COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Wisconsin, with the state reporting its highest single-day death count on Wednesday.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) said 48 people died of the coronavirus in a single day. Data show the past seven days have been the deadliest in the state of the pandemic, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says.
The number of new cases is also going up. The state reported 4,205 new COVID-19 cases (this equates to a daily average of 3,444 cases, which is nearly double the average from a month ago, the Wisconsin State Journal notes).
And hospitalizations are rising, with some regions reporting more than 90% utilization of ICU beds. This prompted the state to admit its first patient to the health facility that's been set up at Wisconsin State Fair Park, DHS said.
“With record-high numbers of positive cases, hospitalizations, and staffing shortages, there has never been a more critical time for Wisconsinites to act and help stop the spread,” DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said in a statement. “That's why we ask all Wisconsinites to do their part. Stay home, wear a mask and stay six feet apart when you go out for your essential errands, avoid gatherings and events, and wash your hands.
"These steps are some of the most effective tools we have to overcome this pandemic," Palm added.
The surge in cases is straining public health officials as they work to identify close contacts of those who test positive in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
In Dane County, Wisconsin, health officials have moved to a "crisis model" for contact tracing, which means they may not interview everyone who tests positive and notify those who that person exposed, the Wisconsin State Journal reports. North Dakota public health officials are also struggling with contact tracing, asking those who test positive to inform their close contacts themselves.
Both states have been identified as COVID-19 hotspots, with Wisconsin and North Dakota coming in at No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, when it comes to the highest new COVID-19 case rates of anywhere else in the country, according to the COVID Tracking Project. South Dakota is No. 2.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, falsely claimed that Wisconsin had flattened its curve of COVID-19 deaths and said the public has been tricked into "mass hysteria" about the virus, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
Republicans at the state level in Wisconsin have challenged efforts by Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, to control the virus. This week state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, the chairman of the Assembly Health Committee, said there's nothing more the government can do to combat the virus, the paper said.