Learning from Wisconsin’s pandemic past — 4/28/20

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

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Wisconsin’s economically crippling shutdown to slow coronavirus might seem unprecedented, but it’s not. Today we highlight a story from Wisconsin Watch investigations editor Jim Malewitz about what the state can learn from its response to the misnamed “Spanish flu” pandemic of 1918. Wisconsin limited deaths through statewide stay-at-home measures a century ago, although some cities, including Oshkosh and Neenah, reopened early — with deadly results. More than 8,400 Wisconsinites died in the 1918 pandemic, which killed roughly 675,000 across the United States. 

We also spotlight a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story about the benchmarks Gov. Tony Evers says Wisconsin must meet before gradually reopening the economy. Some are still unclear. 

Top Stories

Wisconsin State Journal archives

The headline of the Oct. 10, 1918 Wisconsin State Journal proclaims that there were 1,000 cases of the Spanish flu in Madison and that all public gatherings were banned. The story goes on to say that all schools, colleges, churches and theaters were closed indefinitely under an order by Dr. Cornelius A. Harper, the state health officer.

Wisconsin’s pandemic past offers clues to its coronavirus futureWisconsin Watch

A week after Evers unveiled a plan to reopen, there’s little clarity on benchmarks like what metrics to monitorJournal Sentinel 

Brown County coronavirus cases surge past 800 as OSHA investigates more facilitiesGreen Bay Press-Gazette

Trump to order meat plants to stay open as worker deaths risePOLITICO

‘Anecdotal evidence is overwhelmingly positive’: Nearly 2,600 COVID-19 patients in the U.S. have been treated with plasmaMilwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Gov. Tony Evers directs DNR to reopen state parks, forests under special conditionsTMJ4

Aspirus doctor on leave after attending Open Wisconsin rally says he’s target of harassmentWausau Daily Herald

FEMA working with state to deliver supplies for COVID-19 response but barriers remainWPR 

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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 coverage from USA Today-Wisconsin reporters 

Live coverage from Wisconsin State Journal reporters


“Identifying those individuals who have that exposure and making sure that they’re staying away from other folks — that can really go a long way in containing the spread of disease. It is definitely essential work, and we’ll see more as testing increases in the next couple of weeks, which is why we’ve added on other individuals to our team.”

Local public health nurse Caitlin Gutierrez explains her contribution to contact tracing efforts in Dane County, as quoted by The Cap Times.

Data to note

Gov. Tony Evers last week announced a program to reopen the economy in phases if certain criteria are met. Here is a look at four areas where Evers says progress is needed, alongside improvements in testing and contact tracing  (As you can see, Evers has yet to announce criteria related to hospital capacity.)

And here is a look, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, at the state’s progress toward the third goal listed: to have a downward trajectory over 14 days in the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests. The trend is slightly increasing. 

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.

Wisconsin farmers find new ways to connect to customers during pandemicWPR 

From our partners at the Wisconsin State Journal:

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Unable to enter his residence due to ongoing coronavirus precautions, family members and friends of Donald Harrop celebrate his 103rd birthday through a closed doorway at the Milestone Senior Living Center in Cross Plains, Wis. Friday, April 24, 2020. Born in 1917, Harrop has now lived through two pandemics, the Spanish Flu of 1918, and the current COVID-19 crisis. Speaking to him through mobile phones are his granddaughter Tina Klimke and his great-granddaughter, Taylor Ziegler. Photo by staff photographer @johnhartphotography . #wilife #wisconsin #covidwi #covid19 #covid19wisconsin #quarantine #family #wistatejournal #assistedliving #crossplains #seniorliving #alonetogether

A post shared by Wisconsin State Journal (@wistatejournal) on Apr 25, 2020 at 8:40am PDT


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