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: Sunday’s coronavirus updates
Daily Digest: What you need to know about coronavirus in Wisconsin
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10:00 p.m.: Sanders campaign blasts Wisconsin GOP; won’t engage in get out the vote efforts
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said his campaign will not engage in traditional get out the vote efforts Tuesday because of the coronavirus and criticized Wisconsin’s Republican lawmakers for endangering public health by forcing the election to go on as scheduled.
“It’s outrageous that the Republican legislative leaders and the conservative majority on the Supreme Court in Wisconsin are willing to risk the health and safety of many thousands of Wisconsin voters tomorrow for their own political gain,” the Vermont senator said in a statement. “Let’s be clear: Holding this election amid the coronavirus outbreak is dangerous, disregards the guidance of public health experts, and may very well prove deadly.”
9:40 p.m.: 45,000 absentee ballots in Milwaukee yet to be returned
There have been 100,000 absentee ballots issued in the City of Milwaukee, but only 55,000 have been returned, city officials said Monday night.
That means 45,000 absentee ballots are still outstanding, said Neil Albrecht, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission.
Albrecht said about 15,000 absentee ballots were requested on or around Friday, adding that he is concerned thousands won’t get their ballots in time to vote.
“If you don’t have an absentee ballot in your possession at this time, and don’t have the opportunity to return it in the mail tomorrow, or take it to one of the drop-off sites …your only option vote in tomorrow’s election is to go to your voting center to cast your ballot,” Albrecht said.
Absentee ballots must be postmarked by midnight. They may also be dropped off at voting sites.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he was saddened by Monday’s action from Republican leaders and the courts.
“This is very disturbing to me,” he said. “For some reason, the leadership of the state Legislature has decided it will not work with Gov. Tony Evers.”
7:20 p.m. Milwaukee police chief threatens to arrest crime victims who violate ‘safer at home’ order
Citing a spike in violent crime over the weekend, the Milwaukee Police Department said Monday it will begin charging suspects and victims alike with violating the state’s “safer at home” order if it’s suspected they were outside of their homes on non-essential business.
Officers responded to nine non-fatal shootings and two homicides last weekend.
Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales was crystal clear in a YouTube video posted on Monday.
“As we continue to fight this pandemic, it angers me that some individuals are not taking the spread of COVID-19 as seriously as they should. Some individuals are choosing to go out and commit crimes and some are choosing to go out and partake in activities that lead up to their own victimization or the victimization of others,” Morales said.
“Since Gov. Evers’ ‘safer at home order’ we have investigated far too many crimes and have made far too many arrests that could have been prevented if those individuals had abided by that order,” said Morales.
Morales initially said he would take an educational approach with violators, and reserve the criminal charge for repeat offenders.
Police Department spokeswoman Sgt. Sheronda Grant said the charge would be violating a health order. Violators would face fines of up to $500 or 30 days in jail.
— Meg Jones
6:15 p.m.: Roundy’s limits number of shoppers to half of store capacity
Milwaukee-based Roundy’s Supermarkets said Monday it will be limiting the number of shoppers in its stores, in keeping with guidelines announced by Kroger, its parent company. But the company said it’s unlikely to reach those limits because so many customers have begun shopping online.
In a statement issued Monday, the company said it would limit the number of customers to half of the maximum occupancy, according to the local building code.
“At 50% we can effectively practice physical distancing in our stores,” it said.
The company said it would impose the limits “when necessary,” but that it does not anticipate lines or forcing people to wait outside before being allowed into its stores.
The company asked customers to limit shoppers to one person per household to reduce the number of people in the stores at any one time.
“Abiding by this rule will help alleviate customer congestion in our stores and allow us to minimize the use of the 50% occupancy guideline,” it said.
5:28 p.m.: Salvation Army launches new support hotline
The Salvation Army of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan launched a new support hotline Monday to address spiritual and mental health concerns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the church said Monday.
The Salvation Army Chaplain Support Line, 888-651-7294 (SAWI), will be available from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day and will be manned by trained Salvation Army chaplains.
“We will take calls from people across Wisconsin and Upper Michigan who need a word of encouragement, who are feeling alone with no one to talk to, and who are looking for spiritual care and prayer,” chaplain coordinator, the Rev. Alexis Twito, said in a statement announcing the hotline.
“The primarily goal is to meet the spiritual care needs of the caller, but if they are in immediate crisis and we can refer them to mental health counselors or help them with practical needs at the same time, we are happy to do that as well,” she said.
The statement said the line will operate 365 days a year and will remain in place after the pandemic has subsided to take calls during any type of disaster, such as flooding, a tornado, a mass shooting or a large apartment complex fire.
— Annysa Johnson
4:20 p.m.: Waukesha Jail inmate tests positive
A 41-year-old inmate at the Waukesha County Jail tested positive for coronavirus over the weekend, the Sheriff’s Department reported Monday.
Jail officials learned on Saturday that a male inmate had tested positive. The Sheriff’s Department said in a release that it is following all the guidelines issued by the public health director. Those guidelines include quarantining people infected with the virus.
– Meg Jones
Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport firefighters show how to wash your hands in this video set to Baby Shark. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
4:12 p.m.: All Milwaukee County polling places ordered closed Tuesday
Milwaukee County officials on Monday issued an executive order declaring that all municipal in-person polling places may not open, and must remain closed, on Tuesday, following Gov. Tony Evers’ order to shut down in-person voting due to the coronavirus pandemic.
County Executive Chris Abele and Director of Emergency Management Christine Westrich jointly issued the order.
“Governor Evers absolutely made the right call to put the health and welfare of every Wisconsinite above politics,” Abele said. “Just as the right to free speech is not limitless, the right to vote does not trump the more fundamental rights to life, health and safety.”
They said all polling places in Milwaukee County would remain closed Tuesday unless Evers or the Legislature take further action, or a court orders otherwise.
— Mary Spicuzza
4:06 p.m.: Winnebago County registers first COVID-19 death, a man in his 60s
A man in his 60s was the first person in Winnebago County to die from the new coronavirus, health officials said Monday.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported the county’s first COVID-19 patient death Monday afternoon. The patient, a man in his 60s, had underlying health issues, county health officer Doug Gieryn confirmed.
As of Monday afternoon, the county had 24 confirmed cases, and 436 negative test results, according to the state. Across Wisconsin, at least 85 people have died and more than 2,400 residents have tested positive for the virus.
— Nathaniel Shuda
3:15 p.m.: Dept. of Workforce asks some workers to delay filing
The state Department of Workforce Development is asking that people who were not eligible for unemployment benefits before the new federal law expanded eligibility — such as those who are self-employed — wait to file because its system is not set up to accept their applications.
The changes to its system are expected to be completed by mid-to-late April.
The department also has said that it is waiting on additional guidance on the new law from the U.S. Department of Labor, and that this will take several weeks.
Benefits will start from the time someone is eligible and not from the time an application is submitted or approved, according to the department’s website. This includes the additional benefit of $600 a week under the new federal law.
People who were receiving unemployment benefits before the new law also will receive the additional benefit.
The Department of Workforce Development asked that people not call unless they have received official notification to contact the department’s call center.
“We understand how important it is to get these payments to you as quickly as possible, and we are doing everything we can to get you the help you need,” the Department of Workforce Development said on its website.
The Department of Labor has said that it could take two to four weeks or longer for people to receive the additional benefit of $600 a year, according to The Wall Street Journal. In those cases, people would receive the payments for the previous weeks all at once.
— Guy Boulton
3:09 p.m.: Medtronic partnering with Foxconn to make ventilators
The first product that Foxconn Technology Group manufactures in Wisconsin might be ventilators, not high-tech displays.
Monday, the CEO of Medtronic, a medical-device company based in Ireland, said it was partnering with Foxconn to build ventilators starting in the next six weeks.
Omar Ishrak said the company was ramping up its ventilator production to 1,000 units a month by the end of June and, in addition, was partnering with others in the business.
“There have been some major players that have been engaged; among them is Foxconn who has a plant in Wisconsin where we plan to make, together with them, ventilators within the next four to six weeks,” Ishrak said in an interview aired on CNBC.
“The exact numbers on those we don’t know yet, but we will be rolling into production. … We are doing everything we can working 24/7 with Foxconn to bring this up to the factory in Wisconsin,” he said.
— Rick Barrett
2:57 p.m.: Wisconsin death toll hits 85
At least 85 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19, more than half of them in Milwaukee County, according to numbers compiled by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
There have been deaths in 17 of the state’s 72 counties, according to a spreadsheet created by the Journal Sentinel to track all deaths in the state.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is posting statewide numbers, but the agency’s count has typically been behind, particularly with Milwaukee’s totals.
As of 2:30 p.m., the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office reported 45 residents had died from the coronavirus since March 19. In addition, the office handled the case of a Waukesha County woman who died at Froedtert Hospital.
— John Diedrich
1:42 p.m.: Plasma treatments for COVID-19 patients begin this week
UW Health in Madison will begin treating COVID-19 patients this week with plasma collected from patients who have recovered from the disease, part of clinical trials taking place nationwide to test the effectiveness of the treatment.
In the absence of a proven vaccine or treatment against the pandemic that has infected 1.3 million people around the world, killing more than 70,000, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted permission for hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients with survivor plasma on an experimental, compassionate basis.
Then, on Friday, the FDA gave researchers at Johns Hopkins University the go-ahead to launch clinical trials administering survivor plasma to doctors, nurses and other first responders who are at high risk of exposure to the new virus.
— Mark Johnson
12:57 p.m.: Gov. Evers signs order to suspend in-person voting
In a historic move less than 24 hours before polls were set to open, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers shut down Tuesday’s election to avoid causing more illness and deaths in Wisconsin as the number of coronavirus infections surges.
Evers on Monday issued an executive order that bars in-person voting Tuesday and moves the state’s spring election to June 9. It also calls lawmakers back into session this week to decide whether the election should be held at a different date.
But the move is expected to immediately be challenged by Republican lawmakers who want to keep polls open and adjourned the Legislature on Monday without taking up measures to delay the election that Evers called for on Friday.
“It could end up in the Supreme Court yet today, but the bottom line is the people of Wisconsin, they don’t care about the fighting between Democrats and Republicans — they’re scared,” Evers said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I’m standing up for them. I’m standing up for those people who are afraid and that’s why I’m doing this.”
— Molly Beck and Patrick Marley
12:32 p.m.: AmFam to offer premium refunds to auto policy holders
American Family Insurance said Monday it will issue partial premium refunds to its personal auto policy holders.
The premium relief will be a one-time payment of $50 per vehicle covered by an American Family personal auto policy.
Wisconsin customers are expected to receive checks in mid-April.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders are dramatically altering driving habits, Madison-based American Family said in a statement.
The pandemic has “created financial uncertainty for individuals and families across the country,” American Family said.
The total of the partial premium refunds is expected to be $200 million.
“American Family Insurance is doing this out of responsibility to our customers,” said Telisa Yancy, American Family chief operating officer, in the statement. “They are driving less and experiencing fewer claims. Because of these results, they deserve premium relief.”
American Family expects to complete the printing and distribution of all 2.3 million checks within 60 days, “while diligently applying social distancing practices,” the insurer said.
Checks will be mailed to customers in Wisconsin beginning this week.
— Joe Taschler
12:26 p.m.: Quad/Graphics latest major company to furlough employees
Quad/Graphics said it has temporarily furloughed employees throughout the company and suspended operations at a number of its plants.
The company — which will continue to pay for medical benefits for furloughed employees — did not disclose how many employees are affected by the move.
Quad also said it was temporarily reducing the salaries of 300 employees, including a 50% salary reduction for its CEO and a 35% reduction for executive officers.
In addition, the company’s board is reducing directors’ fees by 50%.
Other moves by the company include:
- Delaying capital spending projects.
- Borrowing $100 million under an existing credit facility, increasing its cash on hand to approximately $200 million to ensure continued financial flexibility.
- Suspending its quarterly dividend of 15 cents a share.
Quad also said it is withdrawing its financial guidance for 2020.
“We have faced tough times before and persevered,” said Joel Quadracci, Quad’s chairman, president and CEO. “While the COVID-19 pandemic is unique and presents uncertainty, I am confident in our ability to find a better way and weather this storm.”
— Guy Boulton
10:55 a.m.: Republican lawmakers calling for reopening of golf courses
A group of 40 Republican lawmakers is calling on Gov. Tony Evers to reopen golf courses, which were shut down last month under the Democratic governor’s stay-at-home order.
“While many outdoor activities remain open for the public to enjoy, including State Parks, the Evers administration has ordered the closure of all golf courses in the State of Wisconsin,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was sent to Evers on Thursday. “Golf is a popular outside sport and can be good exercise for those who play.”
The group, led by state Rep. Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, urged Evers to allow golf courses to reopen if they agree to follow social distancing and safety guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
— Mary Spicuzza
10:53 a.m.: Election appears on track after Republicans end special session quickly
Republican lawmakers quickly ended a special session Monday, ensuring Tuesday’s election will happen as scheduled.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers asked them to pass a law that would delay the election until May and have it conducted entirely by mail. He argues it’s not safe to go to the polls because of the cornovirus pandemic.
On Saturday, Republicans put off the plan for two days in a sparsely attended, seconds-long session. On Monday, they did the same thing, pushing back consideration of the issue until Wednesday – that is, after voters have gone to the polls.
On the ballot is the presidential primary and races for state Supreme Court, Milwaukee mayor, Milwaukee County executive and local offices across the state.
— Patrick Marley
10:48 a.m.: More state prison inmates are beginning to test positive
COVID-19 is spreading among the inmate population in Wisconsin with several new cases.
The first had been reported at Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage last week. On Monday, the Department of Corrections website added another inmate there, plus two at Oshkosh Correctional Institution.
The DOC is now reporting seven prison staff members have self-reported as testing positive — two at Columbia, four at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility and one at Waupun Correctional Institution. Three DOC employees who work in the Milwaukee community corrections office have also reported positive tests.
On Sunday, Dane County reported a third inmate at the county’s jail has tested positive for COVID-19. He is being isolated and monitored by the jail’s medical staff, and the pod where he had been housed is being cleaned and treated with a UV light.
Two inmates had tested positive earlier. One has been released, and the other recovered and remains incarcerated, according to a new release.
On Monday, the Dane County jail has 482 inmates, down 265 from the population on March 13, when the reactions to the coming public health care crisis began ramping up.
Milwaukee County has reported that one inmate at the House of Correction in Franklin has tested positive, as well as a contract nurse at the Milwaukee County Jail.
— Bruce Vielmetti
10:40 a.m.: Many new pro golf dates, but Ryder Cup still on as planned
Pro golf tour releases new schedule of dates, but Ryder Cup so far unaffected.
A number of new dates were revealed by the pro golf world on Monday, but thus far, the Ryder Cup scheduled for Sept. 22-27 at Whistling Straits in Kohler remains on the docket as planned.
Several other events were canceled or given new dates, including The Masters, now slated for Nov. 9-15 at Augusta National. The Masters was originally scheduled to begin this week but was postponed in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak.
The USGA moved the U.S. Open from June 15-21 to Sept. 14-20, the PGA of America moved the PGA Championship from May 11-17 to Aug. 3-9, and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews announced it would be altogether canceling The Open Championship (commonly known in the United States as the British Open). The 2020 event was scheduled for July 12-19 in Kent, England.
In mid-March, the PGA of America refuted a report from London publication The Telegraph indicating that the Ryder Cup had been postponed a full year to 2021.
— JR Radcliffe
10:25 a.m.: Health officials all over Wisconsin pleading for a postponed election
More than two dozen local health officials from across Wisconsin are calling on state legislators to postpone Tuesday’s election, possibly until June 2, and allow mail-in voting to continue until that later date.
“This is a statewide election and we need a statewide solution to the real risk posed by an in-person election on April 7th,” they wrote in a letter dated April 4. “While the challenges are differentially experienced across the state, the public health risk posed is statewide and significant.”
They wrote that the in-person elections “present a serious challenge to controlling the spread of COVID-19” and that without a vaccine or cure, combating the epidemic depends on preventing exposure and “flattening the curve” of cases so as not to exceed the medical system’s capacity.
An in-person election could reverse progress that has been made in limiting its spread through social distancing, they wrote.
And, they wrote, holding the election puts significant strain on the system for holding elections that is now in the midst of a poll worker shortage. The resulting decrease in the number of polling locations puts people in closer contact.
“Shifting to a younger demographic of poll workers does not offset risk,” they wrote. “Younger people are more likely to have mild symptoms and may not even be aware they are infected with COVID-19, so having poll workers from this age group still poses a significant risk of transmission to voters, particularly if adequate safety materials are unable to be obtained due to national and global shortages.”
If they had the authority to close polling places on April 7, they wrote, they would.
The letter was signed by the health officers from Dane County and Madison, Milwaukee, Rock County, Greendale, Adams County, Sauk County, Pierce County, the city of Franklin, Monroe County, Eau Claire city and county, Green Lake County, the North Shore Health Department, Barron County, Hales Corners, St. Croix County, West Allis, Door County, Marquette County, Jefferson County, Wauwatosa, Price County, Racine, Crawford County, Waushara County and Florence County.
— Alison Dirr
8:38 a.m.: Death total is now at 45 in Milwaukee County
Milwaukee County’s death toll from COVID-19 is now at 45, according to Medical Examiner’s office
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office has reported 45 deaths due to coronavirus.
The deadliest day from coronavirus in Milwaukee County so far was Saturday with 8 deaths.
At least 33 people who died of coronavirus in Milwaukee who were black and 27 were male.
— Jordyn Noennig
7:46 a.m.: Milwaukee County reports 148 new coronavirus cases since Sunday morning
Milwaukee County had 148 new coronavirus cases since Sunday morning and a total of 1,270 cases as of Monday morning.
The city of Milwaukee reported 66 new cases Monday morning. It has 996 cases of coronavirus.
At least 40 people have died of coronavirus in Milwaukee County. The state now has 2,389 cases of coronavirus according to Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Milwaukee County numbers.
— Jordyn Noennig
6:34 a.m.: Milwaukee County’s death toll jumps over the weekend
A 64-year-old African American man was the latest victim of coronavirus in Milwaukee County, according the Medical Examiner’s Office.
Unofficial numbers show 40 people have now died from the virus in the county.
The death came early Monday after at least 12 new deaths were reported in the county over the weekend. On Friday afternoon the county’s death toll due to COVID-19 was 27.
— Jordyn Noennig
Sunday, 9:30 p.m.: BP and Amoco gas stations offer first responders a discount
BP and Amoco are offering a discount of 50 cents per gallon for first responders and health care workers.
First responders, doctors, nurses and other hospital workers are being asked to verify their status through BP’s website.
The discount is being offered until Apr. 30 and the code will expire in June 30.
— Talis Shelbourne
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