How the coronavirus is throwing up roadblocks for Wisconsinites with disabilities — 5/20/20

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

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More than 33,880 Wisconsin residents with physical disabilities and intellectual/developmental disabilities require some level of care or support. The coronavirus pandemic is upending their lives — worsening a chronic shortage of typically low-paid caregivers.

Today we highlight our investigation into how COVID-19 has exposed longstanding vulnerabilities in the system designed to aid Wisconsinites with disabilities. Bram Sable-Smith, the WPR fellow embedded in the Wisconsin Watch newsroom, reports that clients and caregivers are facing tough decisions during the pandemic about how to keep each other safe during close interactions — if that’s even possible at a time when protective equipment runs scarce. And statewide momentum to loosen restrictions meant to manage the virus is adding to their anxiety.

Top Stories

Courtesy of Stacy Ellingen

Stacy Ellingen, 34, of Oshkosh, Wis., has navigated life from a power wheelchair since the age of 2 due to complications from cerebral palsy. When the pandemic struck, she lost two of the three rotating caregivers she depends on to dress, shower, eat and use the bathroom. That forced her to move in with her parents in Fond du Lac, Wis., where she has less independence.

Coronavirus exposes caregiver shortage, upending lives of Wisconsin’s disabled residentsWisconsin Watch/WPR

All 72 Wisconsin counties now have confirmed COVID-19, with Langlade, Taylor reporting first casesWausau Daily Herald

Tony Evers announces COVID-19 rental assistance programWisconsin State Journal

Why Wisconsin Is wagering on contact tracing to combat COVID-19WisContext 

Top staff resigns to protest reopening of Lake Geneva beachKenosha News

Police: Wisconsin man harassed Asian Americans for wearing masks at grocery storeWPR

Wisconsin Supreme Court order opened bars and restaurants, but an analysis shows only a 3% increase in total movement statewideMilwaukee Journal Sentinel (subscription required)

Area police not enforcing Illinois governor’s order Beloit Daily News

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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


“If there should be another prolonged lockdown period in the fall, the need for unemployment assistance will rise again. Democrats and Republicans might engage in finger-pointing on this matter. We hope not. Because the virus doesn’t care about your political affiliation.”

(Racine) Journal Times editorial board

Data to note

Wisconsin saw a spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases on Wednesday at a time when the state is significantly ramping up testing. The state Department of Health Services reported 528 new cases for the day, with 8% of tests coming back positive. DHS reported 14 additional deaths on Wednesday, pushing the total to 481 during the pandemic. 

Here’s a look at the broader trends in COVID-19 diagnoses from our partners at WisContext. 

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:

Rick Wood / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Pepper recovers from eye surgery at the Wisconsin Humane Society, which has fewer animals for adoption as 75% of the animals are in foster care homes during the coronavirus outbreak.

‘People are looking for love’: Adoptions of dogs, cats skyrocket during coronavirus pandemicMilwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Oprah Winfrey gives $12 million for coronavirus relief to Milwaukee and other ‘home cities’Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

MaskUpMKE donates over 2K masks to the Department of Public WorksWTMJ-TV 

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