Wisconsin COVID-19 deaths top 1,000; ‘Even one … is one too many,’ says governor

    Madison teacher Michele Ritt speaks about the importance of wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19, at a news conference outside the state Capitol Thursday, Aug. 6. (Photo by Erik Gunn)

    Wisconsin marked a grim milestone as the state’s official death toll from COVID-19 reached 1,000 Tuesday, and then kept climbing.

    The daily statistical report from the Department of Health Services (DHS) listed 1,006 deaths from the virus since it was first encountered in Wisconsin, eight more than Monday’s total.

    “Even one death from COVID-19 is one too many,” Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement responding to Tuesday’s death toll. “To all the Wisconsinites dealing with the loss of a family member, a friend, a coworker, or a neighbor, I express my deepest condolences. Know that our hearts and thoughts are with you, and we are going to continue doing everything we can to fight this virus that has already taken the lives of so many across our state.”

    A month ago, on July 9, Wisconsin’s seven-day average was two reported deaths per day from the virus. The seven-day average as of Tuesday is eight reported deaths per day, according to the governor’s office. COVID-19 deaths have been reported in 52 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.

    Infections and deaths from the virus have been disproportionately high among Black and Lantinx Wisconsin residents. Latinx people in the state have been infected at five times the rate of white people, according to state data. Black people account for 7% of the state’s population but 21% of COVID-19 deaths; their death rate from the illness is four times that of white people in Wisconsin.

    The total number of people who have tested positive for the virus in Wisconsin has now reached 61,785, according to DHS data. More than 1 million people have been tested at least once for COVID-19 — nearly 1 in 5 Wisconsin residents.

    The latest statistics were posted in the second week of a new statewide order from Evers requiring people to wear masks indoors away from home to curb the spread of the virus. The order was issued under a new health emergency order that Evers declared.

    In a statewide poll released Tuesday by Marquette Law School, 69% of those responding said they supported requiring masks in all public places, and 61% approved of how Evers has been handling the virus outbreak. The poll was conducted by telephone Aug. 4-9.

    In the days immediately following the mask mandate, Republicans in the Legislature criticized the order and state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) claimed to have enough votes to call an extraordinary session and throw it out along with the overarching health emergency order.

    The state Assembly would have to concur for that to succeed. But in an appearance Sunday, Aug. 9, on WISN-TV in Milwaukee, State Rep. Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee) said the Assembly lacks the votes to end the order.

    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with 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.