Gov. Tony Evers

By Shereen Siewert

Gov. Tony Evers on Monday announced stages in which Wisconsin will reopen its economy, which align with the Trump administration’s guidelines for states to follow.

Currently, Wisconsin does not meet the criteria the White House established to start reopening the state’s economy. Evers said his plan, called the “Badger Bounce Back” plan, takes steps to get Wisconsin to reach the federal guidelines. In phase one, restaurants would be allowed to open as long as they follow best practices.

State officials will look for a downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses and COVID-19 symptoms reported within a 14-day period, and a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period to move toward reopening the state.

So far, positive case numbers have risen daily. As of Monday, 4,499 people in Wisconsin have tested positive for coronavirus, while the death toll climbed again to 230. Marathon County is reporting 17 cases and one death, with one reported recovery and 493 negative tests.

Unclear is the number of patients hospitalized in Marathon County for suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Aspirus officials on Monday again refused to disclose the number of COVID-19 patients in their care.

“That’s not information we are releasing to the public,” said Andrew Krauss, spokesman for Aspirus.

Meanwhile, health officials say they will ramp up testing capacity in the days and weeks ahead. One month ago, the state had eight labs performing COVID-19 test; today, that number has grown to 36, with additional public-private partnerships planned.

“Testing is key to Wisconsin turning the dial on COVID-19 and reopening the state,” Evers said. “With increased testing, Wisconsin gets a more accurate sense of the spread of the virus.”

More testing also means improved contact tracing efforts, which help identify possible exposures to COVID-19, he added.

New initiatives announced this week include:

  • Eleven National Guard teams serving a rapid response role in hotspots and underserved areas of the state will collect specimens for COVID-19 testing.
  • The state is working with Tribal partners to ensure that their communities receive testing they need. Starting this week, 1,000 tests will be delivered per week to Tribal health clinics.
  • This week, Marshfield Clinic Health System will be working on ramping up to process 10,000 tests per week from providers around the State.
  • 2,200 test collection supplies and PPE are headed to Green Bay in response to an outbreak with significant risk potential to the community.
  • Through additional procurement efforts by the state, Wisconsin will be receiving over 250,000 additional test collection supplies in the coming weeks.

Contact tracing will more aggressively track the spread of coronavirus, which means patients will be interviewed within 24 hours of a positive test result. Their contacts will be interviewed within 48 hours of test results as well, Evers said.

The Badger Bounce Back plan is available here.