MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin health officials urged people Thursday to spend the Fourth of July weekend at home as coronavirus infections surge in the state.
The virus has spiked in Southern and Western states in recent weeks, but also parts of the Midwest. Wisconsin has had a nearly 20% rise in the past two weeks in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic started, the state Department of Health Services said.
Health officials blame the surge largely on young people congregating in bars. DHS Secretary Andrea Palm said Thursday that 23% of total confirmed cases in Wisconsin are people in their 20s, which is up from 11% in April.
“In order to help decrease the infection rate in our state, we need younger Wisconsinites to take more precautions like staying home, physical distancing and wearing cloth face coverings whenever possible,” Palm said.
Public health officials halted indoor service at Madison bars beginning Thursday and limited the number of people who can eat inside at restaurants to 25% capacity.
As of Wednesday, Wisconsin has had 29,199 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic started, according to the DHS. Nearly 790 people had died from it, 5,320 cases were still active and a little more than 23,000 people had recovered.
The actual number of infections is thought to be far higher than the state’s totals because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued a stay-at-home order in March that closed schools, shuttered most nonessential businesses and limited the size of gatherings. The order was supposed to lift April 24, but Palm extended it to May 26.
The extension spurred Republican legislators to file a lawsuit directly with the conservative-leaning state Supreme Court, which ruled 4-3 on May 13 that Palm had overstepped her authority and struck down the order. Since then, the state has become a patchwork of local ordinances and orders limiting business activities and gatherings.