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COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin

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COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin
COVID-19 Prevalence in Wisconsin by county.svg
Virus strainSARS-CoV-2
LocationWisconsin, U.S.
First caseMadison
Arrival dateFebruary 5, 2020
Confirmed cases52,108 (2020-07-30)
Official website

The global COVID-19 pandemic struck the U.S. state of Wisconsin in early February 2020.[1] As of July 30, 2020, Wisconsin public health authorities reported 1,059 cases of COVID-19, for a cumulative total of 52,108 cases.[2] Fifty-one new hospitalizations and 8 deaths were reported over the previous 24 hours, increasing the statewide death toll to 919.[2] The seven-day moving average of new cases increased from 822 to 887 over the past two weeks. A steady upward trend of cases in late June/early July accelerated in mid July, with several new single day records reported since July 18th.[2] Although Wisconsin has so far experienced just 158 deaths per million population, compared to the national average of 467, COVID-19 is on track to be the leading cause of death in Wisconsin in 2020.[3][4] Template:COVID-19 pandemic data/United States/Wisconsin medical cases chart

Timeline[edit source | edit]

February[edit source | edit]

On February 5, 2020, first COVID-19 case is registered in Wisconsin – a person had recently traveled to Beijing and was exposed there to a known COVID-19 patient.[1]

March[edit source | edit]

On March 10, the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee announced that classes would be begin to be moved online after an employee in the school's foundation office was tested for COVID-19.[5] On March 11, the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay announced that classes will be moved to "alternative delivery methods" going into effect immediately after spring break on March 23 and will continue until further notice.[6] The University of Wisconsin–Madison announced a suspension of all in-person classes from March 23 to April 10.[7]

On March 13, Governor Tony Evers ordered all schools (public and private) in the state to close by March 18, with no possibility of reopening until April 6 at the earliest.[8]

On March 17, community transmission, also known as community spread, was announced in Dane County.[9]

On March 27, Governor Evers declared a moratorium for 60 days on evictions and foreclosures.[10]

April[edit source | edit]

On April 24, thousands of anti-lockdown protesters gathered at the state capitol in Madison, the same day the state health department announced 304 new cases - the most new cases since the pandemic began.[11]

May[edit source | edit]

On May 8, the Wisconsin DHS announced that 72 individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 recently attended "a large event."[12]

June[edit source | edit]

On June 20, The Juneau County Department of Health announced that an outbreak occurred at a gentlemen's club in Wisconsin Dells with an unknown number of infected people visiting the club between June 10–14.[13]

From June 13–26, Dane County had an uptick of new cases with 614 people testing positive for COVID-19.[14] Roughly half of these cases were between the ages of 18-25 and almost half of these cases had reported attending a gathering or party with people outside of their household.[15] By the end of the month, Dane County had experienced multiple record-setting days of the highest totals of new cases per day in the county, and the trend continued of most new cases being younger people.[16][17]

By mid-way through 2020, Wisconsin had experienced 786 deaths and is expected to have the disease to be a new leading cause of death in the state according to associate professor of population sciences at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. During the last week of June, Wisconsin experienced an upward trend in cases, but not a spike as seen in other states.[4]

July[edit source | edit]

Government responses[edit source | edit]

Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews, Wisconsin's deputy adjutant general for Army, answers media questions during a March 12 press conference at the State Emergency Operations Center in Madison.

On March 10, the Osceola School District closed schools to sanitize the buildings and buses after a person who attended a regional sports tournament was found to be infected.[18]

On March 12, Governor Tony Evers declared a State of Emergency.[19] The next day, he ordered the closure of all public and private K-12 schools in the state until at least April 5.[20] Most schools in the University of Wisconsin System, including Madison[21] and Stout,[22] have cancelled all in-person classes through early April.

On March 16, Evers announced restrictions on the number of people that could be present at childcare facilities, limiting it to 10 staff and 50 children at the same time.[23]

On March 17, a statewide ban of all gatherings with more than 10 people was announced by the governor.[24]

On March 23, Evers announced closures of all non-essential businesses to be signed on Tuesday, March 24, and urged citizens to stay at home to reduce the spread of COVID-19.[25]

On March 27, Governor Evers asked the legislature to approve a plan to send every registered voter in the state an absentee ballot so they could vote in the Democratic and Republican primaries, scheduled for April 7, by mail. Republicans opposed the plan. In Green Bay a judge turned down a request to delay the election but other lawsuits move forward.[26] Authorities also refused to delay the election, despite the ban on gatherings over ten and the fact that 111 jurisdictions that do not have enough people to staff even one polling place, and 60% of all Wisconsin towns and cities were reporting staffing shortages.[27]

On April 16, the 'Safer At Home' order was extended to be in effect until May 26.[28]

On April 17, Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said he planned not to enforce the 'Safer At Home' order, stating constitutional rights of citizens as his reasoning.[29] His declaration is similar to concerns raised by four sheriffs in the state of Michigan.[30]

On April 21, the Wisconsin state legislature filed suit with the state supreme court, against the governor's 'Safer At Home' order calling the executive order an overreach of the executive branch's statutory powers.[31]

On April 24, Hartford Mayor Tim Michalak announced that businesses would be allowed to re-open on Monday April 27, despite the 'Safer-At-Home' order issued by Governor Evers. He directed the police department not to enforce the 'Safer-At-Home' order.[32]

On May 13, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Governor Evers 'Safer-At-Home' orders as unconstitutional. The order, issued by Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm, was ruled by the court to be "unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable".[33] Dane County reissued the 'Safer-At-Home' for themselves in response to the state supreme court's decision to strike down Governor Evers' order.[34][35]

One week after the Supreme Court decision Wisconsin reported 528 new COVID-19 cases, the largest single day rise in new COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.[36] The second, third, fourth and fifth highest numbers of new cases also occurred in the ten day period after the Court overruled Governor Evers' "Safer-At-Home" orders. However, average daily tests increased by an average of over 1000 tests per day statewide, while the average percentage of positive test results dropped by 25% during this same 1 week period.[37][2]

By May 27, two weeks after the Supreme Court overruled Governor Evers' "Safer-At-Home" orders, the seven-day moving average number of new COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin had climbed steadily from 286 to 436 cases per day.[2] The seven day moving average of new cases decreased in mid-June but then rose steadily to 822 by July 17.[38]

In June, the National Bureau of Economic Research published a report indicating that during the two week period following the Supreme Court's decision there was no evidence repealing the 'Safer-At-Home' order impacted social distancing, COVID-19 cases, or COVID-19 death rate.[39] The narrow time window of the NBER study missed the spike in new cases and deaths at the end of May, when single day records of new cases and deaths occurred. The 90 COVID-19 deaths that occurred during the week of May 27 to June 2 remains the highest weekly death toll in Wisconsin as of mid July.[2]

In mid-June, Racine County judge Jon Fredrickson issued a temporary injunction against the city of Racine's "Forward Racine" order. The order limited certain businesses such as gyms, restaurants, and bowling alleys to a capacity of 25% or a maximum of ten persons. The plaintiff, David Yandell, claimed that the order jeopardized his business's ability to survive.[40]

On July 2, following a sustained high number of new cases, Dane County issued order #7 that included limiting outdoor gatherings to 25 people, indoor gatherings to 10 people, and indoor dining capacity to 25% for restaurants, as well as prohibiting indoor dining in bars, a space of particular concern to health officials.[15]

On July 30, Governor Evers declared a public health emergency and issued an emergency order requiring people to wear a face mask when outside a private residence.[41]

Business responses[edit source | edit]

After it was announced that Governor Evers would extend the 'Safer At Home' executive order to May 26, the Tavern League of Wisconsin responded by expressing concerns about the devastating effect on the hospitality industry adversely affected by the order. Executive Director of the organization Pete Madland requested a 'soft opening' beginning May 1 with precautions utilized as it pertains to limiting the spread of the disease. The concern is that the original order has had adverse effects on the industry already and that another extension could cause many of the businesses within the industry to not survive.[42]

David Yandell, the owner of a gym, sued the city of Racine after the municipality issued its own stay at home order after the state supreme court struck down Governor Evers' order. Racine County judge Jon Fredrickson issued a temporary injunction against the order while a civil suit against the city is pursued.[40]

On April 16, 2020, Dave Eliot, the publisher of several Door County, Wisconsin periodicals[43] argued that locals should stop being so mean to those who support the local economy and advised people not shoot the golden goose. He also wanted locals to remember that resources such as the hospital were available to the community because of donations from seasonal residents.[44]

Citizenry responses[edit source | edit]

Thousands of citizens protested at the Capitol in Madison on Friday, April 24 in response to Governor Evers' extension of the 'Safer-At-Home' executive order. Among the reasons for protest include many businesses that have closed or significantly reduced the workforce, which has led to hundreds of thousands of unemployment claims. Also, churches have closed their doors and about 900,000 children are not in school.[45]

Religious responses[edit source | edit]

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee initially suspended all masses from March 18 through April 3. Also, Catholic schools would cease in-person instruction.[46] Archbishop Jerome Listecki later extended the suspension into Holy Week, including Easter Mass, choosing to live stream all such ceremonies from an otherwise empty Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist (The archdiocese then paid for time on WVTV and WISN-TV to telecast both the Good Friday and Easter Masses live across the entire Milwaukee market).[47] In early May, Archbishop Listecki announced that masses could resume May 31 with churches filled at 25% capacity and lifting dispensation for Mass to July 5.[48] The dispensation from Mass has since been extended through September 6.[49]

Statistics by county[edit source | edit]

Template:COVID-19 pandemic data/Wisconsin medical cases by county

Trends by county[edit source | edit]

Racial disparities[edit source | edit]

ProPublica conducted an analysis[50] of the racial composition of COVID-19 cases in Milwaukee County dating through the morning of April 3, 2020. They noted that African Americans comprised nearly half of the county's cases and 22 of the county's 27 deaths.[50] Both the county[51] and city of Milwaukee[52] passed resolutions in May and June 2019, respectively, declaring racial inequality to be a public health crisis.

Impact on politics and elections[edit source | edit]

The 2020 Democratic National Convention was originally scheduled for July 13–16 in Milwaukee at the Fiserv Forum arena, was but postponed to August 17–20 on April 2.[53][54]

In Wisconsin, the April 7 election for a state Supreme Court seat, the federal presidential primaries for both the Democratic and Republican parties, and several other judicial and local elections went ahead as scheduled.

Due to the pandemic, at least fifteen other U.S. states canceled or postponed scheduled elections or primaries at the time of Wisconsin's election.[55] With Wisconsin grappling with their own pandemic, state Democratic lawmakers made several attempts to postpone their election, but were prevented by other Republican legislators. Governor Tony Evers called the Wisconsin legislature into a special session on April 4, but the Republican-controlled Assembly and Senate gaveled their sessions in and out within seventeen seconds.[56] In a joint statement afterward, Wisconsin's state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald criticized Evers for attempting to postpone the election, for not calling a special session earlier, and for reversing his previous position on keeping the election date intact.[57]

On April 6, Evers attempted to move the election by an executive order, but was blocked by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. On the same day, a separate effort to extend the deadline for mailing absentee ballots was blocked by the Supreme Court of the United States in a 5–4 vote. In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned that the ruling "will result in massive disenfranchisement."[58] The only major concession achieved was that absentee ballots postmarked by April 7 at 8 p.m. would be accepted until April 13.[59] However, local media outlets reported that many voters had not received their requested absentee ballots by election day or, due to social distancing, were unable to satisfy a legal requirement that they obtain a witness's signature.[60][61]

Lawmakers' decision to not delay the election was sharply criticized by the editorial board of the local Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which had previously endorsed the Republican former governor Scott Walker.[62] They called the election "the most undemocratic in the state's history."[63] The New York Times characterized the election as "almost certain to be tarred as illegitimate," adding that the inability of the state's lawmakers to come to an agreement on moving the election was "an epic and predictable failure." The newspaper placed the political maneuvering as part of another chapter in "a decade of bitter partisan wrangling that saw [state Republicans] clinically attack and defang the state's Democratic institutions, starting with organized labor and continuing with voting laws making it far harder for poor and black residents of urban areas to vote."[64] Republicans believed that holding the election on April 7, when Democratic-leaning urban areas were hard-hit by the pandemic, would help secure them political advantages like a continued 5–2 conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court (through the elected seat of Daniel Kelly).[62][65]

When the election went ahead on April 7, access to easy in-person voting heavily depended on the area. In smaller or more rural communities, few issues were reported.[65][66] In more urbanized areas, the pandemic forced the closure and consolidation of many polling places around the state despite the use of 2,500 National Guard members to combat a severe shortage in poll workers.[67][68] The effects were felt most heavily in Milwaukee, the state's largest city with the largest minority population and the center of the state's ongoing pandemic.[65] The city's government was only able to open 5 of 180 polling stations after being short by nearly 1,000 poll workers.[68] As a result, lengthy lines were reported, with some voters waiting for up to 2.5 hours and through rain showers.[67][69] The lines disproportionately affected Milwaukee's large Hispanic and African-American population; the latter had already been disproportionately afflicted with the coronavirus pandemic, forming nearly half of Wisconsin's documented cases and over half its deaths at the time the vote was conducted.[64][66] However, by the time the election concluded, Milwaukee Election Commissioner Neil Albrecht stated that despite some of the problems, the in-person voting ran smoothly.[70]

Similar problems with poll station closures and long lines were reported in Waukesha, where only one polling station was opened for a city of 70,000, and Green Bay, where only 17 poll workers out of 270 were able to work.[64] Other cities were able to keep lines much shorter, including the state capital of Madison, which opened about two-thirds of its usual polling locations, and Appleton, which opened all of its usual 15.[67][71]

Voters across the state were advised to maintain social distancing, wear face masks, and bring their own pens.[72] Robin Vos, the state Assembly Speaker, served as an election inspector for in-person voting on April 7. While wearing medical-like personal protective equipment, he told reporters that it was "incredibly safe to go out" and vote, adding that voters faced "minimal exposure."[65][73]

By mid-April, health officials in Milwaukee identified at least seven new cases of COVID-19 that appear to be linked to the April 7 election; Six voters and one poll worker. Advocates of vote-by-mail say Wisconsin's experience should be a warning to other states, saying this cou ld be "the tip of the iceberg."[74][75][76]

Impact on sports[edit source | edit]

Most of state's sports teams were affected. Several leagues began postponing or suspending their seasons starting March 12. Major League Baseball cancelled the remainder of spring training on that date, and on March 16, they announced that the season will be postponed indefinitely, after the recommendations from the CDC to restrict events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks, affecting the Milwaukee Brewers.[77] Also on March 12, the National Basketball Association announced the season would be suspended for 30 days, affecting the Milwaukee Bucks.[78]

In college sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association canceled all winter and spring tournaments, most notably the Division I men's and women's basketball tournaments, affecting colleges and universities statewide.[79] On March 16, the National Junior College Athletic Association also canceled the remainder of the winter seasons as well as the spring seasons.[80]

Gallery[edit source | edit]

See also[edit source | edit]

References[edit source | edit]

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  5. Mickle, Jordan (March 10, 2020). "UW-Milwaukee extends break, prepares to suspend in-person classes after employee tested for coronavirus". WTMJ-TV. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  6. Bink, Addy (March 11, 2020). "UW-Green Bay to teach classes 'via alternative delivery methods' amid coronavirus concerns". WFRV-TV. Archived from the original on March 12, 2020. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  7. Rude, Logan (March 11, 2020). "UW-Madison suspends in-person lessons citing spread of coronavirus". WISC-TV. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  8. "Gov. Tony Evers Mandates Closure Of All K-12 Schools". Wisconsin Public Radio. March 13, 2020. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
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  10. Governor of Wisconsin (March 27, 2020). "Emergency Order #15: Temporary Ban on Evictions and Foreclosures" (PDF).
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  12. Lueders, Bill (May 8, 2020). "Wisconsin Still in Dark on Protest". Progressive.org. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
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  40. 40.0 40.1 Judge: Racine must halt COVID restrictions
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External links[edit source | edit]