Wisconsin hits all but one goal to reopen as the number of positive cases continues to drop

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Wisconsin shutdown could be lifted in a matter of weeks/. New guidance have been released for businesses to resume operations safely. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

For a second straight day, Wisconsin saw fewer than 200 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, and Tuesday’s update included another encouraging number: Fewer than 4% of all tests were positive for the virus.

Following Tuesday’s results, Wisconsin has met five of six criteria set by Gov. Tony Evers to begin a phased reopening of the state.

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Unfortunately, it’s too late for bratwurst lovers.

The World’s Largest Brat Fest in Madison was canceled Tuesday. The three-day annual festival of Wisconsin’s favorite sausage is usually held on Memorial Day weekend. It was initially postponed until the last weekend in August but now it won’t happen until 2021.

A Marquette University Law School Poll released Tuesday shows partisan splits have emerged in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic even as the public at large supports social-distancing and other measures.

In March, 83% of Republicans said closures were appropriate, compared with 49% in the new poll. Among Democrats, support slipped from 95% in March to 90% in the current poll while among independents support slipped from 79% to 69%.

The change in opinion comes as the curve of positive cases continues to slope downward.

Of more than 4,900 test results announced Tuesday, 193 returned positive, the lowest number of positive tests announced since April 27 and the lowest portion of new tests that were positive — 3.9% — since the state stopped including repeated tests of the same patients in its daily updates on March 30.

Nine more people died of COVID-19, however, increasing the state’s total to 418.

To fully reopen the state means having a robust testing program to determine who is infected and who is not, which is why free testing sites are doing a booming business.

Thousands have shown up in the first two days of two free testing sites on Milwaukee’s north and south sides. The Wisconsin National Guard is conducting nose swabs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for as long as necessary.

Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, the state’s Adjutant General, said Tuesday that 954 people were tested at the UMOS location on the south side and 965 at Midtown Center on the first day.

Due to the high demand for tests, additional lanes were created to offer more tests.

Starting Thursday, Pick ‘n Save and Kroger Health will provide free, drive-through COVID-19 testing in Milwaukee at the former BMO Harris Bradley Center, located at 1001 N. Vel Phillips Ave.

People will need to register at: krogerhealth.com/covidtesting.

The tests will be conducted by appointment from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and May 18, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28 and 29.

Small businesses itching to open

As the coronavirus caseload lightens, it’s no surprise business owners are itching to reopen their doors and begin to earn money again.

Most Wisconsin small-business owners want the state’s economy to completely reopen immediately, according to a survey of NFIB members released Tuesday, two weeks before the safer-at-home order is set to expire.

The vast majority of 300 small-business owners who responded — 73% — said it would be the appropriate time to lift the non-essential business and stay-at-home restrictions here immediately. 

Sixty-four percent said they were not concerned about lifting restrictions in Wisconsin too early. And 87% think the state’s non-essential business closure order is too restrictive.

DNC steps toward virtual voting

The Democratic National Convention was expected to inject millions of dollars into the southeastern Wisconsin economy but those were pre-COVID projections. The DNC has already been moved from July to August and on Tuesday came more developments that might affect the convention — the possibility of allowing delegates to vote virtually.

As in delegates staying home and not coming to Milwaukee to spend money on food, hotels and transportation.

The Democratic Party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee unanimously adopted a resolution Tuesday giving the team overseeing the convention the authority to change the format, size and dates of the event.  

Delegates will also be able “to participate in the convention in person or by means that allow for appropriate social distancing.” 

The full Democratic National Committee will have to approve the measure as the party tries to come to grips with staging a convention during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Also on Tuesday, the National Guard activated about 160 service members to help with the 7th Congressional District election in northern Wisconsin.

Matt Piper, Sarah Hauer, Bill Glauber, Mary Spicuzza, Patrick Marley and Jim Owczarski contributed to this report.

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