In a sobering indicator of how quickly the COVID-19 coronavirus is spreading in Wisconsin, the number of confirmed cases in the state jumped to 19 on Friday, up from just a single case less than a week ago.
The new cases extended the outbreak to Racine, Milwaukee and Sheboygan counties, state health officials said Friday.
Five people have been diagnosed with the disease in Dane County, including one who has since recovered and tested negative, according to the state Department of Health Services. Six cases have been confirmed in Fond du Lac County, three in Sheboygan County, two in Milwaukee County and one each in Racine, Pierce and Waukesha counties.
Details about two of the Dane County cases were revealed Friday through other sources.
In one, UW-Madison said a School of Veterinary Medicine employee tested positive for the virus after having recently traveled internationally. The person was on campus at some point before going into isolation, UW-Madison Police spokesman Marc Lovicott said.
Citing patient privacy, Lovicott declined to say if the employee had contact with the public at UW Veterinary Hospital or with veterinary medicine students but said all people in close contact with the employee are being contacted by Public Health Madison and Dane County.
Non-essential employees in the veterinary medicine building were told to go home Friday and self-monitor for symptoms.
Another case involved a staffer at a Sun Prairie after-school program, Public Health confirmed Friday. WMTV (Ch. 15) first reported a staffer at the Kumon after-school program at 956 W. Main St. in Sun Prairie tested positive and the location has closed.
Public Health spokeswoman Sarah Mattes said the department “is actively working on reaching out to everyone we believe has been exposed” to the individual.
Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said those in the state who have tested positive are mostly adults and were exposed to the virus through a mix of international and domestic travel.
Westergaard said there is no indication yet that there is community spread in Wisconsin, which occurs when individuals become infected and it’s not known how or where they were exposed.
“I would say we’re concerned that, when there’s an increased number of cases, the chance that any of these cases have been exposed to others in the community is higher,” Westergaard said. “Our position is still one of containment, but it becomes more likely with every increased case in the community … that they’ve been exposed to others and that onward transmissions can occur.”
The primary objective remains mitigating the impact of the disease, which is crucial to ease the burden on health care facilities, officials said.
“This is all about preventing the speed and spread of COVID-19, and it is very important that we are all in this together,” said DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk.
On Thursday, Gov. Tony Evers declared a public health emergency in response to the outbreak and urged residents to take precautions to prevent the spread of the disease.
The declaration allows DHS to buy, store or distribute medications, regardless of whether it’s covered by insurance, and authorizes the use of state funds to support local health departments with costs associated with isolation and quarantine. The order also allows the use of the Wisconsin National Guard to aid in the effort.
“Our position is still one of containment, but it becomes more likely with every increased case in the community … that they’ve been exposed to others and that onward transmissions can occur.” Dr. Ryan Westergaard,
chief medical officer, Wisconsin Department of Health Services
“Our position is still one of containment, but it becomes more likely with every increased case in the community … that they’ve been exposed to others and that onward transmissions can occur."
Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer, Wisconsin Department of Health Services
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