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Four people under voluntary home quarantine in Milwaukee for possible coronavirus exposure

Posted at 4:13 PM, Feb 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-29 14:11:24-05

MILWAUKEE — Four people who traveled from China are currently under voluntary home quarantine in Milwaukee. Milwaukee's Health Commissioner says it's being done as a precaution.

City leaders did not disclose where exactly the four people under voluntary quarantine traveled to or when that precaution started. Leaders say they are monitoring travelers for China which the Centers for Disease Control recommends.

"The individuals that are involved in our response, like academic institutions, normally their organizations are very involved so they're notifying us if there are any suspects," said Kowalik.

The strain of coronavirus is referred to as COVID-19. Days after the CDC warned about the global spread, Milwaukee city leaders say the city is doing everything it can to prepare for the potential of COVID-19 by communicating with state and federal partners.

"Our goal at this time is around the response to COVID-19 individuals who are at risk that means travelers from the places where that disease is active or very active or identified through our surveillance systems and receive rapid recommended follow up and testing," said Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik.

Watch the full news conference here:

City leaders hold news conference on coronavirus

The Health Department expects to soon have the ability to test COVID-19 samples in the coming weeks.

"My first hope is that it never reaches here but our Milwaukee Health Department is working with state officials as recently as this morning they were in contact with state officials about steps that can be taken," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Despite the voluntary quarantines, health officials maintain the threat for the new coronavirus, also referred to as COVID-19, in Wisconsin is low.

State health leaders say they are working on prevention nonetheless.

"We are working with the CDC in their development of a larger range of strategies to conserve respirators in order to make those supplies last longer. We are investigating whether or not telehealth tools can be utilized to help direct people to the right level of care," said Jeff Phillips, Director of the Office of Preparedness and Emergency Health Care, during a meeting Wednesday.

The state is also looking to give out guidance should an outbreak disrupt daily life. If it does, they want to help slow the spread of coronavirus as much as possible.

"We’re looking to disseminate guidance that helps public and private sectors to ensure they are able to operate with adaptations like telework and flexible leave policies," said Phillips.

Soon after the CDC warned about the global spread of COVID-19, Shorewood and Elmbrook school districts sent letters to parents saying they are monitoring updates.

"There are a lot of unanswered questions, that doesn’t mean we are unprepared or ill-suited to take care of these sorts of problems," said Robert Kirchdoerfer, Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"It’s a really standard isolation practice that has been used in the past are gonna work for this as well. The problem is going to become the scale at which we might need to use those practices," said Kirchdoerfer.

Kirchdoerfer says their team is researching COVID-19 at a molecular level which may help guide the development of a vaccine.

All of this news comes as USA Today reports Russia pulled out of the American Cup, a gymnastics competition scheduled to be held at Fiserv Forum next week citing concerns about travel and coronavirus.

Event organizers said they are following the guidance of the International Gymnastics Federation, or FIG, who is monitoring the situation closely. While working with the Milwaukee Health Department organizers will provide additional information for participants on precautions they can take at the event to help prevent the spread of any viruses.

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