Gov. Evers

By Shereen Siewert

Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday extended the state’s mask mandate through mid-January, one day after the state recorded a record 92 deaths in a 24-hour period.

The current mask order, issued in July and renewed in September, would have expired on Saturday and is at the core of a lawsuit being considered by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Evers stopped short of ordering additional restrictions, as other neighboring states have done. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday said he will announce new restrictions that will shut down indoor dining at bars and restaurants, close gyms and put all organized youth sports on hold for a four-week span, according to the La Crosse Tribune.

In Marathon County, the death toll climbed to 108 on Wednesday with 3,750 active cases and 8,497 infections overall. Statewide, the Department of Health Services is reporting nearly 8,000 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the state total to more than 331,000. Health officials say 2,793 Wisconsin residents have died due to COVID-19.

During a press briefing Wednesday, Aspirus CEO Matthew Heywood said 130 patients are being treated system-wide, representing about 25 percent of all patient beds. Heywood projected that number will rise to about 250 or higher in the coming weeks and months, putting routine patient care at risk.

The biggest challenge is staffing, Heywood said, adding that the hospital system has added staff as the pandemic wore on.

“But there is a limited supply of staff all across the country,” Heywood said.

Evers on Monday sent a proposal to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester this week regarding a proposed $541 in COVID-19-related measures related to unemployment and evictions, among others. The state Legislature has not met since April.

There have been glimmers of hope in recent weeks as two companies announced significant progress on a COVID-19 vaccine. Significant challenges remain, not the least of which is how the vaccine would be distributed, but successful vaccine trials are fueling optimism that there is light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel.