Risk of Wisconsin Residents Contracting Coronavirus Is Low, DHS Secretary Says

Coronavirus graphic



By Julian Emerson

March 4, 2020

Sen. Baldwin says state to receive $1 million from CDC, additional $10.2 million if outbreak occurs

Wisconsin Department of Health Services officials confirmed Monday that just one case of coronavirus has been detected in the state, and agencies are coordinating efforts to prevent the spread of the contagious virus. 

But they warned that the virus that has caused more than 93,000 infections worldwide and has prompted pandemic fears and a stock market slide could infect more people here. COVID-19, the infection caused by the coronavirus, has led to 3,190 deaths around the world, most of them in China, where the outbreak first occurred. 

“It is probable, and in fact likely, that we will be dealing with additional cases in upcoming weeks,” the department’s bureau of communicable disease chief medical officer, Ryan Westergaard said during a news conference to address coronavirus concerns.

The Wisconsin person confirmed to have coronavirus has recovered, officials said, but if an outbreak occurs here, Gov. Tony Evers could declare a public health emergency which would allow for spending state money to address the issue. DHS could receive federal funding if a public health emergency were to occur, they said. 

Hours after the news conference, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, announced the state received $1 million in federal funding from the CDC to address coronavirus and is eligible for at least $10.2 million more if an outbreak happens here. 

“We must work together to keep families in Wisconsin and across the country safe, and this emergency funding will help us do that,” Baldwin said. 

Evers on Tuesday called for the briefing, a day after two new possible cases were identified in Wisconsin and officials with the UW System have brought or are in the process of bringing home 223 students from studying abroad programs. Westergaard said one of those cases was determined to be negative and results for the other are pending. 

Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm said the risk of Wisconsin residents contracting COVID-19 is low. Her department is working with state officials who oversee nursing homes, prisons, schools and the tourism industry to ensure policies are in place to halt the spread of the virus.

Because questions remain about coronavirus, “we all feel a little bit of anxiety about this,” Palm said.


Most UW schools have established the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Level 3 warning as the standard for canceling study abroad programs. That standard recommends all non-essential personnel to avoid traveling to those areas, as they are thought to be at high risk for a pandemic.

The decision was made to bring home students studying in South Korea and Italy late last week after the CDC raised the threat level in those countries to a level 3. All non-essential personnel are to avoid traveling to  Level 3 counties due to the high risk of a pandemic.

Those actions follow the cancellation of programs in China, which were cancelled earlier this year because of fears about an outbreak of the virus.

So far 129 COVID-19 cases have been reported in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the virus has caused nine deaths in this country. 

The state health department website emphasizes washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough and staying home if you are sick as best practices to avoid contracting the virus.   




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