Counties in light blue have reported at least one COVID-19 case as of March 26, 2020, according to the Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services
Counties in light blue have reported at least one COVID-19 case as of March 26, 2020, according to the Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services

State health officials emphasis need for distance, hand hygiene

The number of individuals testing positive for the coronavirus increased to 707 Thursday, with another reported virus-related death, bringing the total number to eight deaths due to the virus in Wisconsin.

Andrea Palm, secretary of the state Department of Health Services announced the new totals during a Facebook Live question and answer session Thursday afternoon with Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the department’s chief medical officer.

The death toll now stands at five in Milwaukee County, and one death in Dane, Ozaukee and Fond du Lac counties. Overall, 11,583 people have tested negative for the virus. Milwaukee County has 347 positive cases, with the second-highest number of cases, 114, in Dane County, followed by 56 positive cases in Waukesha County.

The virus has now spread to 35 of the state’s 72 counties. 

On Wednesday, a “safer at home” took effect. It is expected to last through Friday, April 24. Palm reiterated the need for the order is to prevent a surge of sick patients that overwhelm the state’s healthcare system.

Palm said the order was based on scientific modeling that estimated roughly 22,000 people in Wisconsin would contract the virus and between 440 and 1,5000 people would die from it by April 8 if more drastic measures were not taken to socially distance residents.

“Physical distancing is really the only way to break the chain and stop the disease,” she said.

Palm said it is the job of local law enforcement to monitor if the promper businesses are closed and people do not need specific documentation saying that they are allowed to be outside or driving to work. 

She encouraged people to not let social distancing turn into social isolation.

“We recognize social isolation can be detrimental to our emotional and mental wellbeing,” Palm said. “So blow off a little stream with a jog or a walk with your dog. But only do these things with your family unit and maintain a distance of 6 feet with others.”

She stressed people should not be playing contact sports like football, basketball or soccer. 

Westergaard said the primary symptoms of the virus that affects the respiratory system are fatigue, body acts and a sore throat followed by shortness of breath, a cough and a fever. He said most people will have mild symptoms, with the severity of the symptoms spiking around day five or six.

Of those contracting the virus, between 20 to 25 percent required hospitalization, with 10 percent needing ICU care, he said.

Westergaard said there are now 40 labs operating in the state to process tests, an increase of the two labs capable of processing samples at the start of the outbreak. Still, due to a shortage of testing kits, Westergaard said test priority is given to those already hospitalized with symptoms and healthcare workers.