‘We are in a crisis right now:’ State health leaders concerned over coronavirus surge

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – With parts of the state among the worse COVID-19 hot spots in the country, Governor Tony Evers and state health leaders painted a grim picture of where Wisconsin stands in its fight against coronavirus and how the issue could worsen if changes don’t happen.

“It’s not slowing down. It’s picking up speed. We need to put the brakes on this pandemic,” Governor Evers said.

Evers and Department of Health Services leaders urged people Wisconsinites to adhere to social distancing and face covering guidelines as well as limiting trips and gatherings.

“If you’re hosting a watch party for a debate, or Monday Night Football or the Brewers’ playoff games, please keep it to your close circle of five,” Evers said. “If you want to get out and about and support a local restaurant enjoy it outside while wearing a mask or get it to go.”

The state’s chief communicable diseases expert painted a more dire picture.

“We are in a crisis, right now,” Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the Chief Medical Officer of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases said. “Turning the corner on this requires that we do things dramatically different than what we are doing. It requires all of society, all of Wisconsin to do things differently to reduce the transmission. […] The likelihood that this gets worse before it gets better is a real one.”

Officials said today that while cases among 18-24-year-olds primarily on college campuses are going down, other age groups are not. On top of that, hospital capacity is becoming a concern in certain parts of the state and DHS said it is taking steps to address it.

“DHS is taking action to increase their capacity by increasing workforce flexibility and expanding Medicaid reimbursement for post-acute and off-campus hospital outpatient locations,” DHS Sec.-designee Andrea Palm said.

Two hot spots in the state, La Crosse and Green Bay, happen to be locations for President Donald Trump’s rallies on Saturday, Oct. 3. Governor Evers said there is a simple solution to avoid those stops from becoming super spreader events.

“Number one he could not come,” Evers said. “The second thing is for him to insist that if people are there they can wear a mask, he can make that happen, he can wear one too.”

While the Evers administration is limited in what he can do in response to the pandemic because of the state Supreme Court’s May ruling on Safer at Home, he still has power over the state’s K-12 schools. For now, Evers said he does not plan to order them close because, he says, they are not the source of the current surge in cases. He added that he trusts individual districts to make decisions around closures and in-person versus online instruction.

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