. About 15%, or 2,411, have been hospitalized, and 539 have died, according to the state Department of Health Services (DHS). The number of tests reported on Wednesday, 9,731, is the largest one-day number of tests to date.

DHS has started a campaign of public service announcements on television and radio urging any Wisconsin resident concerned about COVID-19 symptoms or exposure to get tested for the illness, DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said at a media briefing with Evers.

“The reason we test is to find out vital information,” Palm said. “On an individual level, your test results help you know whether you need to isolate yourself from members of your household, and what kind of changes in symptoms to look for. At a community level, testing and contact tracing tells us where to look for more infections, and that tells us where to send needed resources to help stop the spread.”

Palm said that the department wasn’t willing to attribute the latest increases specifically to the state Supreme Court’s lifting of the Safer at Home restrictions in movement on May 13.

“It’s not ever going to be possible to attribute something like a trend, especially on one day, to any one thing,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer of the DHS Bureau of Communicable Disease. “The standard of saying anything causes something else in science is really high.”

Close contact with other people who may be carrying the virus is the ultimate source of the disease, Westergaard said, so continuing to follow the social distancing rules that were embedded in the Safer at Home order and other habits such as frequent and thorough handwashing are the best defenses against infection.

“It’s complex, and we have to do a large number of different things in order to respond to keep ourselves safer,” he said.

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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Deputy Editor Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.