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With more than 200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3 deaths, Tony Evers says worst is yet to come for Wisconsin
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With more than 200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3 deaths, Tony Evers says worst is yet to come for Wisconsin

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Wisconsin continued to take additional steps to limit public exposure to the COVID-19 coronavirus Friday, including closing down hair salons and tattoo parlors, but stopped short of the measures other states are taking such as ordering residents to stay home.

With the number of confirmed COVID-19 coronavirus cases surpassing 200 in Wisconsin, including three confirmed deaths resulting from the respiratory disease, Gov. Tony Evers and health officials provided a somber reminder that the worst is yet to come.

“Unfortunately, this number is expected to rise and things will get worse before they get better,” Gov. Tony Evers said on a media call Friday.

The outbreak has led to the closure of bars, restaurants, retailers and many other employers throughout the state, leading to waves of layoffs, including 1,000 jobs at a Fitchburg appliance manufacturer announced Friday.

But while some states such as California have implemented or debated shelter-in-place orders to keep residents in their homes and slow the virus’ spread, Evers said current recommendations, which include closing down some businesses and encouraging people to maintain a distance from others and wash their hands frequently, should be adequate.

“I believe that we’ll be able to avoid that,” Evers said. “People in the state of Wisconsin are taking that seriously.”

COVID-19 cases and deaths

As of Friday, Wisconsin Department of Health Services officials reported 206 cases of COVID-19 across 29 counties, with 32 cases reported in Dane County. More than 3,400 people have tested negative, and the three confirmed deaths have been reported in Fond du Lac, Ozaukee and Milwaukee counties.

“This has been hard, and I’m sorry to say we do expect the situation to worsen,” DHS Secretary Andrea Palm said, adding she anticipates the virus to impact “thousands of Wisconsinites.”

Community spread — when someone contracts the disease without traveling out of the state or coming in contact with known cases — has already occurred in Dane, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Columbia and Brown counties, according to DHS.

Evers said legislative action will be necessary to respond to the virus in the “near future,” but added a package likely won’t come together next week. Evers has been in daily communication with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, regarding possible legislation.

Evers announced Friday night the federal government has approved the state’s request to allow small businesses affected by the coronavirus to receive up to $2 million in low-interest loans.

In an effort to minimize the spread of the virus, the state has shut down schools, halted sit-in services at bars and restaurants, and reduced capacity at child care facilities.

On Friday, Evers expanded the order to also close hair salons, nail salons and tattoo parlors. In addition, the order allows bars to provide carryout alcohol sales, as long as it doesn’t conflict with local or state law.

The statewide shutdown has already resulted in skyrocketing joblessness across Wisconsin.

Preliminary numbers from the Department of Workforce Development show that, as of Thursday, more than 45,000 initial unemployment claims had been made this week. There were about 4,200 initial claims made in the same span last week.

On Friday, DWD said Fitchburg-based Sub-Zero Group announced it planned to lay off more than 1,000 employees after demand for the company’s home appliances decreased as COVID-19 continues to spread.

The company, which manufactures appliances such as refrigerators and stoves under the Sub-Zero and Wolf Appliances brands, will cease operations for production at 6061 Basswood Drive and 2866 Bud’s Drive in Fitchburg.

“These 2020 business circumstances were not foreseeable, but we must react in a way that is designed to balance our duty to protect the health of our workforce as much as possible, minimize the spread of COVID-19 across our communities, and respond to the reality that demand for production has gone down and is forecast to remain down,” the company said.

The 1,043 employees will be laid off beginning Sunday. Production will be stopped until at least April 13, and Sub-Zero said it expects most employees — many of whom work in assembly and fabrication — will be recalled to work when the facilities reopen.

Gov. Tony Evers said legislative action will be necessary to respond to the virus in the “near future,” but added a package likely won’t come together next week.

Gov. Tony Evers said legislative action will be necessary to respond to the virus in the "near future," but added a package likely won't come together next week.

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