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: Wednesday’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
5:40 p.m.: UWM moves summer classes online, reschedules commencement for Oct. 10
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee joined UW-Madison, the Milwaukee Area Technical College and several other Wisconsin colleges in moving its summer session online.
The university also rescheduled its commencement ceremony for Oct. 10. Officials are still deciding if they will host one ceremony or two. Some schools and colleges are discussing recognizing graduates in alternative formats in may as well.
— Devi Shastri
5:25 p.m.: UW-Milwaukee researcher launches survey to address gaps in testing, track virus
In an effort to close the gaps in testing in Wisconsin and nationwide, Amy Kalkbrenner, an epidemiologist in the UWM’s Zilber School of Public Health, has launched an online survey aimed at tracking coronavirus symptoms to identify potential hot spots.
Confirmed case counts are “just the tip of the iceberg,” Kalkbrenner said.
“I knew that the case counts, as important as they are, they are really very flawed. And as a society, as we’re trying to respond to the pandemic, we are flying blind,” Kalkbrenner told the Journal Sentinel.
The approach of tracking the spread of the coronavirus through surveys of the public is not unheard of, especially given the limited testing available. In Britain and Israel, teams of epidemiologists and computer scientists have launched similar surveys and sometimes predicted viral hot spots before authorities, according to the New York Times.
Other examples in the U.S. include a survey by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University that is being pushed by Facebook, The Verge reports. Another similar international survey is called COVID Near You.
The data could help point out areas of Milwaukee and Wisconsin that are being hit especially hard by the outbreak by reaching people who can’t or won’t go get tested. It’s just one more perspective on the extent to which the disease is spreading, Kalkbrenner said.
“It’s a perspective that’s useful right now,” she said. “We want to know today how many people are sick, and then tomorrow, how many people are sick. It’s very immediate.”
Kalkbrenner said the team will work to account for allergy and flu symptoms, which could be similar to COVID-19’s. But they will only be helpful if enough people participate, Kalkbrenner said, and they need many more survey responses at this point.
“It’s only as useful as people actually going to the survey and using it,” she said.
People can report symptoms by going to wecountcovid19.com using a computer or smartphone.
— Devi Shastri
5:20 p.m.: State health officials tracking whether new coronavirus cases are tied to in-person voting
The state health department is tracking new cases of the coronavirus to determine whether it was spread among voters during Tuesday’s spring election.
The state Department of Health Services and local public health officials are “monitoring” the relationship between new cases in the coming weeks and voting in person, agency officials said Thursday.
DHS Secretary AndreaPalm said if voters were exposed to the virus, DHS and local public health officials will see new cases beginning next week.
“This information will allow our surveillance epidemiologists the opportunity to identify if the election had any impact on the spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin,” she said. But a full picture of whether in-person voting led to more cases won’t be known for several weeks, Palm said.
The state agency has added 120 contact tracers to help local public health officials interview each person infected about anyone else they had been in contact with to notify those who were possibly exposed.
— Molly Beck
5:15 p.m.: Man with coronavirus spent three weeks at Froedtert, eight days on ventilator
A 43-year-old man was released from Froedtert Hospital on Tuesday after spending nearly three weeks in the hospital with the coronavirus.
The man also spent eight days on a ventilator, as he suffered respiratory failure and cardiac arrest as a result of the virus.
— Evan Casey
4:55 p.m.: Baldwin, Johnson call for investigation into missing ballots
U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson are calling for an investigation into missing absentee ballots in Wisconsin.
“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an unprecedented increase in requests for absentee ballots, as more and more voters sought to comply with public health guidance and avoid potential risk to their health by avoiding in-person voting,” they wrote in a letter to Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service Tammy Whitcomb. “The United States Postal Service (USPS) in short, had an out-sized role in ensuring Wisconsinites could safely exercise the right to vote and participate in our democracy.”
Baldwin and Johnson cited a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report from Wednesday about missing absentee ballots, which detailed state officials reporting three tubs of them from Oshkosh and Appleton discovered in a mail processing center. The Milwaukee Election Commission has also called for an investigation into a separate set of undelivered ballots. Problems were also reported in Fox Point.
— Mary Spicuzza
3:45 p.m.: Brown County reports first virus-related death, bringing state total to 112
A 58-year-old Brown County man infected with coronavirus died Thursday, becoming the county’s first fatality related to the pandemic.
Health officials announced the death about 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
The man had been diagnosed before April 1, and hospitalized for at least a week, said Ted Shove, the county’s environmental health manager.
Shove said the man had been suffering from chronic medical conditions, and had been hospitalized several times.
In total, 49 Brown residents and 5 members of the Oneida Nation have been diagnosed during the pandemic.
— Doug Schneider
3:30 p.m.: State reports more than 2,800 confirmed cases, 111 deaths
Confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Wisconsin increased Thursday by 129 — the smallest single-day increase since March 30.
But there were also fewer new test results than any day since March 30, and the state’s count of deaths increased to 111.
Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm announced on a Facebook Live video Thursday that the state now has 15 labs capable of testing for COVID-19 — up from 12 Monday — but that capacity at those labs was 3,350, which is lower than the previously announced capacity of 3,600.
Of more than 1,400 new test results announced Thursday, about 9% were positive, which is roughly in line with the norm since the start of April.
More than 840 of 2,885 people who tested positive for COVID-19 in Wisconsin had been hospitalized, Palm said. That total includes people who have been discharged.
Milwaukee County reported on Thursday afternoon 1,560 confirmed cases, including more than 1,200 in the city of Milwaukee, and 67 deaths from the virus.
2:18 p.m.: Brookfield man, 34, dead of suspected COVID-19 in New York City
A Brookfield family is mourning the loss of 34-year-old Donny Fostner, believed to be a victim of the coronavirus in New York City.
Fostner, a Brookfield East and University of Wisconsin graduate, died April 2, seemingly losing a swift battle. He hadn’t expressed to his family he was experiencing symptoms before April 1.
Fostner had no known underlying conditions and was a hiker, biker and marathon runner.
The hospital was unable to test him before his death and thus did not officially determine that his death was caused by COVID-19.
Fostner moved to New York in January to work.
— Evan Casey
1:39 p.m.: Donors help Thiensville restaurant reopen for pickup
The cheel, a Nepalese restaurant at 105 S. Main St. in Thiensville will reopen for curbside pickup with featured menu, cocktail kits, beer and wine for dinner only beginning Wednesday. Hours will be 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Orders will be taken beginning at noon.
The restaurant had closed March 23 because of the pandemic. But with support from donors and supporters who have helped the restaurant sustain health insurance for staff and other expenses, it is able to reopen. It will be following guidelines from the CDC.
All staff have been trained on appropriate takeout procedures during the pandemic by the National Restaurant Association. Staff members will be required to take their temperature when they enter the premises. All staff members will be required to wear masks and gloves at all times, and to avoid close contact with customers. Restaurant uniforms will be kept on the premises and will be cleaned daily. Frequently touched surfaces will be regularly cleaned and sanitized throughout the day.
— Debi Eimer
1:22 p.m.: Evers says churches can hold drive-in services
Churches and other religious organizations may hold drive-in services and small services of 10 people or fewer, Gov. Tony Evers said days before Good Friday and Easter.
Evers’ guidance was released after the conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and religious groups sent a letter to Evers seeking clarity on the matter.
Assembly Republicans asked Evers to suspend restrictions on churches to allow them to hold in-person Easter services, but Evers said no, citing concerns of large groups spreading the virus further.
However, churches are allowed to hold services in parking lots as long as congregants remain in their cars and avoid person-to-person contact.
— Molly Beck
10:01 a.m.: Stimulus checks to arrive as soon as today
Much-awaited stimulus cash will begin flooding into millions of bank accounts in the first wave of payouts to shore up the nation’s wallets.
Millions of taxpayers will begin receiving the extra money to pay rent, groceries and other bills next week, or possibly as early as Thursday or Friday, some say.
The first group — estimated to cover 50 million to 60 million Americans — would include people who have already given their bank account information to the Internal Revenue Service.
9:43 a.m.: Church in Pewaukee to host community blood drive next week
Dayspring Church and Schools, N14 W29489 Silvernail Road, Pewaukee, will host a community blood drive with the American Red Cross from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Donors of all blood types are needed, especially those with types O-negative, B-negative and A-negative.
For more information or to make an appointment to donate, call (262) 404-5092 or sign up online at redcrossblood.org with sponsor code Dayspring.
— Debi Eimer
8:57 a.m.: Gov. Tony Evers orders DNR to close 40 state parks
Gov. Tony Evers directed the state Department of Natural Resources to close 40 state parks, forests and recreational areas.
Evers said the closure is “due to unprecedented crowds, litter, vandalism and out of an abundance of caution to protect health and safety and help flatten the curve.”
The areas are planned to be closed at the end of the day Thursday and remain closed until further notice.
7:55 a.m.: Milwaukee County death toll rises to 66
The death toll from the coronavirus continues to rise, with Milwaukee County reporting four additional deaths Thursday morning, bringing the number to 66.
The Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department, which has been monitoring several outbreaks at senior facilities, also reported one death in Ozaukee County, bringing that county’s total to nine.
— Ricardo Torres
8 p.m. Wednesday: Milwaukee’s Pfister and all other Marcus Corp. hotels close temporarily
The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, as well as every other hotel owned by Marcus Corp., will be closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Marcus Hotels & Resorts, a division of Marcus Corp., owns or manages 20 hotels, totaling 5,400 rooms, in Wisconsin and seven other states. In March, the company closed a number of its properties — including the Hilton Milwaukee City Center and Saint Kate arts hotel — but kept the Pfister open.
The other hotels involved in the newest round of closures are: Hilton Madison Monona Terrace in Madison, The Platinum Hotel in Las Vegas and the AC Hotel Chicago Downtown in Chicago.
— Sophie Carson
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