MADISON, Wis. (WFRV) – After Wisconsin’s total confirmed cases of coronavirus exceeded 1,100 over the weekend, Governor Tony Evers, along with Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm and Chief Medical Officer of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases Dr. Ryan Westergaard, participated in a media briefing.
Gov. Evers says he is thankful for those in Wisconsin who are adhering to the Safer At Home order. According to the governor, the order will help to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Gov. Evers went on to say that state officials have continued to work to get Personal Protective Equipment for Wisconsin from FEMA, the Federal Strategic Reserve, the state’s buy-back program, and other channels. Through the state program, some PPE has been distributed to healthcare officials across Wisconsin. Gov. Evers says the state has not been waiting for supplies but instead working to collect what healthcare workers need.
The governor says the coronavirus situation in Wisconsin will only get worse, but state officials, and those staying safer at home, are contributing in slowing the spread.
“Plan for the worst, hope for the best, and that’s exactly what we’re doing here in Wisconsin,” Gov. Evers said during the briefing. He went on to say that a collaborative state and federal response is needed to combat the coronavirus.
More 115,000 preliminary unemployment insurance claims were issued with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development last week. At one point, Gov. Evers says DWD was receiving over 100 calls per second, overwhelming the system. Gov. Evers explains updates have been made to reinforce the DWD to respond to the surge of unemployment claims.
How much testing will be done with the new public-private partnership? Could someone ever be tested without a doctor’s order?
Sec. Palm explains that the partnership will undoubtedly expand testing. A limitation on access to testing materials can have an impact on the capacity.
According to Sec. Palm, officials want to make testing more available across the board, rather than using a tiered approach. Dr. Westergaard says that doctors are crucial in the determination of whether or not to test a patient. Symptoms could signify a number of viruses, such as influenza or the common cold, meaning doctors are necessary to make the decision into whether someone should be tested for coronavirus.
Can you tell us more about Wisconsin’s move to purchase more ventilators?
Sec. Palm explains that Wisconsin has asked FEMA for more ventilators through the Federal Strategic Reserve as well as working with private companies to access more ventilators.
There have been some reports about the national peak about two weeks away. When can we expect Wisconsin’s peak in cases?
Dr. Westergaard explains that there are a number of ‘worst-case scenario’ models where people do not stay home that show cases double every two days. How long that last is unclear, according to Dr. Westergaard, but is largely reliant on social distancing. Most models show the peak is about two weeks away, but Dr. Westergaard says social distancing could assist in Wisconsin hitting the peak sooner, but at a lower infection rate.
Can you explain what the voluntary isolation facilities would be like? What about the state universities that we preparing to house patients?
Sec. Palm says the goal of these facilities is to ensure there are safe facilities to allow those who need to isolate. An inability to have safe isolation facilities reduces your ability to slow the spread, according to Sec. Palm.
According to Sec. Palm, isolation facilities and facilities to accommodate an expected surge in patients are a high priority for health officials.
Why has DHS stopped tracking community spread?
Dr. Westergaard explained that it is safe to assume that counties that don’t already have community spread are at high risk of experiencing community spread based on research from other countries and Wisconsin’s testing method.
Any talk with Northeast Wisconsin paper companies to make PPEs?
Gov. Evers says state officials are working to speaking with paper companies across the state about making PPEs, but could not elaborate more.
Based on latest models following the Safer At Home order, how many cases are we forecasted to see?
Sec. Palm says we will continue to see an increase in our case count for a couple of weeks before officials are able to understand the effectiveness of Wisconsin’s Safer At Home order. She went on to explain it could be 10 days before Wisconsin sees a flattening of cases.
Dr. Westergaard says he believes Safer At Home appears to be helping flatten the curve of cases in Wisconsin, but this week and next week will better show the effectiveness of the order.
What is Wisconsin doing in preparation to the expected surge of cases in the near future?
Sec. Palm says healthcare facilities are working together in order to prepare for a surge. Officials are not only working with hospitals but looking at facilities that could accommodate a surge. Gov. Evers says the Army Corp of Engineers is also working to help the state prepare for a surge.
What do you need from the Legislature right now?
Gov. Evers explains that he is hopeful the Legislature will come into session as soon as possible to be able to assist various state departments, including DHS.
Will the upcoming election continue as planned?
Gov. Evers says he continues to encourage Wisconsinites to vote absentee. Currently, there are a number of lawsuits pending in the state regarding changing – or not changing – the upcoming election.
After President Donald Trump extended his social distancing order to April 30, will Wisconsin adjust its order?
Sec. Palm says that, because the Safer At Home order is set to continue through April 24, health officials will continue
Is a statewide order to shut off water and power to nonessential businesses that do not obey the Safer At Home order?
Gov. Evers says he would rather speak with a business who is not in compliance before cutting off water or power to those businesses.
Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has made a recommendation to identify nonessential businesses rather than essential businesses. Has the governor considered this?
Gov. Evers says businesses across the state are complying, so there is no need for this at this time.
Is there any access to free healthcare for those who are unable to afford it?
Sec. Palm explains that state officials are working hard to ensure cost is not a barrier to access to healthcare or coronavirus testing. She says that those who need care should seek that care and ask healthcare officials for information on affording care.
What about employers ensuring safety in the workplace for essential businesses?
Gov. Evers says businesses, regardless of the coronavirus, across the state must comply with a number of state and federal regulations.
How many ventilators do we have and how many do we need? What about hospital and ICU beds?
Sec. Palm explains that the state’s tracking systems shows Wisconsin has 1,215 total ventilators in Wisconsin and as, healthcare officials continue to monitor the situation, that number will fluctuate. The same goes for hospital and ICU beds. While there are reports that Wisconsin hospitals are operating at 58 percent capacity, it is crucial to understand that capacity is not overwhelmingly contributed to coronavirus – Sec. Palm explains there are still other causes for hospitalization.