Wisconsin ‘in a crisis’ as COVID-19 surge continues

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Governor Tony Evers reiterated his message to people in Wisconsin to limit leaving their homes as much as possible as the state continues to experience a worsening COVID-19 surge that is pushing hospitals to their limits.

“The science is clear, folks,” Evers said in a briefing. “If we don’t act now, and we don’t treat this pandemic like the urgent crisis it is, Wisconsin could lose thousands more of our friends, family, loved ones and fellow Wisconsinites by the end of the year.”

The Department of Health Services announced the state hit another single-day record with 7,497 new confirmed cases of COVID-19. Another 58 deaths were also reported Thursday.

Evers and health officials noted the upcoming holidays and winter months pose a threat to the state’s strained health care systems.

“We have a long road ahead of us and staying home to save lives is one of the best ways to help,” Evers said.

The message was echoed by the most recent state report on Wisconsin from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The report, dated Nov. 8, said the state continues, “to see an unrelenting rise in cases and test positivity in an ongoing health emergency that is leading to increasing hospitalizations and deaths; a more comprehensive mitigation strategy is needed.”

In its recommendations, the task force said it agreed with the state’s leaders that, “the current situation is worsening dramatically and that additional measures are needed to limit further cases and avoid increases in hospitalizations and deaths. The Governor’s continued personal guidance on these measures is critical and is commended.”

Governor Evers’ ability to respond to the pandemic has been severely limited by conservatives in the GOP-controlled Legislature, lawsuits from outside the Capitol and a state Supreme Court with a conservative majority.

On Tuesday, Nov. 10, Evers said in a primetime statewide address he would introduce new coronavirus legislation. Evers said in Thursday’s briefing the legislation would likely be released by early or middle of next week.

Republican leadership have expressed a lukewarm reception to the governor’s plans. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R – Rochester) told reporters Tuesday night following Evers’ address that he is open to the governor’s ideas but that, “if it’s just more of the same, where [Evers] knows we’re going to have concerns about that, I think that’s counterproductive.” Vos said he would like to see a more collaborative effort, rather than the governor put forth legislation for the Assembly and Senate to vote on.

But the situation in the state is dire.

“We are in a crisis as a state,” DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said.

Van Dijk said Wisconsin is worse off now than New York City was in the spring.

“Our current 7-day average of new cases is 6,209,” Van Dijk said. “When the virus was at its worse in New York city, they’re highest 7-day average of cases was 5,292.”

Officials warned health systems and hospitals are pushed to their limits with only 8 percent of ICU beds available statewide. Those levels create a need people around the state to act now to avoid situation reaching catastrophic levels.

“We’re getting to the point where hospitals are strained and are likely to run out of staff before they run out of physical space,” Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the Chief Medical Officer for the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases, said Thursday.

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