Social distancing has emptied the streets in towns across the region. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Blog Recap: Tuesday’s coronavirus updates
Daily Digest: What you need to know about coronavirus in Wisconsin
More Coverage: Coronavirus in the U.S. and around the world
9:30 p.m. National Guard quells rumors of martial law
The Wisconsin National Guard’s top leader dispelled rumors almost two weeks ago that the military will be used to enforce coronavirus quarantines or the state will implement martial law.
But the rumors persist and Guard leaders on Wednesday again tried to knock down false notions that the National Guard will force people to stay in their homes to follow Gov. Tony Evers’ “safer at home” order.
Among the rumors were from people reporting seeing large trainloads of military vehicles in Wisconsin to enforce quarantines.
“These rumors are patently false,” Wisconsin National Guard spokesman Capt. Joe Trovato said in a statement.
With large manufacturers in the state like Oshkosh Corp., which makes military vehicles, it’s not unusual to see humvees and Army trucks on rail cars or traveling on highways to train at military installations in Wisconsin.
National Guard leaders have not discussed enforcing statewide quarantines or shutting down highways.
“Unfortunately, there are nefarious actors — in some cases, from other countries — operating in the shadows and intentionally circulating false information and misinformation via social media,” Trovato said.
“We understand that these rumors are part of a concerted disinformation campaign aimed at creating hysteria and panic in our nation’s communities.”
On March 20 Mark Belling, a Milwaukee-area conservative talk radio show host, falsely told listeners that Gov. Tony Evers was issuing a shelter in place order and that the “Wisconsin National Guard has been deployed and is basing at State Fair Park to enforce the order.”
After Belling’s remarks, which the host later corrected, Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp spoke to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the same day to criticize the falsehoods. Belling later corrected his statement.
“There are people out there trying to instill a sense of hysteria across the United States because it’s to their advantage,” Knapp said on March 20. “It’s really important for us to make perfectly clear to the people in Wisconsin that the National Guard has in no way shape or form been tasked or asked to enforce any type of shelter-in-place (order).”
Wisconsin National Guard troops have been used a variety of ways in the coronavirus outbreak response:
Half a dozen medics spent three days working with staff at a Grafton nursing home where numerous cases of COVID-19, and one death, were reported.
Guardsmen will serve as poll workers at election sites around the state on Tuesday for the presidential primary and spring election because of an extreme shortage of workers. The number of soldiers and airmen who will be used for this task is not yet determined. Guardsmen will serve as poll workers in their home counties, in accordance with state law.
A small liaison team of guardsmen is working with the Wisconsin Elections Commission to offer advice, project management expertise and logistics support.
Guard members are distributing sanitary supplies to election sites including hand sanitizer, wipes and spray bottles.
Soldiers and airmen are helping with warehouse operations to receive and repackage personal protection equipment such as gloves and masks from the federal stockpile to send to health care and first responder sites around the state.
30 troops drove Wisconsin residents who were quarantined on a cruise ship in California from Volk Field to their homes.
– Meg Jones
9 p.m.: Dane County reports third death
Dane County reported a third death due to coronavirus Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to 33.
No further information was immediately available on the person who died.
Dane County has 232 confirmed COVID-19 cases and has administered 4,455 tests, according to its online dashboard.
Among those who have tested positive in Dane County, 114 people are ages 20 to 44; 59 people are ages 45 to 64; 54 people are 65 and up, and five people are under 20 years old.
— Sophie Carson
6:20 p.m.: We Energies will not cut off service for those who can’t pay bills
People who are worried about paying this month’s bills should remember that We Energies has suspended disconnections for all customers – unless unsafe conditions exist – until the health crisis ends.
Customers who may have trouble or can’t pay their bill should contact We Energies to discuss payment plans and whether they qualify for financial assistance.
— Guy Boulton
6:05 p.m.: Milwaukee’s Bobblehead museum creates Dr. Fauci bobble
Dr. Anthony Fauci has become famous during the coronavirus pandemic, so it was only natural the good folks at the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee decided to pay him the ultimate honor.
His own bobblehead.
The Bobblehead Hall of Fame has gotten numerous requests for a Fauci bobblehead — both via social media and on the museum’s website — so it was happy to oblige, co-founder and CEO Phil Sklar said.
“Anything Dr. Fauci-related right now, people are interested in,” Sklar said in a phone interview Wednesday evening.
The bobbles sell for $25 with an expected shipment in July. Five dollars of every sale of the Fauci bobbleheads will be donated to the American Hospital Association in support of the 100 Million Mask Challenge providing critically needed Personal Protection Equipment to health care providers and first responders.
Fauci bobbleheads are available for pre-order through the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum’s online store – bobbleheadhall.com.
– Meg Jones
5:30 p.m.: Assisted living group asks for PPE donations
The Wisconsin Health Care Association/Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living is asking businesses and organizations to consider donating face masks and shields, disposable gloves, scrubs and gowns and alcohol-based sanitizer to local nursing homes and assisted-living centers.
Similar donations of personal protective equipment, or PPE, have been made in other states to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, John Vander Meer, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Health Care Association/Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living, said in a news release.
For information on a local long-term care facility, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Guy Boulton
5 p.m.: Health cooperative will lower insurance premiums for small businesses
The Brookfield-based Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative said it will cut in half its May health insurance premiums for its small business members to help ease the financial strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We know small employers and nonprofits are struggling right now and so are their employees,” Cathy Mahaffey, CEO of Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative, said in a statement. “We hope we can make it a little easier for business owners to take care of their companies and their workers by temporarily lowering their expenses.”
Mahaffey attributed the idea to Group Health Cooperative of Eau Claire. That cooperative decided last week to temporarily reduce premiums by 50% for its business customers.
Both health cooperatives are owned by their members.
“We are governed by the people we serve,” Mahaffey said in the statement. “We understand very well that our money is their money.”
“The best way to come out of this challenging time is to take care of one another,” she added.
Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative sells health insurance to individuals, families and small businesses. The cooperative has the largest market share in the state for health plans sold on the marketplaces set up through the Affordable Care Act.
— Guy Boulton
4:30 p.m.: Sheboygan’s first virus-related death brings state total to 32
The first death due to COVID-19 in Sheboygan County was announced Wednesday, a resident at Sunny Ridge Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
In a news release, the county Health Department said that one Sunny Ridge employee and three residents have tested positive for COVID-19. The county is tracking down anybody who had contact with those patients, it said.
“Sunny Ridge is working with local governing officials and their facility medical director to ensure the safety and well-being of patients and staff as we fight this situation.”
— AnnMarie Hilton
3:50 p.m.: Two Sauk County deaths linked to COVID-19, other causes
The two people who died in Sauk County in part due to the coronavirus were over age 70 and had significant underlying health conditions, health officials said.
The deaths occurred March 26 and March 30, and one person was in hospice care at the time, Sauk County Health Officer Tim Lawther said.
In both cases, multiple causes of death were listed, including COVID-19, Lawther said.
He declined to give the ages or genders of the people who died, citing privacy concerns.
— Sophie Carson
3 p.m.: State total surges above 1,500 cases as counties report 31 deaths
State health officials announced nearly 200 more positive test results for COVID-19 on Wednesday, the largest single-day increase since testing began.
Wednesday’s 199 new cases brings the total to 1,550 cases. Twenty-six percent of those, or nearly 400, had resulted in hospitalization, according to the Department of Health Services.
Thirty-one Wisconsin residents had died by early Wednesday afternoon, according to reports from state and county health departments and medical examiners.
Milwaukee County separately reported 833 cases Wednesday afternoon, up from its morning count of 776. The city of Milwaukee is home to 656 of those cases.
— Matt Piper
1:50 p.m.: Molson Coors temporarily lays off employees
Molson Coors Beverage Co. has temporarily laid off employees at its Milwaukee visitors center and other locations after those operations were forced to close because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The company isn’t disclosing the number of workers affected.
A company statement released Wednesday said the action is limited to U.S. and Canadian tour centers, some craft partner taprooms and restaurants and some offices “until we can safely resume normal operations.” The breweries and distribution centers, classified as essential businesses, are still operating.
The layoffs also do not affect Molson Coors’ ongoing shift of jobs from its closed Denver office to its corporate office in Milwaukee, a spokesman said.
— Tom Daykin
1:24 p.m.: Four more deaths in Milwaukee County
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office is investigating four more deaths due to complications of the coronavirus.
The office announced Wednesday afternoon that a 49-year-old man from Milwaukee, a 73-year-old man from Oak Creek, an 89-year-old man from South Milwaukee and a 78-year-old woman from Milwaukee recently died from the virus.
Those come just hours after the office announced two other deaths Wednesday morning.
That totals 16 deaths in Milwaukee County.
— Elliot Hughes
12:44 p.m.: Marquette poll shows support for Evers, COVID-19 measures
Wisconsinites are on board with government actions to control the coronavirus pandemic, according to Wednesday’s Marquette University Law School Poll.
Eighty-six percent said it was appropriate to close schools and businesses, and 51% strongly approve of directing cash payments to individuals, while 28% somewhat approve.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers was rated highly for his response to the crisis, with 76% approving of his handling of the issue.
— Bill Glauber
12:08 p.m.: DNR wardens helping to protect supplies of medical protective gear
State Department of Natural Resources wardens normally tasked with ensuring the safety of Wisconsin’s natural resources are now also helping to guard emergency supply stockpiles in the state, while the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow.
Casey Krueger, the chief warden for the DNR, said that though some wardens are still patrolling land, others have been assigned to protect the stockpiles.
“We’re tasked with providing security for those facilities,” he said. “We’re making sure there’s no vandalism, no looting.”
Krueger wasn’t sure exactly what is in the stockpiles, but said typically they include medical personal protective equipment such as masks and gowns for hospitals, which are much-needed during the current crisis.
— Laura Schulte
10:07 a.m.: Tavern League asks for ability to deliver alcohol to homes
One of the state’s most powerful lobbying groups is asking lawmakers to allow bars and restaurants to deliver alcohol to people staying in their homes under Gov. Tony Evers’ order to stay inside.
It’s one of a dozen requests the Tavern League of Wisconsin is putting to lawmakers as they draft relief packages with Evers for the state suffering economic losses as the coronavirus outbreak forces people to stay put and closes scores of businesses.
— Molly Beck
9:58 a.m.: Gov. Evers to use National Guard at polling places
Gov. Tony Evers has agreed to use members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard to work at the polls during the April 7 election due to a massive shortage of poll workers that is leaving some communities without anyone to give voters ballots on election day.
More than 100 communities in Wisconsin don’t have any poll workers for the spring election in six days and a record number of voters are overwhelming clerks with absentee ballots — leading to warnings that thousands of votes may not be counted.
— Molly Beck
9:05 a.m.: Milwaukee County death toll reaches 14
Two more people have died in Milwaukee County after contracting the coronavirus.
An 89-year-old white man and a 78-year-old black woman both died between 6:30 and 8 a.m. Wednesday, according to the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s online database.
Both patients had underlying health conditions.
That pushes the county’s death toll to 14 after two other people also died from the virus Tuesday.
— Mary Spicuzza
7:34 a.m.: Milwaukee County confirms another 66 cases
Milwaukee County reported another 66 cases of COVID-19 Wednesday morning, bringing the area’s overall total to 776.
The city of Milwaukee is home to 616 of those cases as of Wednesday morning, with 54 new cases reported.
Meanwhile, the county’s death toll reached 12 after two people died from the virus Tuesday.
West Allis (26), Wauwatosa (21), Oak Creek and Greenfield (15 each) have the most cases among Milwaukee County suburbs.
— Elliot Hughes
7:05 a.m.: Biden: ‘Hard to envision’ DNC as scheduled
Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden suggested that the Democratic National Convention scheduled for Milwaukee in mid-July may have to be held at a later date or conducted in a different manner.
Biden was asked by MSNBC’s Brian Williams in an interview aired late Tuesday night, “Can you really envision every prominent Democrat in this country from all 50 states inside a hot arena 104 days from now?”
“It’s hard to envision that. Again, we should listen to the scientists. And you know, one of the reasons why the Democratic convention was going to be held early was the Olympics were coming after the Republican convention. There’s more time now.”
“We were able to … in the middle of a Civil War all the way through to World War II have Democratic and Republican conventions and primaries and elections and still have public safety. And we’re able to do both. But the fact is it may have to be different.”
Convention organizers said last week they are “exploring a range of contingency options” for holding the July 13-16 event without endangering public health in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
— Craig Gilbert
8:20 p.m. Tuesday: Wisconsin receives PPE shipment from national stockpile
Wisconsin received its second shipment of personal protective equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile, Gov. Tony Evers’ office announced Tuesday.
Crews are working to distribute the items to health care and emergency workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the state.
The second shipment includes 51,880 N95 respirators; 130,840 face/surgical masks; 23,400 face shields; 20,226 surgical gowns; 96 coveralls and 79,000 pairs of gloves.
The first round of supplies from the National Stockpile included similar numbers of each item.
Evers has also asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide personal protective equipment to law enforcement officers and firefighters.
— Sophie Carson
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