Wisconsin unemployment system overwhelmed by demands — 3/31/20

A roundup of top news and information about Wisconsin’s response to the coronavirus

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As COVID-19 cases continue to spike across Wisconsin, we are getting a glimpse of how many systems this pandemic can overwhelm. It is not just health care. Today we highlight a story by Rob Mentzer of Wisconsin Public Radio about the state’s unemployment insurance system. Some are calling its helpline only to hear a recording that says too many are on hold, and they will be disconnected.

Top Stories

John Hart / Wisconsin State Journal

Viewed through her window, UW Health psychologist Shilagh Mirgain works from her Madison home. Mental health providers are transitioning to virtual care amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Wisconsinites in limbo as state unemployment system overwhelmedWisconsin Public Radio

‘It does work’: Mental health providers adjust to virtual care during COVID-19 pandemicWisconsin State Journal 

The Buzz: Retail workers are furloughed by the thousands this weekAppleton Post-Crescent 

Majority Of Wisconsin municipalities facing poll worker shortages amid pandemic Wisconsin Public Radio

County fire departments changing ambulance call protocolsKenosha News 

State setting up voluntary coronavirus isolation facilities in Madison, MilwaukeeMilwaukee Journal Sentinel 

What are we missing? And how are you coping? Help us provide critical information and accountability by filling out this form or emailing us at tips@wisconsinwatchmediapartners.wpcomstaging.com

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Government updates

Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Gov. Tony Evers’ office

U.S. Centers and Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization 

Live updates

Live blog from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and USA Today-Wisconsin reporters 

Latest coverage from Wisconsin State Journal reporters


“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is not a failure. It is, in fact, the opposite. It’s doing what you need to do to take care of yourself. And you’re worth it. I promise you that.” 

Jessie Opoien, writing for The Cap Times about the importance of seeking help for mental health.

Stats to note

At least 1,351 Wisconsinites have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday afternoon — and 16 people have died from the virus, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a research center at the University of Washington, expects the peak of the epidemic to hit Wisconsin hospitals on April 27, though that is a moving target as the state takes action. See more projections here

Resilient Wisconsin

People helping others and showing resilience during this time of anxiety. Send suggestions by tagging us on social media — @wisconsinwatch — or emailing us: tips@wisconsinwatchmediapartners.wpcomstaging.com.

Neighbors sing together to maintain sense of community during coronavirus pandemicWKOW-TV 

Madison man’s recording of a song about a virus (yes, that one) goes viralWisconsin State Journal

How to help senior citizens during the coronavirus pandemicMilwaukee Neighborhood News

George Hesselberg, a former Wisconsin State Journal reporter, shared this photo and story on Facebook: 

3 p.m. Sunday and Tucker wants a walk so we head to the Village of Oregon path through Jaycee Park. We run into a friend so we yell at each other for a bit, split up and get back to the car, load up and drive away and stop. Is that a drug deal going down in daylight in the Jaycee Park parking lot along Oak Street? Six SUVs are parked in a circle, all facing outward, like a herd of musk ox. All of the back hatches are wide open and seated in each, open facing the others, sits a woman wrapped in a blanket. No drinks are visible. We drive by, turn around and join them. All smiles, even to a stranger approaching with questions. Hmm. Some yoga brand I have not heard of? We pull up to the side of one of the vehicles and ask the seated woman all snuggled what was the occasion. “None, we just wanted to chat,” she said. The virus has driven this group of friends who are used to communicating in person into drawing their wagons into a circle and sitting. It was very quiet, so no one had to shout, everyone was in excellent humor and happy to chat with one more person. I clearly adored the idea. “Nice hat,” said one, smiling. “Thank you,” I said, all smiles. “You have a great day,” she said. “You too,” said I. “All of you.” I asked for permission to take their photo and they said sure.

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