Gov. Tony Evers declares a public health emergency due to the coronavirus  Thursday. By Friday afternoon, the number of cases in Wisconsin had doubled to 19. (Photo © Andy Manis)
Gov. Tony Evers declares a public health emergency due to the coronavirus Thursday. By Friday afternoon, the number of cases in Wisconsin had doubled to 19. (Photo © Andy Manis)

Virus now in eight counties

The number of people testing positive for the coronavirus continues to climb in Wisconsin, with the number of positive cases jumping from 19 to 27 from Friday to Saturday, according to state health officials.

Dane, Fond du Lac and Milwaukee counties have six cases each. Sheboygan and Waukesha counties have three cases each, followed by one case each in Pierce, Racine and Winnebago counties. The case in Winnebago is that county’s first.

The largest increase is in Milwaukee County, going from two to six positive cases overnight. 

Of those cases, 26 are active. The individuals are either recovering at home in isolation or are hospitalized. The first person to test positive for the virus has fully recovered. 

In all, 246 people have tested negative for the virus in Wisconsin, according to DHS.

The continuing uptick in cases promoted Gov. Tony Evers to declare a public health emergency Thursday. On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency and Evers ordered the closure of all public and private K-12 schools starting at 5pm Wednesday, possibly sooner in counties with higher reported cases. 

The anticipated reopening date is April 6, according to the governor’s office.

“Closing our schools is not a decision I made lightly, but keeping our kids, our educators, our families, and our communities safe is a top priority as we continue our work to respond to and prevent further spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin,” Evers said.

One of the Dane County cases is a university employee who works in the School of Veterinary Medicine building.  The employee recently traveled to a country with widespread transmission of coronavirus. This employee is currently isolated at home.

On a call with reporters Friday afternoon, state health officials stressed that not everyone needs to be tested for coronavirus. 

State Department of Health Service Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said there are three groups of people who should be tested.

They include: those who have a fever more than 100 degrees, a cough and shortness of breath; those who have traveled to community spread areas, including China, Italy, Iran, Washington State, Florida, northern California and New York; and those who have had direct contact with someone who has traveled to those areas and is now experiencing symptoms. 

“If my husband tested positive, for example, I would stay away from him in another part of the house,” Van Dijk said. “I would not be tested unless I started to show signs and symptoms.”

She added, “we are not saying every citizen in Wisconsin needs to go get tested.”

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the chief medical officer with the Bureau of Communicable Disease, said not every person in Wisconsin needs to be tested.

Van Dijk said officials are following the situation closely to determine if Medicaid could eliminate co-pays for testing services, for example, or conduct out-reach within communities to enroll more individuals for the health care program.