By Shereen Siewert

State health officials say the number of coronavirus infections in Wisconsin now sits at 2,578, including 12 in Marathon County, while the latest projections show the state’s cases will likely peak much sooner than initially predicted.

As of Tuesday, the death toll in Wisconsin is at 92, according to DHS data. But the most recent figures from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, data that is being used by state and federal officials to guide their decision-making, appear to show that social distancing measures are paying off in a big way: far fewer deaths are now projected in Wisconsin than initially feared. The new figures, assuming residents continue to follow the governor’s Safer at Home order, show an estimated 644 people in Wisconsin will succumb to the virus, down from a high of 950 predicted one week ago.

Another reason for optimism: Wisconsin cases are now expected to peak around April 18, two weeks earlier than the May 2 projection formulated last week and a full month earlier than initial predictions by the Institute.

Many people have compared the flu to COVID-19 because both can affect the respiratory system and their symptoms overlap. There are similarities, but crucial differences as well, the most crucial of which is that coronavirus is far deadlier, according to the CDC.

While about 0.1% of people who get the flu die, the coronavirus’ global death rate is about 4.7%, based on the current numbers of cases and deaths. However, the death rate of the coronavirus fluctuates constantly and varies strongly by country — in Italy, it was above 12% as of Tuesday, while it was 2.9% in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.

Business Insider put together this graphic to illustrate the comparison:

This year’s flu season isn’t fully over. But the CDC estimates that the burden of illness during the 2018–2019 season included 34,200 deaths from influenza. Those cases generally began in October and lasted through March, about a five-month window. The agency estimates the total number of flu infections in the US via its influenza-surveillance system, which gathers flu data from state and local partners and projects nationwide totals using infectious-disease models.

By comparison COVID-19 cases were at 30 on March 1. Five weeks later, the virus is being blamed for 11,830 deaths in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins. To date, 20,003 people have recovered, though that number is difficult to verify.

Difficult, too, is the actual number of infections. The U.S. on Tuesday is reporting 378,289 cases of COVID-19. But that number likely far undercounts the true scope of patients because it represents only those who have gotten tested, and the U.S. has been slow to expand testing capacity. People with symptoms mild enough to recover at home without seeking medical treatment aren’t counted in official totals and hundreds of tests in central Wisconsin have gone unprocessed.

In other developments:

  • Local municipalities are bracing for a sharp drop in revenue streams as the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds.  While it is too soon to project the full range of fiscal impacts to municipal governments resulting from the country’s economic crisis, certain key revenue streams will take a hit, including collections from fees, fines, and permits, according to the Wisconsin Policy Forum. Collections of certain user fees, from bus ridership to building inspections – as well as fine collections from parking and other violations – also are likely to decline precipitously. Other challenges could include an increase in delinquent or unpaid property taxes and fees and a failure of revenues in tax increment districts to grow at levels needed to service debt. The impact is likely to vary widely from municipality to municipality, however. See how Marathon County fares in this report.
  • In-person voting is going on as scheduled at polling locations around the state. The state’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected the Democratic governor’s attempt to postpone in-person voting, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against an attempt by Wisconsin Democrats to extend the deadline for absentee voting.Voters who requested an absentee ballot and did not receive one are advised to vote in person, while absentee ballots that have been received must be either returned in person or postmarked on April 7. No results will be reported tonight, though we may have data on turnout to report.
  • In sports, the NBA is preparing for possible post-season play after the public health threat is over, while The Masters has been rescheduled from spring to November. The U.S. Open is scheduled for September.
  • North Central Health Care in Wausau, where a nursing home employee tested positive last month, reports no additional employees have tested positive for the virus. Additionally there are no residents, clients or patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.