Gov. Evers Declares Public Health Emergency Over Coronavirus

Gov. Evers Declares Public Health Emergency Over Coronavirus


By Jessica VanEgeren

March 12, 2020

Two new cases in Dane County, bringing state total to eight

Gov. Tony Evers  declared a public health emergency in response to new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, directing the state Department of Health Services to use all the resources necessary to respond to and contain the outbreak. 

Within hours of his announcement, two new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in Dane County. According to state and Dane County health officials, the new cases both had been in contact with the Dane County individual who tested positive for the virus earlier this week after traveling to a community spread area.

Both are in isolation at their homes.

“This brings the total of confirmed cases to seven in just one week. As we see more cases, we remain vigilant in our efforts to prevent the spread of infection to others in the community,” said State Health Officer Jeanne Ayers in a statement. “These cases should serve to remind all of us about the importance of social distancing and maintaining good hygiene to prevent the spread of the disease.”

Wisconsin now has seven active cases. Confirmed cases are in Pierce, Dane, Fond du Lac, and Waukesha counties. The state’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was discovered in Dane County in early February. That patient was exposed to known cases while in China, and after isolating at home has fully recovered.

Wisconsin also has 37 residents who will soon be returning to the state after vacationing on a Princess Cruise Ship and may have been exposed to the virus. These individuals will be self-quarantined and monitored by health officials for 14 days.  

To prevent additional spread, members of the Wisconsin National Guard will be meeting the 37 individuals at an undisclosed location in Wisconsin and will then drive them home.

The guard members who serve as drivers will then be quarantined for 14 days.

Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm addressed mounting confusion and concern about attending large events by recommending events larger than 250 people be canceled due to the need to contain the virus. 

“We have been working aggressively to slow the spread of COVID-19, and this declaration allows us to get the resources we need to continue to be proactive when it comes to protecting Wisconsinites,” Evers said. “It is the latest step in the work our state agencies have been doing around the clock with our healthcare partners to prepare for the possibility of COVID-19 becoming a global pandemic.”

Gov. Evers Declares Public Health Emergency Over Coronavirus
Gov. Tony Evers, surrounded by public health officials, declared a public health emergency Thursday at the State Emergency Operations Center in Madison. (Photo by Andy Manis)

The declaration adds Wisconsin to a growing list of states that have taken similar action. At the federal level, Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged Thursday morning in television interviews that much more is to come.

“We know there will be thousands of more cases of coronavirus,” he told NBC’s Today Show.

It was revealed Thursday morning that both Pence and President Trump dined last Saturday with a high-ranking Brazilian official who has tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Fábio Wajngarten, a spokesman for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, tested positive for the virus, according to several Brazilian news outlets. He was with Trump and the Vice President at the President’s Mar-a-Lago resort  

Leaders around the European Union are condemning the President’s decision announced last night to ban a significant portion of air travel from the continent, but not Great Britain.

Back in Wisconsin, the signing by Evers of an executive order declaring a state of emergency means the state’s Department of Health Services is now directed to take all necessary and appropriate measures to prevent and respond to incidences of COVID-19. 

This means state health officials may purchase, store, or distribute appropriate medications, regardless of insurance or other health coverage, as needed to respond to the emergency. It also authorizes state funds to support local health departments with costs related to isolation and quarantine, as well as the use of the Wisconsin National Guard.


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