Five Wisconsin prison inmates have died in custody, state discloses after previously keeping figures secret — 10/30/20

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

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The Wisconsin Department of Corrections disclosed Friday that five inmates in state custody have died from COVID-19 after previously refusing to release the information, Emily Hamer of the Wisconsin State Journal reports. 

Hamer, a former Wisconsin Watch intern, reports that DOC will now report inmate deaths as COVID-19-related “if the virus was an underlying cause of death or a significant condition that contributed to death.” 

Criminal justice reform advocates have pushed Gov. Tony Evers for more transparency and to fulfill a campaign promise to cut the prison population, which they say could reduce the spread of COVID-19.

DOC had previously cited medical privacy laws in its efforts to keep inmate death figures secret — a rationale that open-records experts rejected. As of Friday, DOC reported 4,329 inmates have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with 953 staff reporting positive. 

Wisconsin’s coronavirus surge continues to accelerate outside of prisons as well. The Department of Health Services reported 5,096 new statewide infections on Friday — the second highest daily count on record. DHS also reported 24 new deaths from infected residents, bringing the state’s toll to 1,972 during the pandemic.

Top Stories

Flickr user Chad Davis

Green Bay Correctional Institution is one of three known prisons to have an inmate die after contracting COVID-19. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections on Friday reported for the first time that a total of five inmates have died so far because of COVID-19.

Wisconsin DOC releases data on COVID-19-related inmate deaths for first time; 5 are deadWisconsin State Journal

Five days in Wisconsin: More than 20,000 positive coronavirus tests, nearly 200 deathsMilwaukee Journal Sentinel 

A Green Bay doctor carries a list of patients he’s lost to COVID-19. He wants to know when people will finally take it seriously.Appleton Post-Crescent 

One boy with COVID-19 likely led to 116 positive cases at a Wisconsin summer camp, CDC report showsMilwaukee Journal Sentinel 

October was Wisconsin’s worst month for COVID-19 yet — and its surge is one of the biggest ever in the U.S.USA Today-Wisconsin 

Milwaukee contact tracers face backlog of nearly 1,600 cases as state reports 4,870 new cases and 51 deathsMilwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Badgers football COVID-19 outbreak up to 16 players, staff membersWisconsin State Journal 

As health officials raise alarm, Trump returns to Green Bay for campaign rallyGreen Bay Press-Gazette 

How virus politics divided a conservative town in Wisconsin’s northThe New York Times 

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“THIS IS REAL. But this isn’t about numbers. It’s about people. People you know and care about. Your mom. Your dad. Your grandparents. Your husband. Your wife. Your kids. Your partner. Your friends. Your neighbors. Your co-workers.”

Letter from southeast Wisconsin physicians, as reported by the Journal Times

“People need to limit their contact with other Wisconsinites — to the people that they live with …There aren’t ways around that. We’ve got to get together and do the work we need to do as a state to stop the spread. Whether it’s yesterday, last week, tomorrow, next Wednesday, that remains true.”

— Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm, speaking Friday at a media briefing

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