By Shereen Siewert
The most recent weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force report for Wisconsin about the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic warns residents who gathered out of their immediate household for Thanksgiving should assume they became infected over the holiday.
Each week, the Task Force issues reports to governors in each state, but doesn’t make those reports public. That means crucial county-level data and federal advice for state and local government entities often remains out of sight and away from the public eye. The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit organization that provides high level investigative reporting, collects the weekly reports and posts each document in a publicly-available repository. The most recent report, which offers detailed looks at the pandemic’s status in each state, including data that appears not to be available elsewhere, is dated Nov. 29.
It’s unclear whether governors consistently share the reports with local leaders or even their own state health departments, according to The Center for Public Integrity’s report.
The Nov. 29 update states that anyone under 40 should assume they “became infected during the Thanksgiving period” if they gathered beyond their immediate household. Even people without symptoms should recognize they are dangerous to others and should both isolate and get tested, the report states.
People older than 65 or those with significant medical conditions are at significant risk for serious COVID infections if they gathered outside their immediate household. What’s more: people in that group “should not enter any indoor public spaces where anyone is unmasked due to the immediate risk to your health.” Those residents, the report states, should have groceries and medications delivered.
“If state and local policies do not reflect the seriousness of the current situation, all public health officials must alert the state population directly,” the report reads.
The report shows the state is well above the national average for new cases per 100,000 population, with the 12th highest new infection rate in the country.
Over the weekend, Marathon County saw an increase of 252 new confirmed positive COVID-19 cases, 39 probable cases, 592 patients moving from active to recovered, nine new reported hospitalizations and nine deaths, according to the Marathon County Health Department. The death toll in Marathon County now stands at 158.
Statewide, nursing homes continue to be hard hit. During the week of Nov. 16 to Nov. 22, 34 percent of nursing homes in Wisconsin had at least one new resident COVID-19 case, while 68 percent had at least one new staff case. Twenty percent had at least one new resident COVID-19 death.
Recommendations for Wisconsin include increased frequency of long-term care facility testing, proactive testing in other areas, universal masking, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and encouraging outdoor activity.
“We share the strong concern of Wisconsin leaders that the current situation remains extremely critical with minimal reserve capacity in the health care system,” the report reads. “Improved public observance of social distancing measures is urgently needed.”
In a media briefing Monday, Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said she anticipates vaccines will become available to Wisconsin front-line workers this month.