Live coronavirus updates: State Sen. Lena Taylor, others sue officials to stop April 7 election

Updates on coronavirus and how it’s affecting life in Wisconsin from reporters from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the USA Today Network-Wisconsin.

Blog Recap: Thursday’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

8 p.m.: State Sen. Lena Taylor, others sue officials to stop election

State Sen. Lena Taylor, a mayoral candidate challenging Barrett, community activist Tory Lowe and others are suing Milwaukee and state election officials in federal court to try to postpone the in-person election until Sept. 8, 2020.

Early voting should continue, they say.

Citing the suspension of early voting, Taylor and Lowe, an aldermanic candidate, argue officials are attempting to disenfranchise voters, particularly African American voters in the 53206 ZIP code in Milwaukee’s central city.

“Actions taken by the Milwaukee Election Commission amount to an abridgment of the right of African Americans to cast their vote, or to be registered to vote in the April 7, 2020 City of Milwaukee Election,” they wrote.

“The closing of early voting and voter registration, creation of an internet vote, while at the same time all libraries are closed barring more than half of 6th District/53206 voters who have no internet access from voting,” they argue. “Further ‘drive-thru drop-off voting’ is not an option for 6th District/53206 since most rely on public transportation.”

Albrecht declined to comment.

— Mary Spicuzza

6:45 p.m. Where you can vote in person

But due to a shortage of poll workers and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, many area communities have significantly decreased the number of in-person polling places after officials had strongly urged people to vote absentee. 

Find which polling places in your Milwaukee-area community are still open for in-person voting for the April 7 election.

6:35 p.m.: Milwaukee County playgrounds, team sports areas closed

Areas to play any team sports in addition to playgrounds, beaches, fitness stations, picnic areas and more are closed due to the pandemic, Milwaukee County Parks Director Guy Smith said Friday.

The county’s 113 playgrounds currently feature signs saying they’re closed and there are yard signs in production with the same message. The department is also looking to put barricades and additional signs at the playgrounds. 

There will also be parking restrictions on parkways, he said during a virtual press conference.

At least six feet of distance between people is required, and there is no congregating allowed within the parks, he said.

Natural areas, the Oak Leaf Trail, hiking trails and green spaces remain open, as long as people stay six feet from each other. 

“We don’t want to have to be in the situation where other cities and states have had to completely close their parks,” he said. “This is where we need our citizens, our park patrons, our visitors to really self-police.”

In an effort to keep things “fun but virtual,” he said the Parks Department has worked on creating virtual park tours, a “squirrel census,” and coloring sheets that can be printed at home.

— Alison Dirr

6:20 p.m.: Two Dane County deaths bring state total to 50

Fifty people have died from the coronavirus in Wisconsin, according to a combination of state and county reports.

Dane County reported two deaths due to the virus Friday evening, according to an online dashboard maintained by the Public Health Department of Madison and Dane County.

No further information was immediately available on the two people who died.

Dane County recorded Wisconsin’s first COVID-19 case in early February. Since then, 252 people have tested positive for the virus in the county and five people have died.

— Sophie Carson

6:10 p.m.: Kowalik urges state officials not to hold election

Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik contacted state officials to urge them not to hold Tuesday’s election in person due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

She said during a virtual press conference Friday that her powers are limited by an exemption for elections in Gov. Tony Evers’ order that residents stay home and that non-essential businesses close. That’s why she drafted the letter asking state officials to reconsider the election.

“We have grave concerns about holding an election as we’re just ramping up in dealing with 1,000 cases in Milwaukee County, let alone other areas in the state that may not have cases yet,” she said. “But just by having people together congregating, it’s going to be very difficult to maintain six feet distance.”

Having Milwaukee’s polling places consolidated into five locations due to a severe shortage of election workers will be “extremely challenging,” she said.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said that there will be polling locations in areas of the city where there are relatively high numbers of people who have contracted the virus.

— Alison Dirr

5:45 p.m.: Four Milwaukee County nursing homes have outbreaks

Four nursing homes or long-term care facilities in Milwaukee County and three in the city of Milwaukee are currently experiencing coronavirus outbreaks, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik said Friday.

She defined an outbreak as having two or more coronavirus cases.

“From a public health position when you have something like this, a novel disease, it can spread very quickly in confined spaces,” she said during a virtual press conference.

In the county, having four facilities with an outbreak represents about 11.4% of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

In the city, having three facilities experiencing an outbreak out of 19 total means about 15.8% of licensed nursing homes and long-term care facilities have an outbreak.

She said management of the facilities has been tasked with disease prevention methods, including prohibiting visitors and cleaning.

The city’s Health Department won’t release the names of the facilities that have the infections, she said. The state regulates nursing homes and long-term care facilities, she said.

She didn’t detail the extent of the outbreaks.

— Alison Dirr

5:20 p.m.: Outagamie County reports first virus-linked death, bringing state total to 48

One person has died in Outagamie County from COVID-19, the county health department said Friday afternoon. 

“We are saddened by the loss of a community member, and we extend our heartfelt sympathies to their loved ones and friends,” Outagamie County Health Officer Mary Dorn said. “With community spread occurring in our communities, we must practice social distancing, maintain good hygiene, and other Safer At Home Order guidance to prevent the continued spread of the disease.”

According to the state Department of Health Services, Outagamie County has 19 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Nearly 300 people have tested negative. Statewide, there have been at least 1,916 confirmed cases and at least 48 deaths.

— Natalie Brophy

5:17 p.m.: Group asks state to release youth from detention facilities

Youth Justice Milwaukee leaders called on Wisconsin officials to release youth from detention facilities and take several other steps to protect youth in the justice system, in a letter sent Friday. 

The group echoed recommendations by the national Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice (YCLJ) to release detained youth who can be safely cared for at home, and to cease detention of all youth except on the most “serious and violent charges.”

“They are entitled to the same level of protection, safety and medical care as their peers,” Youth Justice Milwaukee leaders wrote. 

In addition to the heightened risk for the virus to spread in correctional facilities, medical professionals have warned of the mental health impacts on youth in confinement during this time.

In an open letter to public officials, a group of physicians noted that youth in detention are already more likely to have mental health disorders. They could endure long-term effects from the trauma of experiencing a pandemic in an isolating environment and separated from family, they said.

For youth remaining in custody, while fewer volunteers and service providers are allowed to enter facilities, YCLJ leaders said it was important youth be able to continue coursework, participate in structured activities and connect with loved ones, even through in-person visits when possible.

Youth Justice Milwaukee sent their recommendations to Gov. Tony Evers, Milwaukee County judges, and several state and county agency heads.

“The reality is that these recommendations require the highest level of buy-in, cooperation and follow through in order to make a difference,” Youth Justice Milwaukee leaders wrote. “And the urgency cannot be overstated.”

— Rory Linnane

5:15 p.m.: Summerfest donates equipment to Milwaukee Police

Milwaukee World Festival Inc., the group that oversees Summerfest, said Friday that it donated 700 Tyvek suits and 200 pairs of shoe coverings to the Milwaukee Police Department.

Summerfest said the items were provided to Milwaukee World Festival for purchase by one of its vendors, Ten2Communications.

“The Milwaukee Police Department are among the heroes helping to keep our community safe during these unprecedented times,” said Don Smiley, president and chief executive of Milwaukee World Festival. “When this opportunity to help presented itself, it was a quick decision for us to do what we can to ensure MPD has the tools they need.”

— Bill Glauber

5:10 p.m.: Jail nurse tests positive

A nurse who worked in the Milwaukee County Jail this week tested positive for COVID-19, Sheriff Earnell Lucas said in a Friday statement.

The statement said Sheriff’s Office learned of the test on Friday. The nurse last worked at the jail on Tuesday and “during her interactions with patients and staff, she was wearing personal protective equipment,” the sheriff’s statement said. 

She reported symptoms on Thursday and did not report for work that day, the statement said.

The nurse was described in the statement as a contracted nurse with the county’s medical provider.

No other medical staff members have reported showing symptoms of COVID-19 and no members of Sheriff’s Office or people in its custody have tested positive for the deadly virus, Lucas said.

“We are in communication with our medical provider and monitoring the situation in our jail,” Lucas said in the statement. “We will take appropriate steps and ensure that proper quarantine measures are implemented should they become necessary in consultation with our public health professionals in Milwaukee County.”

— Cary Spivak

5 p.m.: Walmart, Target to limit number of shoppers in stores

Walmart will limit the number of customers in their stores to 20% capacity starting Saturday.

And Target will monitor customer traffic and limit when needed starting Saturday.

Walmart stores will allow no more than five customers for each 1,000 square feet. The stores will have one entrance open, and customers will be allowed to enter one by one.

“Once a store reaches its capacity, customers will be admitted inside on a ‘1-out-1-in’ basis,” a news release from Walmart states.

And customers should move through aisles in only one direction, Walmart said. Signs and employees will indicate the direction.

There will be a separate, single exit as well to limit interaction between shoppers.

At Target, occupancy limits will vary by store and based on a specific location’s square footage “to enhance the average space per person and reduce the possibility of congestion,” Target said in a news release.

If a store needs to limit shoppers, there will be a “designated waiting area outside with social distancing markers,” Target said.

The retailer also announced Thursday it will soon provide staff in stores and distribution centers with disposable face masks and gloves at the beginning of every shift, which employees will be encouraged to wear while working. Masks and gloves will also be provided to Target’s Shipt shoppers as they enter stores.

And Menards will no longer allow children under 16 to be in any of its stores due to the COVID-pandemic.

According to its website, Menards will ask for identification, such as a driver’s license, for anyone who appears under the age of 16.

Pets, except for service dogs, also are not allowed in Menards.

“We absolutely love families, but need to lessen the number of people shopping in our stores, and I think it goes without saying that children need to be protected from people,” spokesman Jeff Abbott said.

Menards’ updated hours are Monday through Saturday 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

— Sophie Carson, Cathy Kozlowicz and USA Today

4:30 p.m.: Racine County man in his 70s is state’s 47th virus-linked death

A Racine County man in his 70s has died from complications due to the coronavirus.

It is Racine County’s first virus-related death. Forty-seven people across Wisconsin have died from the virus, according to a combination of state and county reports.

Racine County had 46 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Friday afternoon, but Margaret Gesner, health officer for the Central Racine County Health Department, said in a news release that there were “likely many more people infected with mild symptoms” who could not be tested.

—  Sophie Carson

4:15 p.m.: Radio host Michelle Bryant suspended from Milwaukee’s WNOV

Radio host Michelle Bryant, an influencer and talk show host at Milwaukee’s WNOV 860, slammed Mayor Tom Barrett and the radio station’s owner as she announced a two-week suspension from the radio station on Facebook Live. Bryant is listed as a staff member of State Sen. Lena Taylor, Barrett’s current mayoral opponent.

During the livestream, Bryant said WNOV’s owner, Jerrel Jones, had told her to stop criticizing Barrett and when she didn’t, suspended her. 

“I was told that if I didn’t like it, I don’t have to come back,” she said. “Well, of course I won’t be coming back.”

Bryant said she had worked for free for a number of years to help the station when it was struggling. During the livestream, she criticized Barrett and accused him of using the coronavirus to reduce early voting locations in areas with primarily African American and Latino populations.

“When I heard that members of our community had no idea where they could go vote, I couldn’t rest on that,” she said.

Bryant also denounced Barrett for his handling of the lead water crisis and accused him of dodging a debate with Taylor. Bryant said she would be at one of Taylor’s campaign offices, taking phone calls on Monday.

“I’m just saying I’m fed up,” she said.

— Talis Shelbourne

4 p.m.: Trek offers free home delivery for online bike orders

As more people seek alternative transportation and move their workouts outside during the coronavirus pandemic, Trek Bicycle is waiving its delivery fee. 

Waterloo-based Trek is offering free home delivery for online bike orders through May 1. At checkout, customers will be able to select a Trek retailer in their area that offers home delivery. 

“We hope free home delivery helps to remove a barrier for consumers looking to cycling as a source of joy and as a mobility solution during a time when it’s needed most,” John Burke, president of Trek Bicycle, said in a news release

Milwaukee-area bike shops have said new bike sales and repair orders are strong as people try to avoid mass transit or spend more time riding because of social distancing.

Read more here.

— Sarah Hauer

3:15 p.m.: State counts more than 1,900 cases as counties report 46 deaths

The state’s official count of confirmed coronavirus cases increased by more than 180 for a third straight day Friday, when the state posted an internal model showing that it projected COVID-19’s peak to come between April 23 and May 23.

There were 1,916 positive tests by the state’s Friday afternoon count, and 46 people had died from COVID-19 according to a combination of state and county reports.

Of those who tested positive, more than a quarter had been hospitalized.

Twenty-seven people had died from the virus in Milwaukee County as of Friday afternoon.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed four virus-related deaths from overnight: a 91-year-old white man and three black men, ages 75, 82 and 93. All had underlying conditions.

Read more here.

And view our coronavirus data tracker here.

3 p.m.: No visitors allowed at ProHealth Care hospitals 

ProHealth Care has implemented a no-visitors policy at its hospitals — including ProHealth Waukesha Memorial and Oconomowoc Memorial — with specific exceptions “for the safety of patients and caregivers during the coronavirus pandemic.”

One spouse or companion is permitted in labor and delivery, emergency departments, and outpatient areas, according to ProHealth Care’s website. Visitors are allowed to be with patients at the end of life.

Read more here.

— Hannah Kirby

1:36 p.m.: AmFam donating more than $4 million to relief efforts

American Family Insurance is putting more than $4 million to COVID-19 pandemic relief and other non-profits, the Madison-based company announced in a news release. 

American Family Insurance and the American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation together are donating more than $4 million. With added donations from the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation, the total will be more than $6.8 million.

“The pandemic has left many struggling to meet basic needs while at the same time adapting to a new and unsettling normal,” said Maggie Pascaly, American Family community investment manager. “We want to help meet short-term needs of individuals, families and communities, while also addressing longer-term effects.”

The funds will primarily come from the two foundations. American Family employee and agency-owner donation will be matched two to one. 

American Family donations will benefit the United Way of Dane County/Boys and Girls Club COVID Support Fund and relief funds on areas where the company has offices including Green Bay, Milwaukee, Boston and Denver. 

— Sarah Hauer

1:23 p.m.: Mukwonago Fire Department personnel in self quarantine

Two Mukwonago Fire Department personnel are now in self-quarantine after transporting an individual who later tested positive for COVID-19, Fire Chief Jeffrey Stien said Friday. 

The department was informed of the case by the Waukesha County Health Department on Thursday and the two emergency personnel were then ordered to self-quarantine. 

They will be in quarantine until April 12, Stien said.

Read the full story.

— Curt Hogg

1:21 p.m.: Components company with New Berlin location begins making 3D print masks

Fluid Systems Components Inc. has started working to 3D print masks for its employees to wear during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company, which has locations in New Berlin and De Pere, is printing 75 reusable masks in an attempt to keep its employees safe, according to a news release from the company.

The company engineers, manufactures, distributes and repairs hydraulic pumps and other processes used in the manufacturing of equipment in industries like paper mills and firefighting equipment.

— Debi Eimer

1:19 p.m.: Waukesha County suspending transit routes

Waukesha County is suspending some public transit routes, under an emergency declaration by County Executive Paul Farrow.

The order was issued to protect the health of transit employees and riders, to prevent community spread of COVID-19 and to comply with the Safer at Home order issued by Gov. Tony Evers.

Routes that will be suspended effective April 6 are Route 901 Trip E4, E7, E9, W2, W6, and W10 and Route 905 Trip OE6.  All other Route 901 and Route 905 trips will continue to operate as scheduled. Route 904 and Route 906 are unaffected. 

— Debi Eimer

1:17 p.m.: Inmate in Milwaukee County tests positive

Milwaukee County officials announced Friday that an inmate at the House of Correction has tested positive for COVID-19. The inmate was moved to a segregated area once he or she showed symptoms, was later tested, and is now being treated within the HOC.  The news release does not indicate the gender or age of the inmate, nor when he or she first exhibited symptoms or when the inmate was tested. 

House of Correction Superintendent Michael Hafemann has not returned calls or emails about conditions at the Franklin complex left over the past two weeks. Friday’s announcement, from the County Executive’s press office, says more details will follow.

— Bruce Vielmetti

1:01 p.m.: Five in-person voting centers will be open Tuesday

The City of Milwaukee on Friday announced five in-person voting centers for Tuesday’s election – just a fraction of the 180 polling sites that are usually open on election day.

Officials had said previously that they expected to have 10 to 12 voting sites, or possibly fewer, open for in-person voting citywide.

A severe shortage of poll workers has forced the city to decrease the number of polling locations. According to a statement from the city Friday, only 350 poll workers are slated to work the election, down from about 1,400 the city normally has.

The voting centers are:

  • Aldermanic Districts 1*, 3 and 6: Riverside High School, 1615 E. Locust St.
  • Aldermanic Districts 2, 5 and 9: Marshall High School, 4141 N. 64th St.
  • Aldermanic Districts 4*, 12 and 14: South Division High School, 1515 W. Lapham Blvd.
  • Aldermanic Districts 7*, 10, and 15: Washington High School, 2525 N. Sherman Blvd.
  • Aldermanic Districts 8, 11, and 13: Hamilton High School, 6215 W. Warnimont Ave.

Exceptions denoted with asterisks are:

  • District 1, Ward 47 (normally at Hampton School) will be voting at Washington High School
  • District 4, Ward 181 (normally at Charles Allis) will be voting at Riverside High School
  • District 7, Ward 107 (normally at Ben Franklin School) will be voting at Riverside High School
  • District 7, Ward 67 (normally at Barack Obama School) will be voting at Riverside High School

Read more here.

— Alison Dirr

11:15 a.m.: First positive COVID-19 test among the inmate population in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Corrections has reported the first positive test for COVID-19 among the inmate population.

According to the DOC website, the inmate resides at Columbia Correctional Institute, a maximum-security prison in Portage.

The DOC had previously reported nine staff members, at three prisons and the Milwaukee regional office for community corrections, have tested positive.

One of the staff was from the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility, which led to a strict lockdown at the 1,040 inmate high-rise facility last week. About 65 inmates who were there for 90-day programs as alternatives to having extended supervision revoked, were scheduled to be released this week, according to the DOC website.

The DOC statement said it would also release “supervision holds on 1,148 non-violent misdemeanants throughout the state,” and an unspecified number of non-violent offenders with less than one year remaining on their sentences, who would be placed on community supervision.

In a message posted on the site Thursday, DOC secretary Kevin Carr said,” I want to assure you the DOC is taking precautions to minimize risks and protect staff and those in our care as we continue to see more positive cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the state.”

— Bruce Vielmetti

10:30 a.m.: Wisconsin health staffers tracing the virus spread in Milwaukee

Nearly 100 state health staffers are now helping the City of Milwaukee and two other communities trace the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

The state Department of Health Services has deployed the employees to work on case investigation and contact tracing in Milwaukee, South Milwaukee and Wauwatosa, said Melissa Baldauff, spokeswoman for Gov. Tony Evers.

Identifying coronavirus cases and tracing their contacts — which essentially means tracking down people who have come into contact with newly diagnosed patients — can help stop the spread of the virus by notifying people who have been exposed to COVID-19 so they can be quarantined quickly. 

Most of the newly-deployed state health employees are working with the City of Milwaukee, which as of Friday morning had more than 700 cases.

Read the full story.

— Mary Spicuzza

8:02 a.m.: Farmers warned that milk dumping could hurt environment

With warnings that wasted milk may have a strong odor and could pollute streams, resulting in fish kills, the state agriculture department has posted rules for farmers forced to dump their product as the result of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an “emergency disposal of milk for dairy farms” memo, the department says raw, unpasteurized milk is considered to be process wastewater.  If the dumping is not done carefully, it could get into public waterways, reducing the oxygen content and killing aquatic life. 

“Care must be taken to apply milk to fields that have the lowest risk of groundwater or surface-water contamination,” the memo says.

Read the full story.

— Rick Barrett

7:40 a.m.: Milwaukee County moves closer to 1,000 coronavirus cases

Milwaukee County is rapidly approaching its 1,000th case of COVID-19 as the area reported another 27 cases Friday morning, totaling 945.

Twenty-one of those new cases are in the city of Milwaukee, where there are 743 cases, according to Milwaukee County’s coronavirus dashboard.

Three more people died from the virus overnight, totaling 24 deaths in the county, according to a Journal Sentinel database.

— Elliot Hughes

7:17 a.m.: Three more deaths in Milwaukee County overnight

Three more people in Milwaukee County died from the coronavirus overnight, according to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The office reported three more black men, ages 75, 82 and 93, died from the virus. One of the three had underlying health conditions.

At least sixteen black residents of Milwaukee County have died from the virus, the majority of the area’s deaths during the pandemic.

— Elliot Hughes

7:30 p.m. Thursday: Fond du Lac’s second death was IT contractor from Maryland working at hospital

The second person to die in Fond du Lac County from complications of the coronavirus was an IT contractor helping to install a computer system at St. Agnes Hospital, where he later died.

His wife, who also tested positive after he fell ill, told medical investigators she believes they became infected at a birthday party in Washington, D.C.

That’s according to a Fond du Lac County medical examiner’s report released Thursday to The Reporter in response to a public records request.

Cesar S. Capule, 49, of the Washington, D.C., suburban community of Cheverly, Maryland, died March 29 after he was removed from life support, according to the document.

Read more here.

— Mark Treinen

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