The state of Wisconsin is reaching a crisis point in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Particularly in northeastern Wisconsin, hospitals are filling up and cases continue to spiral out of control. Follow our updates on the impact of COVID-19 in the Milwaukee area and around the state of Wisconsin.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tracking coronavirus cases in Wisconsin
3:33 p.m.: Bishop in Green Bay says Catholics at liberty to avoid in-person Mass
Bishop David L. Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay announced he is reinstating the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass due to concerns about the continued escalation in the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The dispensation takes effect immediately and will remain in effect until further notice.
“This is NOT a closure of public Masses on Sundays or weekdays,” a release noted. “We will continue to celebrate the Mass publicly every Sunday at all of our parishes for those who are able to attend and willing to strictly follow the proper health protocols including social distancing of 6 feet, hand sanitizing, mandatory masks and building disinfection following each Mass.”
In September, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki reinstated the obligation of local Catholics to attend Mass, saying it was a “grave sin” to deliberately miss.
2:48 p.m.: Monday numbers show Wisconsin still among nation’s worst virus spots
Wisconsin reported 1,696 new coronavirus cases Monday as the virus continued to rampage across the state.
The state Department of Health Services also reported four deaths, bringing the death toll to 1,381.
Mondays typically turn out the lowest case counts of the week, as fewer tests are conducted and processed over the weekend. Still, the nearly 1,700 tests reported Monday make it the second-highest Monday case count ever — behind only last week.
The number of new daily cases over the last seven days was 2,395. The seven-day average statistic is meant to smooth out anomalies in the data and better represent current trends.
On Monday the state ranked third in the U.S., behind North and South Dakota, in a New York Times analysis of highest weekly case counts per capita.
The Oshkosh, Green Bay and Appleton metro areas were among the top five metro areas in the country with the highest daily case counts when adjusting for population, according to the New York Times. Seven metro areas in Wisconsin made the top 20. No other state had more than two metro areas on the list.
2:13 p.m.: Sen. Ron Johnson said virus diagnosis won’t keep him from voting in person on Supreme Court justice
Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said Monday that he would vote in-person to confirm U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett even if he’s still testing positive for coronavirus.
“If we have to go in and vote, I’ve already told leadership I’ll go in a moon suit,” Johnson said during a talk radio interview with The Ross Kaminsky Show.
Johnson, who announced Saturday that he had tested positive for COVID-19, again stressed that he was not experiencing symptoms.
Specifically asked if would find a way to go and vote in-person even if he tested positive the day before the vote, Johnson said, “I would certainly try to find a way — making sure that everybody was safe.”
He compared it to a trip he planned to make Monday to his doctor’s office, saying, “Where there’s a will there’s a way. We can do these things.”
12:39 p.m.: Milwaukee courts moving ahead with more jury trials, including at Zoofari center
While COVID-19 spikes around Wisconsin, Milwaukee County’s courts system is moving forward with plans for more jury trials, including at the Zoofari Conference Center.
Courthouses and nearly everything that goes on in them shut down abruptly in mid-March as the broader public suddenly understood the danger and import of the coronavirus pandemic.
After weeks of planning and courtroom modifications, some limited criminal jury trials were held starting in late July.
Phase two of the plan to return to pre-pandemic court operations began last week, and Monday, it expanded to include space at the Zoofari Conference Center, a county-owned facility at 9715 W. Bluemound Road, just outside the entrance to the Milwaukee County Zoo.
Chief Judge Mary Triggiano said the center will host trials over terminations of parental rights, and petitions for children in need of protective services, which normally would take place at the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center less than two miles away, at 10201 W. Watertown Plank Road.
Zoofari will also host jury selection for more complex civil trials, which would be held in a downtown courtroom while the jury watches on iPad-type devices in another courtroom across the hall. The unusual approach helps assure proper social distancing that cannot be achieved when all trial participants are in a single courtroom.
The courthouse complex’s largest courtrooms have been set aside for jury trials in criminal cases, where hundreds of defendants have been backlogged, and kept jailed, because their rights to speedy trials were denied during the early months of the pandemic.
Jury trials for those cases resumed in July, with judges sharing two of the largest courtrooms, which required tighter planning and scheduling via a spread sheet matrix showing which weeks which judge gets a chance to hold a jury trial.
— Bruce Vielmetti
12:16 p.m.: Testing site in Oshkosh hit with long wait times
The COVID-19 regional testing site in Oshkosh was experiencing wait times of three to four hours Monday morning, according to the Winnebago County Health Department.
The drive-up testing site at Sunnyview Expo Center, run by the National Guard, is the only public testing site in the Fox Valley, which has seen an explosion in cases in recent weeks. Other testing sites in the area are associated with hospital systems or pharmacies and require appointments.
“We are asking that people please be patient and plan accordingly if they are heading to the testing site. Staff is working as efficiently as possible to get through the large number of cars waiting in line,” the Winnebago County Health Department said in a news release.
The health department asked people to register for a test online to help the line of cars move more quickly. Register here.
The expo center is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Find other testing sites in the Fox Valley here.
— Sophie Carson
11:33 a.m.: Aspirus Hospitals see ‘exponential’ spike in COVID patients
Aspirus hospital system has seen a significant jump in the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to its hospitals over the last three weeks, and health officials expect numbers to keep rising.
Matt Heywood, president & CEO of Aspirus, said at a news conference Monday morning that three weeks ago the entire hospital system was treating only 10 COVID-19 patients. That number has jumped to anywhere between 60-80 people being treated throughout the system at a time. About 25-35 of those patients are being treated at Aspirus Wausau Hospital.
“So, this increase has been exponential,” Heywood said.
The virus is affecting people of all ages, Heywood said. About 50% of COVID-19 patients in the hospital system are 70 years old or older. Another 30-35% are 50-69 years old. And 15-20% of patients are 49 years old or younger.
Aspirus has six hospital locations in northern Wisconsin, including Stevens Point and Wausau.
8:41 a.m.: Waukesha County Expo Center to host two new testing dates
There will be two new free COVID-19 testing dates, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 5 and Oct. 6 at the Waukesha County Expo Center, 1000 Northview Road, Waukesha.
SUNDAY: Streak of 2,000 new cases ends, but numbers still alarming
State health officials reported 1,865 more cases of COVID-19 Sunday, following a five-day streak of more than 2,000 cases reported in a day.
The 1,865 cases account for 17.2% of the 10,815 test results reported by the state Department of Health Services Sunday. It follows Saturday’s single-day record number of cases at 2,892.
DHS reported five more deaths, bringing the death toll to 1,377 statewide.
SUNDAY: Sauk County health officer, citing ‘political gamesmanship,’ resigns
A county health official in Wisconsin says he’s frustrated with the lack of leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and is quitting.
Sauk County Health Officer Tim Lawther said in a resignation letter that the virus is being turned into “a political tool,” the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
“The political gamesmanship has empowered some County Supervisors to demand retraction of evidence-based public health guidance,” Lawther wrote. “It has encouraged and rewarded political allies to rail against science and data-driven measures to protect our neighbors. It has emboldened others to think it is appropriate to treat public health professionals with disrespect and disdain when they are just trying to do their jobs with skill and grace.”
The letter, dated Sept. 14, said Lawther plans to step down on Oct. 14.
Sauk County Board Chair Tim McCumber said Lawther’s handling of the pandemic response was likely off putting to some due to his personality. McCumber said another problem was the size of the Sauk County Board of Supervisors, a group of people with varying viewpoints, and it was difficult to reach a unanimous consensus.
The board itself was motivated to “find that perfect balance” between allowing businesses to operate and keeping the public safe, McCumber said.
“It’s been tough,” he said.
— Associated Press
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