Blog Recap: Coronavirus updates from around Wisconsin on Monday, March 30, 2020
Updates on coronavirus and how it's affecting life in Wisconsin from reporters from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the USA Today Network-Wisconsin.
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9:30 p.m.: Dane County records a second coronavirus death, bringing state total to 23
Dane County's coronavirus website updated late Monday to note a second person there had died due to coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 23 deaths.
Ten of those deaths have been in Milwaukee County.
The county's page updates twice daily, at 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., based on "real-time data" that may not match the state Department of Health Services' count.
6:03 p.m.: UW-Madison to be a clinical trial site for a coronavirus treatment using plasma from recovered patients
What began two weeks ago with a pair of scientists urging the use of plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients to rescue the sick has blown up into a national movement.
More than 100 researchers and 40 large hospitals in 20 states are involved in the effort to bring survivor plasma to clinical trials, according to project leaders.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison this weekend joined the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, which has a website and intends to launch clinical trials as soon as it receives approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"They're hoping to take this nationwide sooner rather than later," said Michael J. Joyner, who has been working to set up trials at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where he works as a professor of anesthesiology.
"Everybody is on the same page."
— Mark Johnson
5:50 p.m.: Dane County Jail deputies test positive for coronavirus
Two Dane County sheriff’s deputies working in the jail in Madison have tested positive for COVID-19.
The first deputy tested positive on Saturday, just days after two inmates tested positive and were placed in isolation. That deputy had worked directly with those inmates. The next day, a second jail deputy tested positive.
The deputies, ages 24 and 35, are in quarantine at their homes.
Any other deputies who may have been exposed to the male inmates who tested positive are being monitored closely for any symptoms, the sheriff’s department reported Monday.
— Meg Jones
5:22 p.m.: Only one polling place for City of Waukesha for April 7 election
The City of Waukesha will have one, and only one, polling place on April 7.
Waukesha city officials announced Monday all voters will be directed to the Schuetze Recreation Center, 1120 Baxter St., regardless of where they live.
A shortage of poll workers, combined with the effort to get as many people as possible to vote absentee by mail as a result of efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus, prompted the city to reduce the number of polling places from the usual 13 sites.
— Jim Riccioli
5:08 p.m.: State doesn't have 'weeks and weeks' to act on coronavirus relief, governor says
MADISON - Republican lawmakers plan to take up legislation to respond to health and unemployment needs of Wisconsin residents during the coronavirus outbreak in a couple of weeks, but Gov. Tony Evers says that could be too long to wait and he may move forward on his own on some measures.
Evers gave the Republican legislative leaders a bill on March 21 that would spend at least $706 million to help state agencies respond to the outbreak and is drafting a second bill related to economic recovery and less-urgent health care needs.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Monday he hopes to take up legislation — which will likely look different from what Evers has proposed — within the next few weeks.
Evers told reporters Monday "waiting weeks and weeks" is too long to meet the needs he is seeking to address, especially for measures meant to give more latitude to the state's health officials.
— Molly Beck and Patrick Marley
5 p.m.: Washington, Ozaukee County deaths bring state toll to 22
A Washington County man in his 50s has died due to complications from the coronavirus, the first death for the county.
Two Ozaukee County residents also died from the virus over the weekend, bringing the death toll there to five people.
Across the state, 22 people diagnosed with the virus had died as of early Monday evening.
Ten of those deaths have been in Milwaukee County.
The Washington County man was an employee of Waukesha County, according to the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department. He had underlying health conditions.
The Health Department is monitoring the man’s close contacts for symptoms.
More information was not immediately available on the two Ozaukee County deaths.
Five long-term care facilities across Washington and Ozaukee counties have had coronavirus outbreaks, defined as one resident or two staff members testing positive.
The memory care hospice unit at Village Pointe Commons, a long-term care facility in Grafton, has been at the center of the outbreaks, reporting three deaths linked to COVID-19.
— Sophie Carson
5 p.m.: Hunger Task Force cancels volunteer shifts, food donations
The Hunger Task Force is no longer accepting food donations from the public and has canceled all volunteer shifts because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The task force will remain open for food banking operations but will use only staff members to limit the number of people inside the organization’s facility following Gov. Tony Evers' “safer at home” order.
Since the state Department of Health Services is recommending the suspension of all household food drives and collection until further notice, the Hunger Task Force is no longer taking donations from the public. That’s because of concerns over where the donated food has been and who has handled it.
The food that the Hunger Task Force is distributing to food pantries, homeless shelters, public housing and senior dining sites is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture commodities programs and purchased through vendors.
Food pickup locations can be found on an interactive map that’s updated daily at HungerTaskForce.org.
— Meg Jones
4:46 p.m.: West Allis police shut down Hobby Lobby as a nonessential business
The West Allis Police Department shut down the Hobby Lobby store at 6900 W. Greenfield Ave. Monday for being a nonessential business still open in violation of Gov. Tony Evers' safer-at-home order.
"We made contact with the business around 11 a.m. and found that it was open," West Allis Deputy Police Chief Christopher Botsch said. "We took this as an opportunity to educate the business on the specifics of the governor’s order. The business was cooperative and closed without incident."
— Bob Dohr
4:15 p.m.: Northwestern Mutual Foundation to give $1.5 million to nonprofits helping families in need during pandemic
The Northwestern Mutual Foundation will donate $1.5 million to local and national nonprofits providing support to families in need during the coronavirus pandemic.
The foundation, based in Milwaukee, plans to give $1 million to Feeding America and another $50,000 to the Milwaukee branch of the organization. It has also pledged $10,000 to the Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition’s efforts to provide refurbished iPads to students in the area.
Donations will also go to the Dominican Center, Metcalfe Park Community Bridges, Milwaukee Christian Center, Ronald McDonald House Charities Eastern Wisconsin, United Performing Arts Fund, and the United Way of Milwaukee and New York City, according to a news release.
Northwestern Mutual will send its annual $250,000 grant to the American Red Cross’s disaster recovery program more quickly as well.
— Sophie Carson
3:42 p.m.: Union criticizes Barrett for delay in informing employees that co-worker was quarantined
A public employee union is criticizing Mayor Tom Barrett after the city waited eight days to inform Department of Public Works employees that one of their co-workers was being quarantined because a member of his family tested positive for the coronavirus.
"Mayor Barrett and his DPW administrators waited eight days to tell employees they were exposed to COVID-19," said Paul Spink, president of AFSCME Wisconsin. "The city was beyond negligent when lives were clearly at stake."
WITI-TV (Channel 6) reported over the weekend that a memo went out Thursday to "all sewer employees" notifying them that a colleague had direct contact with someone with the virus. The employee was quarantined by being placed on a two-week leave of absence.
WITI reported that the city was first informed of the situation of the sewer employee with the infected spouse on March 18 — eight days before the memo was sent to city workers.
State Sen. Lena Taylor, who is challenging Barrett in next week's election, criticized the mayor, calling it the latest example of his mishandling the city's response to the health crisis.
— Daniel Bice
3:36 p.m.: More than 1,200 positive cases of coronavirus in Wisconsin
Wisconsin health officials have counted more than 1,200 positive cases of coronavirus in the state, they announced Monday.
By Monday afternoon, 19 Wisconsin residents had died during the pandemic.
Andrea Palm, Department of Health Services secretary-designee, said during a briefing with reporters that it could be "10-plus days" before the growth curve in the state flattens out.
In the state's count, 622 of the confirmed coronavirus cases were in Milwaukee County, with another 184 in Dane County and 93 in Waukesha County. The state's count is current as of 9 p.m. the night before and sometimes lags county health department totals.
— Mica Soellner
3:30 p.m.: Ald. Rainey urges city to shut off water, power to nonessential businesses refusing to close
Milwaukee Ald. Khalif Rainey on Monday called on the city’s health commissioner to order that water and power be shut off to nonessential businesses that violate emergency orders requiring that they close due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Rainey asked that Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik add the directive to her stay-at-home order and that she create a process to warn nonessential businesses before power and water are shut off. Under his proposal, businesses that don’t comply would lose power and water indefinitely.
“I find it incredibly selfish and reckless for any non-essential business to continue to operate during the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency,” Rainey said in a statement in which he noted that the city’s north side and his district are “at the epicenter.”
Rainey said a business that stays open could unwittingly spread the disease.
But on Monday, Kowalik said such a move was premature.
"We haven't had enough time yet to even go in that direction, in my professional opinion," she said during a virtual press conference. "It also is very dictator-like to be able to do something like that. It seems like that would be something you would do as a last resort."
— Alison Dirr
2:35 p.m.: Bucks, Packers donate T-shirt proceeds to hunger relief
The Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Bucks teamed up in January to sell "Go Pack Go" T-shirts featuring both of their logos. Now, they're teaming up again to turn the proceeds from those shirt sales into food.
Together, the Packers and Bucks announced Monday they are donating the $37,500 generated by those T-shirt sales to hunger-relief services in each city. The money will be split evenly between Paul’s Pantry in Green Bay and Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
For more information about how food insecurity is being addressed in the Milwaukee area due to the current coronavirus crisis, click here.
— Matt Velazquez
2:15 p.m.: Help line established for those struggling with expenses
Community Advocates has created a special help line and email address to assist people who cannot pay rent or are encountering other housing problems because of the economic fallout resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
The help line is also for people who need assistance covering the cost of other basic needs because of a loss of income stemming from the epidemic.
The nonprofit will help renters find and determine eligibility for temporary financial assistance, said Deb Heffner, Community Advocates housing strategy director. It also provides services for landlords by helping arrange rent payment plans with tenants, she said.
The help line phone number is 414-270-4646. The email address is email@example.com
— Cary Spivak
2 p.m.: A new public-private partnership aims to double coronavirus testing in Wisconsin
MADISON - Wisconsin is hoping to double its testing capacity for the novel coronavirus through a partnership with laboratories throughout the state.
Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday a public-private partnership with Exact Sciences, Marshfield Clinic Health System, Promega and UW Health to share knowledge, resources and technology with the Wisconsin Clinical Lab Network to bring additional testing capacity, according to a press release.
So far, the Wisconsin Clinical Lab Network has been completing 1,500 to 2,000 tests per day, the release said. The expanded partnership is expected to double that amount as supplies become available.
— Laura Schulte
1:55 p.m.: Online voter registration ends tonight at midnight.
Today is the last day for online voter registration ahead of Wisconsin's April 7 presidential primary and state Supreme Court election.
Under state law, online voter registration ended March 18, but U.S. District Judge William Conley reinstated it shortly after that because the global coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for many people to leave their homes.
Under his order, online registration is available until 11:59 p.m. Monday.
Voters must be registered to request absentee ballots. They can request absentee ballots until Thursday, but clerks are requesting that they ask for them as soon as possible to help them keep up with the flood of requests they are getting.
To be counted, the ballots must be received by clerks by the time polls close on April 7.
People can register to vote and request absentee ballots at myvote.wi.gov.
— Patrick Marley
12:23 p.m.: Army engineers tour Milwaukee to identify locations for virus response
In preparation for a large-scale response to COVID-19, the Army Corps of Engineers toured several locations throughout Milwaukee today, including the Wisconsin Center. That was according to Marty Brooks, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Center District, the state-created agency which operates the downtown Milwaukee convention facility.
“If called upon, the Wisconsin Center District and our facilities are prepared to work with the Corps to do our part in the fight against COVID-19 and propel Milwaukee and our region on the road to recovery," Brooks said.
An Army Corps of Engineers public affairs officer directed questions about the Corps scouting locations in Milwaukee to Wisconsin’s Emergency Management Office.
“These visits are part of the planning process; they’re not an indication we’ll be using any location,” said Wisconsin Emergency Management spokesman Andrew Beckett.
Beckett could not say which sites were being looked at, what happens once a site is chosen nor how long it would take to open a facility.
“We’re just working to revise and update our planning in response to the COVID-19 planning,” Beckett said Monday afternoon. “We appreciate the Army Corps of Engineers helping us out.”
Several other cities around the country have explored temporary housing for medical patients, both those with or without the virus. For example, the National Guard and FEMA worked with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to turn the Javits Center convention center into a hospital.
— Tom Daykin and Meg Jones
10:39 a.m.: Another Milwaukee jail employee tests positive; state DOC up to eight infected workers
Another staff member at Milwaukee's largest jail has tested positive for COVID-19.
The state Department of Corrections on Monday updated its total count of infected workers to eight, now including two at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility.
For now, the DOC still claims no inmates have tested positive at any prison or detention facility it oversees.
The MSDF, located in downtown Milwaukee, is a medium-security, high-rise facility that holds more than 1,000 inmates, generally those awaiting decisions on violations of parole or probation.
The other reported DOC staff infections are three people in the Milwaukee office for community corrections, two at Columbia Correctional Institute and one at Waupun Correctional Institute.
So far, Milwaukee County officials have not indicated that any inmates at the county's jail or House of Correction have tested positive. Some inmate have tested positive at the Dane County Jail.
— Bruce Vielmetti
9:55 a.m.: Roundy's announces it will hire 500 additional people
Roundy’s Supermarkets, which operates the Pick 'n Save and Metro Market stores in Wisconsin, is looking to hire 500 additional people to help meet grocery demand, especially for its pickup service.
The company will be holding job fairs at locations throughout metro Milwaukee as well as Madison and the Fox Valley from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
“We’re doing everything we can to efficiently serve our customers through our pickup and delivery offerings,” said James Hyland, spokesman for Roundy’s. “However, with the recent surge in online ordering, we need more help. …
“We’re reaching out to those in the community looking for employment opportunities to attend one of our job fairs where we’ll host open interviews for anyone interested in joining the team,” Hyland said.
The job fairs will take place at these stores:
- Pick ‘n Save East Pointe, 605 E. Lyon St., Milwaukee.
- Pick ‘n Save Brookfield - Calhoun North, 2205 N. Calhoun Road, Brookfield.
- Pick ‘n Save Waukesha - Sunset, 220 E. Sunset Drive, Waukesha.
- Pick ‘n Save Marketplace, N77 W14435 Appleton Ave., Menomonee Falls.
- Pick ‘n Save New Berlin, 15445 W. National Ave., New Berlin.
- Pick ‘n Save Pewaukee - Capitol, 1405 Capitol Drive, Pewaukee.
- Pick ‘n Save Mt. Pleasant South, 2820 S. Green Bay Road, Mount Pleasant.
- Pick ‘n Save Madison - Mineral Point, 261 Junction Road, Madison.
- Pick ‘n Save Sun Prairie - Ironwood, 2538 Ironwood Drive, Sun Prairie.
- Pick ‘n Save Appleton West, 2400 W. Wisconsin Ave., Appleton.
- Pick ‘n Save Fond Du Lac West, 760 W. Johnson Street, Fond Du Lac.
- Pick ‘n Save Green Bay South - Bellevue, 2064 Lime Kiln Road, Green Bay.
“Roundy’s offers excellent benefits to employees, including medical, dental and vision coverage, flexible spending account, life insurance, 401(k) savings plan, tuition reimbursement, vacation and time off and an employee assistance program,” according to Hyland’s statement.
Roundy’s is the Milwaukee-based subsidiary of Cincinnati-based Kroger. The company operates 106 stores in Wisconsin and is the grocery market share leader in the state.
Kroger is among the world’s largest retailers.
Grocers across the United States have seen a massive surge in demand as much of the country is under social distancing and stay-at-home orders to try and slow the spread of COVID-19.
— Joe Taschler
9:35 a.m.: Care center staff member in Wausau tests positive
A staff member at Mount View Care Center in Wausau has the coronavirus, according to the facility.
The staff member showed up for work March 22 without any symptoms but developed them while working a scheduled shift, according to a statement the center released Monday morning.
The employee followed protocol and self-reported the change in their condition, according to the statement. Management removed the employee from any contact with residents and sent the employee home to self-quarantine and get medical help for further testing.
North Central Health Care officials learned Saturday the employee tested positive for COVID-19, according to the statement. The company notified staff, residents and families of the potential exposure and staff is monitoring patients and employees for possible symptoms, according to the statement.
— Karen Madden
9:26 a.m.: Second death in Fond du Lac County
A second person has died of the coronavirus in Fond du Lac County.
Fond du Lac County Public Health Officer Kim Mueller announced the death during a Facebook Live Monday morning. The person, who was not a Fond du Lac County resident, died March 29.
"He became a member of this community and part of Fond du Lac when he became ill and was treated by our nurses and physicians who were dedicated to his care and hopeful for his survival," Mueller said. "To his family and friends, we are so very sorry for your loss and we can’t imagine what you’ve endured during this difficult" time.
In addition, Mueller said the county confirmed three additional cases over the weekend, bringing the total to 22. Of those, 16 have recovered, leaving the county with four active cases.
— Sarah Razner
9:15 a.m.: Sen. Ron Johnson maintains in op-ed that more of economy must stay open
In an op-ed for USA TODAY, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson writes that “much of our economy must stay open to provide life’s basic necessities” amid the pandemic.
“Rather than announcing general shutdowns and drawing up lists of ‘essential’ business that can remain open, let’s draw up lists of ‘nonessential’ businesses that pose a risk for coronavirus spread. A commonsense approach would be to keep those shut down and to provide financial support to their employees, and the businesses or organizations themselves, so they can reopen and rehire when the threat subsides,” wrote Johnson.
Johnson said social distancing should continue “because no one wants to overwhelm our health care system to the point of failures.”
But the Wisconsin Republican cited the tens of thousands of deaths from suicide and drug overdoses that occur in a good economy and wrote, “Imagine the potential psychological and human toll if this shutdown continues indefinitely, unemployment reaches 20% or higher, as some now predict, and we sink into a deep recession or depression.”
Johnson caused controversy recently when in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he said, “we don’t shut down our economy” because tens of thousands die from car accidents or the flu, and “getting coronavirus is not a death sentence except for maybe no more than 3.4% of our population (and) I think probably far less.”
In his USA TODAY op-ed, Johnson makes a similar argument:
“Every premature death is a tragedy, but death is an unavoidable part of life. More than 2.8 million die each year — nearly 7,700 a day. The 2017-18 flu season was exceptionally bad, with 61,000 deaths attributed to it. Can you imagine the panic if those mortality statistics were attributed to a new virus and reported nonstop?”
Johnson writes: “I’m not aware of any public official, including President Donald Trump, who is calling for a complete opening of the U.S. economy. What more people are saying is that as we learn more about COVID-19, we should evaluate the total societal cost of this awful disease and try to put things into perspective.”
— Craig Gilbert
7:33 a.m.: Milwaukee County reports 21 new cases of coronavirus Monday morning
Milwaukee County has a total of 627 coronavirus cases, adding 21 new cases Monday morning.
The county had a total 10 deaths related to coronavirus, the same as it was on Sunday.
Twenty of the county's new cases were from the city of Milwaukee, which is nearing 500 cases, currently at 498.
The 21 new cases brings the state total of coronavirus cases to 1,174.
— Jordyn Noennig
9:30 p.m. Sunday: Wisconsin restaurant reservations were up — then came coronavirus
Just as many planned to head out for a pint and some food on St. Patrick's day two weeks ago, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers told restaurants to close in-house service.
Many area restaurants and bars had already shut their doors out of concern for coronavirus spread prior to that edict.
OpenTable, a hospitality software service from Bookings.com, released data on restaurants across the world that use the platform for online and phone reservations as well as walk-ins.
In Wisconsin, dining out had already steadily declined in dining out the week prior to Evers' state-wide closings.
Starting March 8 and 9, Wisconsin restaurants saw a 25% drop in diners at restaurants that use OpenTable's services. From there the decline continued till restaurant dining rooms closed — putting them at a 100% deficit in diners compared to last year at this time.
This data doesn't take into account the many restaurants in the state that are now offering delivery and carry-out services to combat the drop in business. Check our updating list of restaurants, bars and breweries in the Milwaukee area that are offering these services.
See more of how coronavirus is affecting Wisconsin on our updating data and charts page.