Governor Evers Declares State of Emergency
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers today declared a public health emergency in response to new cases of COVID-19, directing the Department of Health Services (DHS) to use all the resources necessary to respond to and contain the outbreak. Just this week, Wisconsin has had 5 new cases of COVID-19 and Illinois and Minnesota have also seen increased cases. With these new cases there needs to be extensive contact tracing to contain the spread of COVID-19. Wisconsin also has 37 residents returning to Wisconsin from the Princess Cruise Ship who may have been exposed and need to be in monitored self quarantine for 14 days.
“We have been working aggressively to slow the spread of COVID-19, and this declaration allows us to get the resources we need to continue to be proactive when it comes to protecting Wisconsinites,” said Gov. Evers. “It is the latest step in the work our state agencies have been doing around the clock with our healthcare partners to prepare for the possibility of COVID-19 becoming a global pandemic.”
The governor signed an executive order that directs DHS to take all necessary and appropriate measures to prevent and respond to incidences of COVID-19. It allows the Department to purchase, store, or distribute appropriate medications, regardless of insurance or other health coverage, as needed to respond to the emergency. It also authorizes state funds to support local health departments with costs related to isolation and quarantine, as well as the use of the Wisconsin National Guard.
Executive Order #72 can be found here.
Wisconsin's latest cases are in Piece, Dane, Fond du Lac, and Waukesha counties. The state's first confirmed case of COVID-19 was discovered in Dane County in early February. That patient was exposed to known cases while in China, and after isolating at home has now recovered and is doing well.
If COVID-19 begins to spread in Wisconsin communities, state and local public health officials will consider community interventions such as social distancing, replacing in-person meetings with telework when possible, reviewing workplace sick leave policies, modifying, postponing or canceling mass gatherings, implementing restrictions on visitors to residential treatment and living facilities, and closures of schools, childcare settings.
Decisions about the implementation of community measures will be made by state and local officials based on CDC and DHS guidance, as well as the scope of the outbreak.
People should follow simple steps to avoid getting sick, including:
Frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water.
Covering coughs and sneezes.
Avoiding touching your face.
Staying home when sick.
“This can be a frightening time, but our state has incredible health professionals who are working to contain the spread,” Gov. Evers said. “We cannot do this alone, we need all hands on deck to protect the public from COVID-19.”
Recently DHS released new guidance for mass gatherings and travel, which can be found at the DHS website linked below.
This is a rapidly evolving situation and we encourage you and the public to frequently monitor the DHS website for updates, and to follow @DHSWI on Facebook and Twitter, or dhs.wi on Instagram. Additional information can be found on the CDC website.
March 12 Letter from Governor Evers
I wanted to reach out to you today to give you an update on COVID-19 (formerly called the novel coronavirus). COVID-19 is a virus that has not previously infected humans and information about its rate of spread and its effects is still largely unknown, which makes it incredibly important to be highly cautious in dealing with the current situation. Given this, I wanted to give you an update on the work we’ve been doing so far, the current status of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, and the steps we are taking to keep families and communities safe.
As of today, there have been six people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Wisconsin. One of these individuals has already recovered. The Department of Health Services (DHS), my administration, and I are taking this issue very seriously, and are continuing to take precautions across Wisconsin. We have also been working with partners at the local and federal levels to provide the most accurate, up-to-date information possible. The information in this email is current as of this morning, March 12, 2020, but please know that as this is a rapidly evolving situation, there will continue to be updates and changes. You can also find the most current information on the DHS website, which has guidance that is updated regularly for travel, self-quarantine, and school districts, among other important information.
Earlier this month, I directed the DHS to provide the public and legislators from across the state an informational briefing and give an update on the status of COVID-19. Over the past few weeks, the DHS has also hosted regular informational calls to provide updates to members of the media so we can ensure folks across our state are receiving the most current information we have available. I have also participated in discussions with Vice President Mike Pence and senior administration officials to receive updates on the White House Coronavirus Task Force and to share how Wisconsin and other states are responding to COVID-19. I also know that addressing public health issues like COVID-19 requires collaboration and communication to ensure our efforts are efficient and effective. Members of my administration have been in regular contact with other elected officials and partners at the local, state, and federal levels, so we can work together on preventing and responding to COVID-19.
Making sure that folks have access to the healthcare resources, care, and treatment they need is critically important as we continue to work to manage the spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin. On March 6, Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable and I asked health plan issuers to help Wisconsinites access testing and treatment for COVID-19 and ensure that healthcare is as accessible as possible as we continue to monitor this situation.
We requested that health plan issuers waive cost-sharing for COVID-19-related laboratory testing and radiology services, prepare for increased demand for telehealth services, review readiness and responsiveness plans to new COVID-19 cases, and that health plan issuers cover the immunization for COVID-19—in the event that an immunization becomes available—at no cost-sharing for covered members. We also asked that health plan issuers be flexible on prescription drug supply limitations and early refill limitations so folks can get their medication as quickly as possible and without worrying about increased exposure or risk.
I have also been working with U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin to help secure federal funding to support our efforts in responding to COVID-19 in Wisconsin. On March 11, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that Wisconsin will be receiving more than $10.2 million to support our response and prevention efforts for COVID-19. My administration is working quickly to determine how to best allocate these resources toward prevention and response across our state.
On March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. I know that folks across our state continue to be concerned about the current status of COVID-19 and the work we are doing to prevent further spread in Wisconsin. Earlier today I hosted a press conference to give an update to the people of our state about COVID-19 and I also signed Executive Order #72, which declares a public health emergency in Wisconsin. Executive Order #72 directs the DHS to take all necessary and appropriate measures to prevent and respond to incidents of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, and suspends any administrative rules that the DHS finds would increase the health threat or prevent, hinder, or delay our response to the COVID-19 emergency. It also directs the Adjutant General of the Wisconsin National Guard to assist in our response to the public health emergency.
Additionally, the DHS also issued new guidance regarding mass gatherings, travel, and long-term care and assisted living facilities. Please see the DHS website for these updates. If you are interested in watching my press conference from earlier today, you can find the link on my Facebook page here.
We encourage you, your family members, and friends and neighbors to take the necessary precautions and preparations in the event of any continued spread of COVID-19. You can find some additional information below from the CDC as you take these important steps to protect yourselves and your family members.
As we continue to receive updates on the status of COVID-19, my administration will be continuing to work to ensure folks and families across Wisconsin have the most accurate and current information. If you have additional questions, please call 608-266-1865 or 800-947-3529. Thank you again for reaching out to my office.