'It’s not slowing down, it’s picking up speed': WI health officials say now's the time to take COVID-19 seriously

Posted at 7:38 PM, Sep 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-29 20:38:11-04

WISCONSIN — About seven months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Wisconsin is seeing some of the highest cases in the country. State health officials said they’re not mild but severe, and that now's the time we all need to get on the same team to curb the spread.

Governor Tony Evers said we’re at a critical point in the state, as COVID-19 cases continue to increase at rates we haven’t seen before.

“Right now it’s not slowing down, it’s picking up speed,” Evers said.

However, officials said there’s not one reason for the spike in cases. It’s not just that kids are back in school, but they said people are also holding parties and other gatherings, with some not following best practices, whether it’s wearing a mask, social distancing or limiting exposure to others.

“There are many across the state who aren’t taking this seriously, who aren’t wearing masks, who aren’t limiting their travel, who are going about their daily lives as if though it is November of 2019,” Evers said.

While fatigue is setting in, officials said now’s not the time to lower our guard, and those who have considered the pandemic a ‘hoax,’ need to get on board.

“I cannot stress this enough, no party, no bar, no gathering is worth it,” Evers said.

Earlier in September, the state was seeing spikes in young people getting the virus, ages 18 to 24. Officials said now it’s spreading across all age groups, resulting in more hospitalizations and severe cases.

Chief Medical Officer of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases, Dr. Ryan Westergaard said at this point we have a generalized epidemic in the state, which puts everyone at risk. He said we’ve now exceeded the capacity of local health departments to do contact tracing for those who need it, which is a problem because it’s one of the ways to stop the virus from spreading.

“The level of transmission we have right now is outstripping our ability to do that, which means that it’s safe to assume that the virus is everywhere,” Dr. Westergaard said.

Healthcare providers are also needing to quarantine more employees due to exposure, and as a result, Secretary Andrea Palm of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said we may soon need to start using the alternate care facility at the state fairgrounds.

“We built that as the ultimate insurance policy, right? in the worst case scenario, the scenario we hope we never get to but that we are closer to getting to than we ever have been,” Palm said.

Palm said if hospitals will need to use the alternate care facility, they’ll need about four to seven days notice to get it staffed and ready for patients.

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