DHS: Wisconsin healthcare workers account for 16 percent of COVID-19 cases

Posted at 6:04 PM, Apr 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-24 19:04:41-04

MILWAUKEE — New numbers in Wisconsin show medical professionals in the state make up for more than 15 percent of COVID-19 statewide.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, healthcare workers make up 16 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the state.

Of Wisconsin's 5,356 cases, 857 of those involve healthcare professionals.

Nurse practitioner Octavia Manuel-Wright knew going into nursing meant putting others first.

Manuel-Wright is the president of "Black Nurses Rock Milwaukee," a group supporting nurses and highlighting them through events and social media.

"I have a lot of nurses in-boxing me, calling and sending messages on social media saying they don't have supplies.," Manuel-Wright said.

She said many in her group are reusing personal protective equipment due to shortages.

"People are doing, literally, that they have to do," Manuel-Wright said.

Those concerns are echoed with the Wisconsin Nurses Association, which recently surveyed its members.

"I would say over 30 percent of our members responded that they don't believe they have PPE," said Gina Dennik-Champion, executive director of the Wisconsin Nurses Association.

Jeff Weber, president of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, released this statement:

"Healthcare workers are heroes, but they are not martyrs. They deserve real actions beyond parades and kind words, and the good news is that there are real solutions. Over a month ago, based on the needs and experiences of our members on the frontlines, our union sent a request to all healthcare employers and launched a petition demanding hazard pay, appropriate protective equipment, childcare, and covered medical costs for COVID-19 related exposures. We have yet to see these requests fully realized. Sadly, the statistic released today highlights the failures of our healthcare system and underscores the need for swift action on our requests. The real solutions here will not come from boardrooms. They will come from our members on the frontlines, caring for patients and living this reality. However, several employers continue to deny nurses' requests that they collect and launder scrubs at the end of a shift after being on a COVID unit. This places our members, their families, and all of us at risk if members are forced to bring their scrubs outside the walls of their hospital. There's enough money in our healthcare system to protect workers, but this 17% infection figure is a consequence of the calculated response from healthcare corporations.

Our union is proud to actively support the Healthcare Heroes legislation that would provide for many of these protections. We need policies driven by science, not supply chains. We need to support healthcare workers rather than furlough them. This is the time to do everything we can to support nurses, respiratory therapists, housekeepers, and all healthcare workers. We will continue working to protect healthcare professionals everywhere. Our members and community deserve better. We welcome the partnership of anyone who genuinely supports this goal."

Relevant links are here for the legislation and petition:
Healthcare Heroes legislation

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Coronavirus in Wisconsin

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More information: COVID-19 on the Wisconsin DHS website

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