The latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report is out and, like most reports on the virus in our state recently, it is not positive news. But it does encourage solutions Wisconsin is using as well as could adopt in the near future.
The report, shared by the White House to Gov. Tony Evers' administration, found that Wisconsin continued to see an "unrelenting rise in cases and test positivity" and concludes that a more "comprehensive mitigation strategy" is needed.
The report's summary dives into the latest trends the White House Coronavirus Task Force's analysts are seeing in Wisconsin. As TMJ4 News and other news organizations report daily, the state has seen more than 5,500 cases a day last week on average, and hospitalizations are now six times the level of early September. Total deaths have since doubled during the same period.
Milwaukee, Dane and Waukesha counties have witnessed the most new cases, the report found, representing 26.7 percent of all new cases in the state. None of Wisconsin's 72 counties reported less than 100 cases per 100,000 people, and eight counties reported more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 last week.
The report also found that during the week of Oct. 26-Nov. 1, 30 percent of nursing homes had at least one resident who tested positive for the virus; 61 percent had at least one staff member test positive; and 13 percent had at least one death among residents due to the virus.
The White House Task Force report also offered recommendations to Wisconsin, to help the state halt the surge of cases.
"We share the strong concern of Wisconsin 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," according to the report's authors.
One of the recommendations is that the state should improve "communications," to reinforce messaging around social gatherings and "new asymptomatic surveillance approach" to limit community spread.
The report encourages increased testing and surveillance, as the report found some universities in the state have successfully done. "The silent community spread that precedes and continues throughout surges can only be identified and interrupted through proactive and increased testing and surveillance," according to the report.
That approach can be applied to communities dealing with surges in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths, using proactive weekly testing of groups of people, such as teachers, county workers, hospital personnel, large private-sector employers among others. Those cases should then be analyzed with cases among long-term care facility staff to identify where there are high numbers of both asymptomatic and pre-sympomatic cases. That in turn should trigger widespread, proactive testing and isolation among people ages 18 to 40 years old, according to the report.
The report cites a similar effort in Minnesota and encouraged regional cooperation that might allow for better control of the disease across the states' borders.
Next in the report's list of recommendations is expanded use of point-of-care antigen tests. The relatively quick COVID-19 tests should be used among all people regardless of their symptoms, or lack thereof.
As with most COVID-19 guidelines, the report encourages continued use of face masks, social distancing, good hand hygiene as well as isolating those who test positive or are sick, contact tracing and quarantine.
The report continues that "state and community leaders" need to share a "clear" message asking Wisconsin residents to abide by the above safety guidelines - including avoiding gatherings, especially those that are indoors.
In regard to schools, the W.H. report urges K-12 schools to follow CDC guidelines and use the Abbot BinaxNow tests recently sent to Wisconsin from the federal government. All teachers should be tested routinely, the report finds, to identify the degree of the virus' spread in the community. For higher education, the report recommends that students should be tested both before and after they leave campus for Thankgiving break.
See the full White House Coronavirus Task Force to Wisconsin below: