White House COVID-19 report calls Wisconsin case growth ‘unrelenting’

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WASHINGTON (WKOW) — The White House paints a bleak picture of the state of the coronavirus pandemic in a guidance document sent to governors and obtained by ABC News.

The document summarizes how each state is handling the pandemic and makes recommendations.

The report characterizes the rise of new COVID-19 cases over the last two months as “unrelenting.” Wisconsin has the fifth most cases per capita in the nation.

Over the past three weeks, Wisconsin had 825 new cases for every 100,000 residents. The national average is 294.

Deaths and hospitalizations are several times higher than the previous peaks the state saw in the spring and summer.

Between Nov. 2 and Nov. 8, one-in-three nursing homes, which can house many people most at-risk of dying from COVID-19, reported at least one resident with a new COVID-19 case. Seventy percent had one or more staff members contract the disease.

“We share the strong judgement of Wisconsin leaders that the current situation is critical and that additional measures can limit further cases, hospitalizations, and deaths,” the White House report said in its “Recommendations” section.

The White House “commended” Gov. Tony Evers’ efforts to combat the disease, but noted that “further mitigation measures are needed.”

The report calls out expanding contact tracing as an important step the state can take to get a handle on the virus’ spread. Several counties, including Dane, have announced that they can no longer keep up with new cases and may not be able to contact trace every single person who tests positive.

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In October, Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services (DHS) said it had 1,200 contact tracers after over 4,500 applied for the job in May. DHS cited many in the job were too inexperienced, had to be fired or quit due to the difficulty of the work.

Over the summer, contact tracers noted that they were meeting resistance from some who did want to name those with whom they had come into contact.

The White House said Wisconsin should further expand its testing capacity given how aggressive the virus seems to be spreading in the state.

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