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Gov. extends school closures indefinitely; orders bars and restaurants to close

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Gov. Tony Evers
Gov. Tony Evers

MADISON (WKOW) -- State bans on gatherings of 10 or more people, restaurants ordered to close and increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases were just some of the revelations to come out in a press call with the governor and health officials Tuesday.

The state will ban gatherings of 10 or more people beginning at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Gov. Tony Evers said the new measure would have certain exceptions like in the case of hospitals, courts and job centers.

Evers also extended the closure of all public and private K-12 schools indefinitely and called on the Legislature to waive a one-week waiting period to receive unemployment compensation insurance.

The state Department of Health Services (DHS) announced an increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19. In total, 72 people have now tested positive for the disease.

Milwaukee, Dane and Kenosha counties all are exhibiting community spread.

Community spread is what health officials call catching a disease that cannot be attributed to travel history or contact with another known infected person.

DHS does not give more definite locations for outbreaks beyond the county level. Health officials did say they would offer specific locations for outbreaks if they are hyper-concentrated but that has not yet been the case.

WISCONSIN COVID-19 UPDATE

Listen in to the COVID-19 media call from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services https://on.wkow.com/2U7HzeI

Posted by WKOW 27 on Tuesday, March 17, 2020

In addition, all bars and restaurants will be ordered to close except for carry-out and delivery services.

"Now is the time to make a plan to stay home," said Andrea Palm, secretary-designee for DHS. 

When asked about the wisdom of holding an election in the midst of a pandemic, Evers said the state could not indefinitely delay filling many crucial local elected offices.

The governor said over 500,000 Wisconsinites had already requested an absentee ballot.

Experts also said Wisconsin is running out of testing supplies but did say the state had enough for at least the next two days.

(Our entire coronavirus coverage is available here.)

Test resultsNumber of tests
Confirmed72
Negative1,038
Recovered1

DHS and Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene will begin prioritizing some tests over others because the number of samples the labs receive each day is more than they can process.

The most critical suspected cases of COVID-19 will be tested first:

  • People who are critically ill and are in the ICU level care with unexplained viral pneumonia or respiratory failure
  • People hospitalized (non-ICU) with fever, cough or shortness of breath and either known exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 patient or travel to an area with sustained community spread
  • People hospitalized (non-ICU) with unexplained fever and signs/symptoms of lower respiratory tract illness
  • Health care workers with unexplained fever and signs/symptoms of a lower-respiratory illness, regardless of hospitalization

Anyone tested not meeting the above criteria will have their tests shipped to other labs, resulting in longer wait times.

CountyTotal Cases
Dane*19
Fond du Lac11
Kenosha*4
Milwaukee*24
Outagamie1
Pierce1
Racine1
Sheboygan3
Waukesha4
Winnebago3
Wood1

*An asterisk marks counties with community spread.

The new strain of the coronavirus causes the disease COVID-19. Symptoms include cough, fever and shortness of breath.

In severe cases, pneumonia can develop. Those most at risk include the elderly, people with heart or lung disease as well as anyone at greater risk of infection.

For most, the virus is mild, presenting similarly to a common cold or the flu.

Anyone who thinks they may have the disease should call ahead to a hospital or clinic before going in for a diagnosis. Doing so gives the staff time to take the proper precautions so the virus does not spread.

Those needing emergency medical services should continue to use 911.

JT Cestkowski

Social Media Content Producer/Desk Editor

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