By Shereen Siewert

Wisconsin is reporting 1,221 positive tests for COVID-19 statewide as of March 30, as hospitals statewide are preparing for an expected surge of acute cases in the coming weeks, health officials said Monday.

Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm announced the figure in a pres briefing Monday afternoon. Palm said state figures show 14 people have died, though Johns Hopinks University shows 18 deaths in Wisconsin.

The most recent death was a man in his 40s, Palm said.

In Marathon County, one of two recently reported cases involves an employee at Mount View Care Center, a nursing home in Wausau.

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases said the cases identified through testing are a small subset of the number of cases that do exist statewide

“It’s safe to assume that all counties in Wisconsin have community spread at this time,” Westergaard said.

The term “community spread” means there is no known source of the disease, such as recent contact with an infected person or travel from an area with a high number of cases.

Gov. Tony Evers on Monday announced plans to ramp up testing efforts in Wisconsin and is urging donations of personal protective equipment for emergency personnel on the front lines of the fight against the virus. Companies, educational facilities and other organizations able to donate equipment can start the process at this site.

Also on Monday, Marshfield Clinic Health System officially rolled out in-house testing.

“Our ability to test for COVID-19, and turn results around within a day, gives us an important tool against this virus,” said Dr. Thomas Fritsche, medical director for Health System laboratories. “It will allow us to allocate our resources to patients that need them the most as we learn more about the impact the pandemic will have on the areas we serve.”

National Guard troops are working to ensure that field hospitals will be available when necessary, while isolation facilities are being set up at some hospitals around the state, Evers said.

“The responsible ting to do is plan for the worst and hope for the best,” said Evers, adding a call for residents to listen to the science and heed warnings about staying home to help slow the spread of the virus.

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Investigative journalist, music enthusiast, blogger, animal lover, kayaker, knitter, wife, mother.