By Shereen Siewert

Health officials in Wisconsin confirmed the number of COVID-19 cases jumped to 106 on Wednesday, none of which are in Marathon County at this time.

Wednesday’s tally is up from Tuesday’s report of 72 confirmed cases in Wisconsin. State officials did not say how many tests have been processed in Marathon County or how many are pending.

In a March 17 memo from Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Wisconsin Chief Medical Officer and State Epidemiologist for Communicable Disease, health care providers were cautioned that the number of specimens being received during the week of March 16 “far exceeds” the daily capacity of lab testing.

The Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene increased capacity and can test up to 400 specimens per day, 7 days per week with significantly expanded work hours each day. The Milwaukee Health Department Laboratory is also testing 7 days per week and can test up to 150 specimens per day, bringing the total number to 550.

But the state lab received 700 samples on March 16 and more than 450 in the morning hours of March 17 alone, according to the memo, which can be accessed here.

Results on “priority specimens” can be reported 1-2 days after receipt of the specimen at each lab, Westergaard said.

Like other labs nationwide, both Wisconsin labs have a “finite number of reagents and supplies available” for testing, Westergaard said. Consequently, state officials are requesting health care providers to prioritize testing for hospitalized patients for whom timely diagnosis of COVID-19 is critical to make the best possible treatment choices.

A four-tier system, with the most critical patients at the top tier, is now in place. Moving forward, Wisconsin labs will process only the top two tiers of specimens taken, according to the March 17 memo. Providers are now required to identify “alternate laboratories” for testing lower priority specimens, Westegaard said.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday ordered the closure of all bars and restaurants, except for establishments that offer drive-through service, curbside pickup or delivery and health officials are urging social distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19. But nationwide, even in cities with “shelter in place” orders, police and health officials are clarifying that people can still go out for walks, fresh air, necessary shopping and medical appointments — as long as they main social distance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging employers to actively encourage sick employees to stay home, while employers statewide are shifting workers to perform their duties remotely whenever possible. Many municipal offices, including those in Weston, are closed to the public.

Meanwhile, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point announced all campus-sponsored events, regardless of number of attendees, are canceled through Sunday, May 24, the end of the academic year, including those at the Wausau campus. The cancellations follow CDC guidance to restrict events for eight weeks.

Anyone with questions or immediate needs related to COVID-19 can:

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See the map of confirmed cases, below.