By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

Case counts

The City of Milwaukee has reported 1,279 confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and 58 deaths, as of Saturday.

Statewide, Wisconsin has reported 3341 cases, including 974 hospitalizations and 144 deaths.

$4.8 Million in Grants 

Last week, the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment (AHW) announced the award of nearly $4.8 million in funding to 17 projects designed to support health care and community agencies in the fight to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus COVID-19 across Wisconsin.

“As part of our commitment to protect the health of people across Wisconsin, this emergency funding was announced to support immediate actions that focus on prevention, risk reduction, and minimizing the transmission of COVID-19 ,” said Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH, director of the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment and senior associate dean at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW). “The projects selected are laudable in how they will address critical and urgent needs, reach vulnerable populations, and help minimize the spread of COVID-19 in our state.”

The funded projects include 11 statewide efforts that will support positive impacts in communities across Wisconsin, as well as dedicated projects in Milwaukee (4 projects), central Wisconsin (1), and northern Wisconsin (1).

Increased Contact Tracing Capabilities

On Thursday, the Department of Health Services (DHS) announced new tracing mechanisms for local health departments to better track Wisconsin residents who may have been exposed to COVID-19 during Tuesday’s election.

Over the course of the last few weeks DHS has added more than 120 contact tracers to aid local public health departments who need additional capacity to interview every person confirmed with COVID-19 about anyone they had been in contact with and notify those people. Contact tracing staff have worked to follow up on more than 1,000 interviews to identify and notify contacts for Milwaukee Health Department alone. Additionally, Governor Evers has requested $17 million in new funds for local public health agencies, and 64 additional staff at DHS in his proposed legislative package, to adequately respond to the public health needs in Wisconsin. These proposed contact tracing assets will be critical to Wisconsin’s ability to actively manage this pandemic until effective medical treatment or a vaccine is available.

“Contact tracing is a critical tool in our ability to effectively manage COVID-19 now and moving forward,” said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “We will continue this important work to ensure that every case is followed up on, contacted, and anyone who may have been exposed notified. We hope the extraordinary efforts taken by local clerks, public health, voters, and poll workers helped minimize any transmission but we stand prepared to respond if that isn’t the case.”

Despite efforts to protect the public by moving to postpone in-person voting on April 7, the Supreme Court ruled against that request and the elections were held on Tuesday. The Wisconsin Elections Commission provided municipal and county clerks with personal protective equipment and guidance that was developed in consultation with public health staff to prepare polling places, poll workers, and voters for Election Day to ensure that if the elections were held people could cast their vote in the safest manner possible. However, even with the safeguards polling places and workers put in place, there is some risk that people were exposed to COVID-19 while waiting to vote, casting their vote, or working the polls.

COVID-19 Volunteer Program

Lastly, Gov. Tony Evers announced Friday that the state is seeking volunteers to support Wisconsin’s healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic. Active and retired healthcare professionals and those who wish to help in non-clinical support positions are encouraged to sign up to volunteer through the Wisconsin Emergency Assistance Volunteer Registry (WEAVR).

“We are creating a wide network of volunteers to increase capacity at hospitals and clinics across Wisconsin,” said Gov. Evers. “Our top priority is to make sure there are enough resources to care for the growing number of people who require hospitalization or other healthcare interventions because of this pandemic.”

The number of patients in Wisconsin who need to be treated for COVID-19 is expected to surge in the coming weeks. Building a network of available volunteers now will greatly reduce the hardships on hospitals and clinics that would not normally have the capacity to care for the increase in patients.