Wisconsin coronavirus cases hit 707, with 10 deaths

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Wisconsin coronavirus cases hit 707, with 10 deaths

Two more Milwaukee County residents died from complications linked to the coronavirus Thursday, bringing Wisconsin’s pandemic death total to 10.

One was a 79-year-old Milwaukee woman with underlying health conditions who had been hospitalized since March 16 and died Thursday morning, the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office said. 

A second woman, a 65-year-old from Milwaukee hospitalized since March 21, died Thursday afternoon, the medical examiner said.

The two deaths followed two other Milwaukee County deaths on Wednesday: a 57-year-old woman from West Allis and a 60-year-old man from Milwaukee.

All seven of those who died in Milwaukee County after contracting coronavirus are African Americans.

The grim news came as the number of confirmed cases in Wisconsin again saw a large increase for the second consecutive day Thursday, with the state’s total increasing by 122 to 707.

Over two days, confirmed cases increased by 250, a 55% jump in overall cases.

Tests for coronavirus have also increased. By Thursday, there had been 12,290 tests conducted by the state.

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The number of confirmed coronavirus cases have jumped nationwide.

The United States surged past China and Italy to become the world’s most infected nation Thursday, a stark milestone in a surreal era.

Layoffs are also skyrocketing.

In Wisconsin, more than 70,000 new unemployment claims have been processed this week — nearly 20,000 on Wednesday alone. That’s almost 30 times the number from the same day a year ago.

The number of Americans who filed initial applications for unemployment benefits jumped to a record 3.28 million last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. The total was well above the 1.5 million claims economists had forecast.

Congress hopes its massive $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package will help.

The bill passed the U.S. Senate by a 96-0 vote at about midnight Thursday, and House Democratic leaders have said they hope it will pass Friday morning.

No one is immune

Milwaukee leaders are hoping to combat coronavirus here with a new public awareness campaign. The campaign, which addresses coronavirus symptoms and prevention, is focused on African American residents due to concerns about clusters of confirmed cases on the city’s north side, officials say.

“The deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) is spreading fast among Milwaukee’s African American population,” Milwaukee Ald. Russell W. Stamper II said in a statement Thursday. “The coronavirus pandemic is deadly serious, and all Milwaukee residents need to start getting the message immediately.”

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett warned how quickly coronavirus is spreading — stressing that no one should think of this as a problem mainly facing places like China, Italy or New York.

“What we have seen is no part of the city immune from this, no part of the county is immune from this,” Barrett said.

Unfortunately, Asians and Asian-Americans are still being targeted by racism linked to coronavirus.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison said officials there are responding to an increase in racism against Asian and Asian-Americans on campus as the coronavirus spreads.

For example, racist chalk messages were written on a campus sidewalk. The Asian American Studies Program posted photos of the messages on its Facebook page Wednesday. 

“IT’S FROM CHINA #CHINESEVIRUS,” one reads. 

Politics during a pandemic

As Wisconsin officials are scrambling to fight the spread of coronavirus — as well as misconceptions about it — they are also wrangling over whether it’s possible to hold an election in the middle of a pandemic.

And while Wisconsin has had its share of chaotic and high-stakes elections, the looming April 7 election is like nothing state and local officials have experienced.

It’s being challenged in court before a single ballot has been counted.

Beyond legal battles, it involves concerns about public health, access to the polls, and whether the state would be ready to move to a vote-by-mail election.

Local officials say they are especially concerned about the safety of poll workers.

“Front line” workers in Wisconsin such as health care workers and first responders have voiced concerns about their safety as they face shortages of personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and gowns.

State officials are worried, too, and on Thursday kicked off an initiative aimed at getting more gear for both health care workers and first responders.

Gov. Tony Evers said that, while the state appreciates donations, it is prepared to pay fair market value for equipment. Wisconsinites can now donate or sell large quantities of protective equipment to the State of Wisconsin online.

As Evers and lawmakers work on legislation, the state’s influential chamber of commerce is urging them to include relief for businesses.

Wisconsin Manufacturing and Commerce on Thursday released a number of measures lobbyists have proposed, including providing more cash flow for businesses through tax credits, and payment deferments on income and franchise taxes, among other state taxes.   

The lobbying group also is asking state health officials to prioritize testing for the coronavirus for employees working in health care, manufacturing and energy industries; and asking the state Department of Revenue to suspend sales tax audits.

In the face of shortages, Wisconsin breweries are trying to help, too.

Some Molson Coors plants, such as Leinenkugel’s in Chippewa Falls, are changing course and providing 165 barrels of bulk beer to be used to manufacture hand sanitizer. The brewery is working with neighbor, Chippewa River Distillery, to make the sanitizer, which will be distributed to first responders and health care workers, said Adam Collins, chief communications and corporate affairs officer for Molson Coors.

The unleaded gas price at Love’s Travel Stop drops down to 99 cents per gallon on Thursday, March 26, 2020, in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. (Photo: Zhihan Huang / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Some good news

Gas prices are dropping — not that many people are driving these days. Gas prices in Wisconsin fell below $1 per gallon Thursday for the first time in decades as demand for fuel plummets during the coronavirus pandemic.

A Love’s station in Elkhorn and Fleet Farm in Delavan were selling regular unleaded for 99 cents a gallon, cash price, while gas stations in Wautoma, Appleton and elsewhere in the state posted prices ranging from 99 cents to $1.25.

Thursday would have been opening day for the 2020 Major League Baseball season, with the Milwaukee Brewers facing the Chicago Cubs.

Instead, the two cities will be teaming up this week — musically.

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Tom Giesfeldt of Milwaukee walks his dogs in an empty Miller Park parking lot on what would have been the Milwaukee Brewers’ opening day game against the Chicago Cubs in Milwaukee on Thursday, March 26, 2020. The game was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music is launching an #MKEsingalong movement to coincide with Saturday-night singalongs in Chicago.

“The Conservatory hopes Milwaukee and Chicago can set aside our fierce rivalry over baseball, football, and most everything else for a few minutes each Saturday night during COVID-19 social distancing,” reads a conservatory press release issued Thursday. “If we can’t cheer on our teams, we can cheer each other up by singing some great tunes together.”

The song of choice this Saturday is “ABC” by the Jackson 5. The singalong starts at 7 p.m., and participants are encouraged to make a video and tag it “#mkesingalong” on social media. 

More tips and information can be found on the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s Facebook page. 

Contact Mary Spicuzza at (414) 224-2324 or mary.spicuzza@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MSpicuzzaMJS or Facebook at facebook.com/mary.spicuzza.

Alison Dirr, Rick Barrett, Molly Beck, Kathy Flanigan, Craig Gilbert, Bill Glauber, Piet Levy, Joe Taschler and Devi Shastri of the Journal Sentinel and Mica Soellner of USA-Today Network – Wisconsin contributed to this report.

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