Updates on the coronavirus and how it’s affecting life in Wisconsin from reporters from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.
Blog Recap: Coronavirus updates from the weekend
Daily Digest: What you need to know about coronavirus in Wisconsin
More Coverage: Coronavirus in the U.S. and around the world
TUESDAY, APRIL 21
9:26 p.m.: Irish Fest the latest Milwaukee summer festival to cancel
On Tuesday night, Irish Fest organizers posted on social media that the 2020 event will be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The decision was made now to help mitigate the growing challenges of the significant planning and upfront logistics required to successfully execute the festival,” the post said.
“Based on the information we have been able to gleam (sic) up until this point, we feel it will be concerning for large group gatherings, such as our 100,000 plus attendees, to be able to come together safely in August. Your health and welfare are our number one priority, and we (want) to play our part in keeping everyone (safe).”
The event was scheduled for Aug. 13-16 at Henry Maier Festival Park. If a ticket was purchased in advance online, the festival will allow a transfer to the 2021 festival, a donation back to Irish Fest or an outright refund. Automatic refunds will be issued to those who purchased Failte Club VIP Experience tickets.
Irish Fest joins other summer ethnic festivals that have canceled, including Polish Fest and Festa Italiana. Additionally, PrideFest announced its postponement, and Summerfest itself is moved to September.
– Jim Owczarski
7:50 p.m.: Racine police chief will enforce safer-at-home order
Less than week after Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said he would not enforce Gov. Tony Evers’ safer-at-home order, Racine Police Chief Art Howell said he will enforce the measure that was extended through May 26.
According to The Journal Times, Howell said, “Be assured that, where there exists any threat to public safety within the City of Racine, the response from the Racine Police Department will be data-driven, science and fact-based and non-partisan in nature, with the sole purpose of safeguarding life.”
– Jim Owczarski
6:36 p.m.: Positive cases at House of Correction spike to 103
The Milwaukee House of Correction in Franklin has seen the number of positive cases of COVID-19 inmates spike to 103, via www.Fox6.com. Three employees have also tested positive and one has recovered, according to House of Correction Superintendent Michael Hafemann. The report noted 22 inmates did not test positive.
On April 18 a mobile testing site was operated by members of the Wisconsin National Guard to test the inmates. Results are expected Wednesday. Staff will continue to be tested through Wednesday.
“We do anticipate we are going to have a lot more inmates who test positive,” Hafemann said via the website. “We only have a small portion of the test results in at this point.”
In an effort to curb the spread of the disease, the county has reduced the jail population, allowing for single-occupant cells, limiting jail admissions, cleaning and sanitizing three times per day and housing symptomatic or positively tested inmates in a quarantine dormitory, make 80 beds available for a quarantine space, taking the temperature and asking screening questions of every youth who comes into the Division of Youth and Family Services, conduct contract tracing and immediately reviewing all felony cases by the District Attorney’s Office.
– Jim Owczarski
5:05 p.m.: Milwaukee Comedy Festival postponed until October
Citing public safety during the coronavirus pandemic, the Milwaukee Comedy Festival has elected to postpone the fest and move it from its original dates in early August to Oct. 7-11. The festival will remain at The Laughing Tap.
“We didn’t want to cancel our festival outright, so instead we are going to put on ‘The 14½ Annual Milwaukee Comedy Festival,’” organizers wrote on the festival home page at mkecomedyfest.com. “This decision wasn’t arrived at easily but we don’t want to put anyone in danger.”
Ticket prices were also reduced to $14.50.
– Jim Owczarski
5 p.m.: Ozaukee, Washington counties release reopen plans
One day after Gov. Tony Evers announced his plan to reopen the state’s economy, officials in Ozaukee and Washington counties have released their own plan that they say is based on more local conditions.
The “Blueprint for Reopening Ozaukee and Washington Counties,” authored by the Washington Ozaukee Health Department, lays out four criteria that need to be met before a phased reopening could occur. The criteria are similar to those in the Badger Bounce Back plan.
The two counties have already met two of the conditions — hospital capacity and operations are near normal and public health officials are able to perform contact tracing investigations within 24 to 48 hours of a person testing positive for the coronavirus.
– Jeff Rumage
4:35 p.m.: Racine County confirmed coronavirus cases near 200
Racine County reported 193 confirmed and 71 probable cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday.
Probable confirmed cases are untested symptomatic individuals who are “presumed positive because they had direct contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, or whose COVID-19 test results were inconclusive.”
Racine County reported 10 deaths due to the disease. The City of Racine has 97 confirmed and 34 probable cases plus four deaths.
The county is providing updates at www.racinecounty.com/coronavirus.
– Jim Owczarski
4:30 p.m. Kohl’s Corp. annual meeting will be virtual
Kohl’s Corp. will not hold an in-person annual meeting of shareholders in 2020. The retailer will instead hold a virtual-only meeting May 13, the company announced Tuesday.
The annual meeting had been scheduled at Kohl’s headquarters in Menomonee Falls. Shareholders will vote to elect the board of directors, approve executive compensation, ratify the appointment of an accounting firm, among other items. Shareholders will also vote on a proposal that Kohl’s adopt an animal welfare policy.
All of the company’s more than 1,100 retail stores in 49 states have been closed since March 19 because of the pandemic. The majority of Kohl’s store associates and distribution center associates — about 85,000 employees — are furloughed.
– Sarah Hauer
4:20 p.m. Segregation, racial inequality linked to COVID-19 spread in Milwaukee
Race and patterns of segregation are closely associated with the spread of coronavirus in Milwaukee County, according to a new report from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Milwaukee County was one of the first places in the country to release racial data for confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths. Local officials quickly noted the disparity and a similar trend was seen in other cities, including New York City, Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans.
Public health experts have said the disparity is not surprising given existing racial inequalities.
The UWM report, which examines data through April 8, found African Americans account for 69% of the coronavirus-related deaths in the county while making up 27% of the county’s population.
At the same time, nearly twice the number of African Americans in the county as whites had tested positive for COVID-19.
“Although we do not know precisely how many cases of COVID-19 there currently are in the Milwaukee area, the data that we do have has revealed disturbing patterns,” the authors write.
– Ashley Luthern
4:15 p.m. Domestic violence rises in Milwaukee during pandemic
A month ago, advocates and law enforcement said they expected higher rates of domestic violence as quarantining kept a small number of people together for longer periods of time.
In Milwaukee, their prediction was accurate.
The Milwaukee Police Department saw an 8% rise in reported domestic violence from Jan. 1 to April 1, compared with the same period last year. In the early weeks of April, the number of reports was 28% higher than last April, according to department data.
Prosecutors have seen a nearly 15% increase in domestic violence referrals, which come from police agencies across Milwaukee County, compared with the same time period last year, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
“We want people to know that if anyone feels unsafe in their current situation they should call 911,” said Lt. Annemarie Domurat, who works in the Milwaukee Police Department’s Sensitive Crimes Unit.
– Ashley Luthern
3:20 p.m. Testing ramps up of Dane County Jail inmates and staff
With more Dane County Jail inmates testing positive for coronavirus, the sheriff’s department has requested a Wisconsin National Guard mobile unit to start collecting specimens on Friday.
Last weekend four inmates from the same area in the Public Safety Building in Madison tested positive which prompted testing of 22 other inmates living in the same section. Of those 22 inmates, a dozen were found to have the coronavirus though 10 of them did not show any symptoms.
Following those positive test results, the Dane County Sheriff’s Department decided to start testing for coronavirus throughout the agency. A Wisconsin National Guard mobile collection team will start work Friday.
“We are grateful for the rapid response by the National Guard WING to administer these tests and quickly get ahead of this outbreak,” Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney said in a statement.
– Meg Jones
1:59 p.m. Tourism official concerned about safer at home order extension
The president of the Association of Wisconsin Tourism Attractions expressed concerns about Gov. Tony Evers’ extension of the stay-at-home order until May 26 that “risks causing serious instability.”
“We, as Wisconsin citizens and business owners, deserve to know, understand and review the scientific information and data upon which his decision was based,” Tom Diehl wrote in a letter Tuesday.
“This decision cannot be based on politics. There is too much at stake for the State of Wisconsin, both in terms of public health and the economic health of our State.”
Diehl is also the president of Tommy Bartlett, Inc. that puts on a water ski and jumping boat show at Wisconsin Dells.
Citing job losses and unemployment claims, Diehl said that waiting until May 26 to restart the state’s economy comes with “the risk of permanently destroying Wisconsin’s economy and the loss of thousands of small businesses.” He said businesses that have been forced to closed should be able to reopen using the best practices put in place by essential businesses still operating.
“We can protect our vulnerable by keeping them safe at home,” Diehl wrote. “We can take current CDC recommendations and have people wear masks whenthey are out and about. We can put together the best and brightest minds in our state to come up with reasonable and safe standards for a reopening.”
AWTA, formed in 1986, represents and promotes Wisconsin’s tourism attractions. It has around 60 members
– Sarah Hauer
1:11 p.m. MPS puts coronavirus cost estimate at nearly $6 million
Milwaukee schools estimate the coronavirus outbreak has cost the district nearly $6 million through April 23, according to school board meeting documents.
Much of that cost, which Chief Financial Officer Martha Kreitzman characterized as a rough estimate, comes from technology investments including the anticipated replacement costs for Chromebooks that went home with students and internet hotspots, accounts for $5 million.
Much of the remaining $1 million comes largely from the district’s “Stop, Grab and Go” meal sites, which have been feeding weekday breakfasts and lunches to children and adults.
Between March 16 and April 9, the district distributed 211,676 meals at a cost of $85,410. That is the remaining balance after a federal reimbursement for students’ meals offset the cost of meals by more than $655,000. The district does not get reimbursed for adult meals nor for meals provided to children who aren’t students in the district.
The cost of added pay and benefits for employees working the meal sites was nearly $515,000.
Another $383,000 has been spent on additional instructional materials and more than $15,000 went toward translation and interpretation services.
– Devi Shastri
12:16: WIAA cancels all spring sports
The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Board of Control has voted to cancel 200 high school sports spring competitions and state tournaments.
They also adjusted a rule to allow for 30 days of summer contact for spring coaches, as long as that contact includes seniors. This would allow schools and teams to use those days as they want, including scheduling competitions or non-WIAA sponsored tournaments between conferences or groups of teams as long as local and state restrictions/orders are followed. The earliest date that these contact days could begin is July 1.
– Curt Hogg
11:56: Foxconn to manufacture masks in Mount Pleasant
Aside from working on ventilators, the Foxconn Technology Group has begun manufacturing masks at its facility in Mount Pleasant.
Under the brand Sharp, which is owned by Foxconn, the company plans to make “tens of thousands of procedural masks” to be used by healthcare professionals, law enforcement, caregivers and pharmacists.
In a statement, Foxconn board member and vice chairman Jay Lee said the direction to start making masks came from company founder Terry Gou.
“Whether it is consumer electronics, industrial Aartificial Iintelligence, display technology, high-performance computing, 5G networks, or procedural masks, Foxconn’s manufacturing expertise, global supply-chain reach, and agility is working to save lives,” Lee said.
Foxconn has continued construction and manufacturing during the coronavirus pandemic but the company maintains that it is abiding by state and federal prevention guidelines.
The company states it has asked some employees to work from home and assembly employees undergo safety protocols and procedures that include body temperature screening upon entry to any Foxconn facility, handwashing and the use of personal protective equipment.
Earlier in April, Foxconn announced a partnership with Medtronic to build ventilators at the facility in Racine County.
– Ricardo Torres
10:40 a.m.: Performing arts groups see $8.3 million in losses due to pandemic
Milwaukee’s United Performing Arts Fund reported Tuesday that its 14 member groups are projecting a collective $8.3 million loss in revenue this season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Those member groups have furloughed, laid off or reduced salaries of more than 500 people. A total of 509 performances have been canceled, affecting 200,000 patrons, according to a statement released by UPAF.
UPAF is launching a collaborative effort to offer free virtual performing arts experiences of music, theater and dance. As part of that effort, the “UNITE with UPAF” project is hosting local performing artists on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings in Facebook Live performances. For example, singer Lydia Eiche performed on April 20.
UPAF is also extending its annual fundraising campaign until Aug. 31.
UPAF raises operating funds for performing arts organizations such as the Milwaukee Repertory Theater and First Stage. It also provides one-time grants to arts organizations.
– Jim Higgins
8:12 a.m.: Bucks’ Middleton donates $25,000 to MPS relief fund
Milwaukee Bucks small forward Khris Middleton is donating $25,000 to the Milwaukee Public Schools Foundation’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, and the gift will be fully matched by the Joseph and Vera Zilber Family Trust Fund.
The two donations will provide nearly 2,500 supply kits, which include cleaning, hygiene and academic products for students and families, according to a news release.
The foundation has raised over $60,000 to offset urgent needs of students and families.
“We are truly grateful for our community coming together in support of Milwaukee Public Schools students and families in this time of need,” Superintendent Keith Posley said in a statement.
7:45 a.m.: Milwaukee County reports 31 news cases and 5 more deaths
Milwaukee County reported 31 new cases of coronavirus and five new deaths between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning.
The county now has 2,237 confirmed cases of the virus and 132 deaths, more than half of the statewide death toll, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Thirteen of the new cases were reported in the city of Milwaukee, for a total of 1,671, according to Milwaukee County’s online dashboard.
– Elliot Hughes
MONDAY, APRIL 20
7:35 p.m. 132 fatal coronavirus cases in Milwaukee County, 230 statewide
As of 7 p.m. Monday the number of deaths from coronavirus in Milwaukee County was 132 with 2,191 cases, according to figures from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Statewide 230 people have died and 4,499 people have tested positive with 1,211 requiring hospitalization, a little more than one-quarter. So far 46,603 people have tested negative for coronavirus in the state.
– Meg Jones
6 p.m. Democrats criticize Trump over PPE shortage, widespread testing
Three Democrats from Wisconsin’s congressional delegation are calling out Pres. Donald Trump for what they say is a lack of strong leadership to provide a national centralized plan for widespread coronavirus testing.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Reps. Mark Pocan of Madison and Gwen Moore of Milwaukee also sharply criticized the way some shipments to Wisconsin of personal protection equipment were handled.
“During a national emergency, you have pitted states against one another to bid on critical supplies needed for testing, and your administration has diverted shipments away from governors and into the hands of a small group of private distributors with no transparency,” they wrote in a letter Monday.
They called on the president to use the Defense Production Act to massively scale up coronavirus testing throughout the U.S. They said experts have suggested at least a million tests must be done in the U.S. each day to start reopening the economy by mid-May but Vice President Mike Pence reported Sunday that around 150,000 tests are being done daily.
Baldwin, Pocan and Moore noted that 1,000 N95 masks ordered earlier this month by the Brown County Sheriff’s and Green Bay Police departments from a supplier were intercepted by federal officials, leaving those law enforcement officials with desperately needed equipment. By then the national stockpile of PPE was almost depleted.
Last weekend the number of coronavirus cases exploded in Brown County with almost 300 infections reported including clusters at meat packing plants.
“At present, no national plan exists from your White House to provide our state with the resources and supplies we need to conduct widespread testing to identify those who are infected, isolate positive cases, and safely trace all contacts so the spread of this virus can be contained,” they wrote.
– Meg Jones
4:50 p.m. Officials identify 7 people who appear to have contracted virus related to April 7 election
Officials have identified seven people – six voters and one poll worker – who appear to have contracted COVID-19 through activities related to the April 7 election, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik said Monday.
She also said that officials “only have 30% of data as far as any new COVID-19 cases that were associated with the date of the 7th of April,” when the in-person election was held.
By the end of this week, officials hope to have additional information on the cases that were reported between April 7 and Monday including whether any of the seven cases were fatal and whether they were concentrated at any of the city’s five in-person polling locations.
Tuesday marks two weeks since the election that saw thousands of voters standing in line, many for hours.
It also marks the end of the virus’ 14-day incubation period.
– Alison Dirr
4:45 p.m. Wausau physician accused of violating safer at home order placed on leave
A Wausau physician was placed on leave after he appears to have broken the state’s Safer at Home order last weekend.
Dr. David Murdock, a cardiologist with Aspirus, will not be seeing patients for the “foreseeable future,” the medical group announced Monday.
Aspirus requires its employees to comply with Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order, which prohibits gatherings of groups of 10 or more people. Aspirus alleges that Murdock “took part in a large gathering this weekend and appeared to violate social distancing practices,” according to the Aspirus release.
Circulating on Facebook are photos of a man whom some have identified as Murdock attending the Open Wisconsin Now protest Sunday in Mosinee. One person posted the photo on Murdock’s Facebook page with the question: “Is this true David?” Murdock did not immediately reply.
– Keith Uhlig, Wausau Daily Herald
4:30 p.m. Cluster of virus cases reported at meat packing plants
Brown County officials are investigating a cluster of coronavirus cases at an east-side meatpacking plant after the number of people sick climbed to nearly 300 over the weekend.
The county on Monday reported 292 cases, an increase of 119 since Friday, along with five in the Oneida Nation. The weekend surge came after officials called in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to look into an explosion of cases in the Green Bay area.
The recent spike includes a cluster of cases at JBS Packerland on Lime Kiln Road, said Ted Shove, an environmental health manager for Brown County. The number of cases from the plant is unknown, but Shove said the CDC will assist with contact tracing to determine how many people were infected.
The county also confirmed cases at American Foods Group and Salm Partners in Denmark, but Shove said those meat-processing companies have not seen as many as JBS. The CDC has indicated that there is a low risk of contracting the virus through food products or packaging that are shipped at room or cool temperatures.
– Doug Schneider, Haley BeMiller, Nusaiba Mizan and Paul Srubas, Green Bay Press-Gazette
3:40 p.m. Milwaukee sports radio station switching to virus news
Milwaukee radio station WAUK-AM (540) switched over Monday from all sports-talk to all coronavirus, all the time.
Good Karma Brands, which owns WAUK, said the AM station would air “Coronavirus: What You Need to Know,” a public service channel from SiriusXM’s Doctor Radio, until further notice. The ongoing coronavirus coverage, presented by academic medical center NYU Langone Health, is commercial-free.
The AM station had been carrying ESPN network programming and some live sporting events, back when those were still happening.
– Chris Foran
3:20 p.m. Infections double among House of Correction inmates
The number of inmates at Milwaukee County’s House of Correction infected with COVID-19 has more than doubled since last week, even before results are known of weekend testing of the entire population.
Last week officials announced 27 inmates had tested positive, that other test results were pending and that all 623 inmates at the facility in Franklin would be tested over the weekend with the help of the state.
On Monday, the number jumped to 63, said Raisa Koltun, an official at the county’s Emergency Operations Center. Officials have begun planning to convert a long-closed dormitory at the HOC grounds in Franklin into a medical treatment site.
The HOC typically houses about 1,000 inmates serving sentences under a year, or terms under a year as a condition of a probation sentence on a felony conviction. Many HOC inmates had work release privileges, but in an effort to reduce the population in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, many were released early or put on electronic monitoring.
Officials are scheduled to talk more about developments to blunt the spread of COVID-19 at the HOC during a county briefing Monday afternoon.
– Bruce Vielmetti
3 p.m. More National Guard troops mobilized for coronavirus testing
More than 200 Wisconsin National Guard members mobilized on Sunday to create more collection teams for coronavirus test specimens.
The National Guard will help establish more mobile testing and additional specimen collections at sites around the state that have not yet been determined. National Guardsmen will help transport collected specimens to state labs for analysis.
The Wisconsin Department of Health requested more help from the guard which has already taken an active role as the coronavirus pandemic escalated. This weekend’s call-up boosted the number of Wisconsin National Guard members responding to the coronavirus outbreak to more than 700.
On Monday two 20-person teams opened specimen collections sites at two community health centers in Milwaukee. On Saturday a National Guard-staffed mobile testing site opened at the Milwaukee County House of Correction in Franklin to test inmates and employees.
Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said the number of people tested for COVID-19 must increase to stop the spread of the virus.
“Our work with the National Guard throughout this pandemic has set us up to launch these mobile testing sites and strategically deploy guard assets to stop outbreaks,” Palm said in a statement.
Three National Guard specimen collection teams began training soon after Gov. Tony Evers declared the health emergency on March 12. Those teams have already been at work including opening a mobile testing site at a senior living facility in Sheboygan on April 5.
The Wisconsin National Guard also has:
- 12-person teams serving as medical and administrative staff at two separate state-run voluntary self-isolation facilities in Milwaukee and Madison; another 30 soldiers and airmen are serving at a Milwaukee County-run self-isolation facility.
- a team of six guardsmen assisting mortuary affairs operations at the Dane County Coroner’s Office.
- 20 soldiers working at a state warehouse to receive and repackage personal protective equipment for redistribution to communities.
– Meg Jones
11 a.m.: Colectivo reopening two locations with curbside pickup and walk-up window
Milwaukee café chain Colectivo is reopening two of its locations as ColecDepot, where customers can purchase coffee, beverages and bakery selections.
The stores will offer limited café service and grocery with contact-free curbside order pickup, which is facilitated through the Colectivo app, or walk-up window service.
Drinks like brewed coffee, draft cold-brew beverages and lattes will be available. Café food favorites like muffins, burritos and whole wheat chocolate chip cookies will be for sale as well.
Customers can take home coffee by the pound to brew at home, bakery bread, homemade granola and 4-packs of bagels with cream cheese.
ColectDepot is coming to the Humboldt café and roastery at 2999 N. Humboldt Blvd. and in Wauwatosa at 9125 W. North Ave.
Walk-up orders are available daily from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Colectivo app is available on Apple and Google Play.
For more information, visit https://colectivocoffee.com.
– Jordyn Noennig
7:33 a.m.: Milwaukee County reports one death and 43 new cases of COVID-19 Monday morning
Milwaukee County reported one death and 43 additional people with COVID-19 between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning.
The county has recorded 126 deaths from coronavirus-related complications.
Milwaukee county accounts for about half of Wisconsin’s coronavirus cases. The county reported 2,193 cases Monday morning. On Sunday afternoon there were 4,346 positive coronavirus cases in the state.
The city of Milwaukee continues to have the most cases of any city in the state with 1,700 cases.
– Jordyn Noennig
SUNDAY, APRIL 19
10:06 p.m.: Tavern League president calls for restaurants, bars and supper clubs to reopen May 1
In response to Gov. Tony Evers extending his stay-at-home order through May 26, Tavern League of Wisconsin president Chris Marsicano sent a statement late Sunday night calling for a “soft reopening” of the state’s taverns, restaurants and supper clubs on May 1.
The Tavern League, which includes 5,000 members, believes measures used by open, essential businesses could be applied to the hospitality industry.
In his statement, Marsicano outlined nine guidelines the hospitality could follow to facilitate a soft reopening “while taking the important steps to protect the safety of employees and customers.”
— Jim Owczarski
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