Monday, May 25, 2020

Safer at Home was controlling COVID-19 in Wisconsin. Will the coming weeks reverse that?

As our Holiday weekend wraps up, I wanted to look at how Wisconsin was managing the COVID-19 pandemic, now that we are 12 days away from the Wisconsin Supreme Court's 4-3 decision to strike down the state's Safer at Home laws. The two largest cities of Milwaukee and Madison are still under restrictions (at least through tomorrow), but other places were throwing that caution to the wind.

It's almost like the Evers Administration had a reason behind waiting until after Memorial Day to lift Safer at Home. Almost.

What's extra concerning about this (beyond the selfishness that bleeds through these pictures) is that Walworth County had one of the highest rates of COVID-19 infections in the state before this weekend. In fact, Walworth County has had more new cases of COVID-19 than Dane County in 4 of the last 6 weeks, despite Dane County having 425,000 more people.

We've also seen the state's number of new cases rise in the last 4 weeks, with more than 9,000 new diagnoses.

But most of that statewide increase isn't a reflection of the outbreak growing in May, as much as it is that more cases are being diagnosed due to more Wisconsinites being tested. According to the Department of Health Services, the number of COVID-19 tests in Wisconsin has more than tripled compared to what we were doing at the end of April.

This means that the rate of positive tests among Wisconsinites has fallen in each of the last 4 weeks, and at half the rate that we had in early April, as the pandemic was starting to take hold.

The other good sign is that despite more people testing positive for COVID-19, we have seen the amount of deaths stay at the same levels after a one-week bump in late April.

This indicates that the state is more likely catching infections early on, and that things were trending in the right direction when it came to controlling the pandemic in the state (outside of a few breakout areas). As this graphic shows, Wisconsin had a lower incidence of infections than all other Midwestern states going into this weekend.

But now we find out if the progress that we'd been making in staying clean gets reversed due to the decisions of morons in towns that are "opened up". And if in the next 3 weeks we see a spike in cases or, God forbid, deaths, then the Republican legislators and "justices" that allowed it to happen need to be held responsible.

It's sort of a sick experiment to see what happens in the state between now and June 15, and to use it as a guide for how much we can reopen vs how much it endangers people. For the sake of the state's public health, the GOPs better hope they are right, and any damage is small. Especially because Safer at Home had been working well in Wisconsin before it was struck down.

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