Health departments recommend against trick-or-treat, but many communities set time windows anyway

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The state of Wisconsin is reaching a crisis point in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

a group of people wearing costumes: The Brandts, Zach (left), Brittany, Quinton and Brayden (right) all dress for the Menomonee Falls Downtown Trick or Treating on Oct. 25.

© C.T. Kruger/Now News Group
The Brandts, Zach (left), Brittany, Quinton and Brayden (right) all dress for the Menomonee Falls Downtown Trick or Treating on Oct. 25.

Particularly in northeastern Wisconsin, hospitals are filling up and cases continue to spiral out of control. Follow our updates on the impact of COVID-19 in the Milwaukee area and around the state of Wisconsin.

BY THE NUMBERS: Tracking coronavirus cases in Wisconsin

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RELATED: Cases around the United States and world

9:45 a.m.: Health officials don’t recommend trick-or-treat … but some community times are set anyway

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against door-to-door trick-or-treating this year, calling it a “higher-risk” activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services includes house-to-house trick-or-treating in a list of activities to avoid this year, along with large outdoor gatherings and indoor parties.

Some local health departments have followed suit.

But most communities are telling people to turn on their porch lights if they’re participating, and to respect the unlit porch lights of people who don’t want to participate this year.

Some communities have held off on deciding whether to schedule trick-or-treat times as COVID-19 cases spike throughout the state, and others have emphasized that things could change as Halloween gets closer. 

Find a list of trick-or-treat times and read more from Amy Schwabe.


5 p.m.: Associated Bank closes most of its lobbies to comply with state order

Associated Bank will close many of its lobbies in Wisconsin to comply with the state Department of Health Services order limiting indoor gatherings.

The company plans to fully reopen Nov. 9, “subject to public health conditions at that time,” it said in a statement.

Lobbies at some larger branches will remain open. Drive-thru windows, ATMs and night deposit boxes will remain in operation as well.

To check if your bank’s lobby is open, click here.

3:15 p.m.: State reports more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases for first time

Wisconsin on Thursday for the first time ever reported more than 3,000 coronavirus cases, the latest marker of the state’s spiraling health crisis.

The state Department of Health Services reported 3,132 new cases — more than 200 cases higher than the previous all-time high, logged on Oct. 3.

The state also reported 13,524 negative tests and nine deaths, bringing the death toll to 1,424.

The average daily case count over the last seven days was 2,381. That number is nearly three times the average daily count of 841 reported one month ago on Sept. 8.

The first day the state crested 2,000 cases was Sept. 17, and three weeks later it has topped 3,000.

Read the full story from Sophie Carson here.

10:25 a.m.: Aspirus Wausau opening additional COVID-19 unit

Aspirus Wausau hospital is opening an additional COVID-19 unit to accommodate the recent influx of infected patients needing care in the region. 

Andy Napgezek, director of system communications and community engagement, said the hospital is treating 33 people for COVID-19. The new unit will increase the number of COVID-designated beds to 61.

Aspirus President and CEO Matt Heywood said Monday that the hospital system has seen an “exponential” rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the last several weeks, and they expect those numbers to keep rising. Three weeks ago the hospital system was treating just 10 COVID-19 patients, he said.

Systemwide, Aspirus is now treating 74 patients with COVID-19, Napgezek said.

Read the full story from Melissa Siegler.

9:25 a.m.: Republicans staying quiet on effort to strike down mask mandate

Republicans who control the state Legislature are in court backing a lawsuit that would end Wisconsin’s face mask mandate at a time of record hospitalizations, deaths and new infections of coronavirus in the state. But they aren’t talking about it. 

Just 10 of the 81 GOP lawmakers who control the Legislature and whose leaders hired private attorneys at taxpayer expense to get involved in the lawsuit responded to questions from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to all state lawmakers about whether they support the action taken on their behalf.

The Republicans who were willing to share their views said they supported the legal action that would eliminate the mask requirement because Democratic Gov. Tony Evers did not have the power to issue it. Some said the move was not about masks.

Read the full story from Patrick Marley, Molly Beck and Eric Litke.

9:05 a.m.: Milwaukee will keep status quo on bar, restaurant restrictions

The City of Milwaukee announced Wednesday evening that it will continue to enforce its current coronavirus capacity order for bars and restaurants, despite the order from Gov. Tony Evers’ administration to limit the businesses to 25% capacity starting Thursday. 

In a statement, the Milwaukee Health Department said the Evers order permitted local municipalities to have more restrictive orders in place, and the city had determined its order fits that criteria.

The department determined that even though the city’s current order “permits a larger threshold of individuals in certain places than (Evers’ order) allows, the additional restrictions listed under the local order do more to prevent COVID-19 transmission than Governor Evers’ Emergency Order #3,” the Health Department said in a statement Wednesday evening. 

Those include requiring restaurants and bars to submit a “strenuous 80 point COVID checklist to the Health Department” in order to operate. 

Read the full story from Alison Dirr.

8:44 a.m.: Two inmates die of virus in Dodge County

At least two inmates of a Wisconsin prison have died after contracting the coronavirus, a medical examiner has confirmed.

The Dodge County Medical Examiner’s Office said two prisoners at the Dodge Correctional Institution died in September, according to reporting by Emily Hamer of the Wisconsin State Journal. The state Department of Corrections does not report the deaths because of privacy laws.

“As it relates to the death of any person in our care, the DOC is a HIPAA-covered entity and privacy protections prevent us from sharing information related to their medical diagnoses or cause of death,” DOC said in a Wednesday statement.

A 63-year-old man died Sept. 12 from COVID-19, Dodge County Medical Examiner PJ Schoebel said. He had preexisting health conditions, including diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, but Schoebel said an autopsy determined that the primary cause of death was COVID-19.

On Sept. 15, a 62-year-old man who tested positive for COVID-19 while incarcerated at Dodge Correctional died of lung cancer. The coronavirus infection was a contributing factor to his death, Schoebel said.

Two other Wisconsin prisons, Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution and Oshkosh Correctional Institution, are in the midst of large-scale COVID-19 outbreaks.

As of Wednesday, Kettle Moraine, in Sheboygan County, had 417 active cases among inmates, which is the largest outbreak in a Wisconsin prison yet.

Sheboygan County Medical Examiner Chris Nehring said there have been no reported COVID-19 deaths, or any deaths for that matter, at Kettle Moraine within the last six months.

The Winnebago County Coroner’s Office declined to comment on whether any COVID-19 deaths have occurred at Oshkosh Correctional, which had 344 active positive cases among inmates as of Wednesday.

— Associated Press

7:55 a.m.: Markesan Superintendent dies after COVID-19 battle

Markesan District Schools Superintendent Duane Bark died Wednesday after a three-month battle with COVID-19.

Brad Bark, Duane’s son, posted on Facebook around 7:45 p.m. that his dad had died.

“We are extremely thankful for the time we had with Dad here on earth,” the post said. “We will keep everybody posted on arrangements coming up in the near future. God bless you all and thank you so much for all of your prayers and stories and keeping BARKSTRONG!!!”

Bark was hospitalized since July. Elementary School Principal Jason Breaker is currently serving as interim district administrator.

Read the story from Jake Prinsen.

7:45 a.m.: Another testing site planned in South Shore

Three South Shore health departments are working together on a coronavirus testing site in one of the old Bucyrus buildings in South Milwaukee.

The Oak Creek, Cudahy and South Milwaukee/St. Francis health departments are collaborating on the site, which will include a drive-thru. Details such as when the facility will open and its hours are still being finalized.

Read the full story from Erik Hanley.


3:12 p.m.: Another 2,300 cases and 16 deaths Wednesday as virus spiral continues

Wisconsin’s coronavirus crisis is dire and is going to get worse before it improves, state health officials said Wednesday.

The warnings were paired with the announcement of an alternate care facility set to open next week at State Fair Park in West Allis, intended to help free up beds at hospitals inundated with coronavirus patients.

“Our state is in a dangerous place,” state Health Services Secretary Angela Palm said. “We are overwhelming our health care system.”

Hospitals in Wisconsin are treating nearly triple the number of coronavirus patients as a month ago, and they’re doing so with dwindling bed capacity and severe staffing shortages as hundreds of health care workers exposed to the virus in the community are forced to quarantine at home.

The state Department of Health Services on Wednesday reported 2,319 new coronavirus cases and 11,188 negative tests.

It also reported 16 deaths, bringing the death toll to 1,415.

Read the full story from Sophie Carson.

2:30 p.m.: State Fair field hospital to be erected for COVID overflow

Wisconsin is set to open a field hospital at State Fair Park next Wednesday as the state continues to face a surge of COVID-19 patients that is overwhelming hospitals — especially in the Fox Valley, Green Bay and Wausau areas.

The 530-bed state-run facility will serve patients who need help but aren’t in need of hospital-level care.

The move by Gov. Tony Evers to open an overflow facility comes one day after the number of people hospitalized due to the coronavirus in Wisconsin surpassed 800  — reaching an all-time high.

The total of 853 people receiving hospital care due to the virus on Tuesday represented an increase of 71 patients in a day and a jump of more than 200 in the last week. There were 261 coronavirus patients in ICUs Tuesday.

Read the full story from Molly Beck and Mary Spicuzza.

12:50 p.m.: MPS won’t move to hybrid model in October, stay all-virtual until further notice

Milwaukee Public Schools will continue with virtual instruction until further notice and not pivot to a hybrid model as hoped in October, citing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the need to keep students, families and employees safe.

MPS Superintendent Keith Posley announced the decision in a letter to parents on Monday, saying it was not taken lightly.

“The logistics involved in safely educating all our students every day in a pandemic are a challenge and we need to be able to safely transition between phases,” Posley said in the letter.

“Our families and staff make up a significant portion of the population of Milwaukee. Increasing the likelihood of students, families, and staff remaining COVID-19 free is important to the district,” it went on to say. “To that end, Milwaukee Public Schools will remain fully virtual until further notice.”

Marla Bronaugh, MPS’ chief communications and school performance officer, said the October date was a target, based on what was known at the time, but that the trajectory of the pandemic has changed that timeline.

“We felt it was important to give folks an update of where we are,” she said. “We made a good decision to start and remain virtual … seeing what’s gone on in other districts that are dialing back.”

The decision was made as coronavirus cases continue to spike across the state. On Tuesday, the state Department of Health Services reported 2,020 new cases and 18 deaths, bringing the death toll to 1,399. Milwaukee has been especially hard-hit, accounting for more than 22,000 of the state’s 136,379 cases, and its Black and Hispanic communities have been disproportionately impacted.

— Annysa Johnson

12:11 p.m.: Names of businesses linked to COVID outbreaks won’t be released for at least seven weeks

The names of businesses linked to COVID-19 cases, originally set to be released last week, will be delayed until at least late November while a lawsuit brought by the state’s largest business lobby moves forward.

Waukesha County Circuit Judge Lloyd Carter granted a request from Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce to extend a restraining order blocking the state health department from releasing the data at a hearing on Wednesday.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services was set to release the records last Friday in response to a public records request from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel filed in June for data on facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks.

During the hearing, Carter stated the data includes the names of approximately 1,000 businesses with 25 or more employees who have had at least two employees test positive. The records do not include data from the past 28 days.  

Read the full story by Daphne Chen.

11:30 a.m.: Greenfield Fire Department expresses frustration to Trump over lack of COVID prevention supplies

The Greenfield Fire Department took to Twitter to express frustration with Donald Trump and the supplies for COVID-19 prevention that they believed were heading their way.

“Glad you’re feeling better @realDonaldTrump,” the tweet began. “What would make us feel better is having the talked about and promised rapid Covid tests. When our members have any symptoms we need to know and rapid tests would ensure we can continue to serve our community. Still need N95s too.”

The tweet quoted a Sept. 29 tweet, also from the Fire Department, directing a similar inquiry toward Pres. Trump.

“@realDonaldTrump we could really use those promised Covid rapid tests to ensure our Firefighter/Paramedics can keep working,” it read. “When you mail the rapid tests, throw in some N95s, we need those too. DM us for our mailing address.”


5:45 p.m.: La Crosse County health department director tests positive for coronavirus

The La Crosse County Health Department director has tested positive for COVID-19.

The department announced the news on its Facebook page Tuesday.

Jen Rombalski, the director, was exposed to the coronavirus by someone in her home who was sickened while attending school.

Rombalski is recuperating at home, the department said, and no other staff members were exposed.

“We hope that sharing this will remind community members that COVID-19 can happen to anyone and that there is no stigma to being tested, diagnosed, or in speaking candidly to contact tracers,” the department said in its statement.

— Sophie Carson

4:35 p.m.: Daily new case volume back up over 2,000 in Wisconsin

As Gov. Tony Evers’ administration limited public gatherings Tuesday, the state continued to grapple with its worst outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Runaway case counts have led to a deluge of patients at hospitals, contact tracers unable to keep up with demand and a concerning rise in deaths. The outbreak is one of the worst in the country.

“We are seeing intense community spread in all age groups, in communities all across this state,” Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm said.

“We’ve gotten to a place where we’re having trouble keeping up,” Palm said.

The state Department of Health Services reported 2,020 new positive tests and 9,539 negative tests. The state reported 18 deaths, bringing the death toll to 1,399.

The average daily case count over the last seven days was 2,346. One month ago, near the start of Wisconsin’s most recent explosion of cases, it was 836.

Read the full story from Sophie Carson.

3:55 p.m.: Packers announce no fans at home games indefinitely

Facing local COVID-19 spread as bad as any NFL city on the map, the Green Bay Packers announced that their home games at Lambeau Field would not have fans in the stands, indefinitely.

“In order to host fans, the area will need to see a marked improvement in the rate of hospitalizations, as well as the community infection rate and positivity rate,” an organization release said.

“We are very concerned with the rate of infection in our area,” said Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy in the release. “We are trending in the wrong direction in terms of hospitalization and positive cases, and based on recommendations from community healthcare and public health officials, hosting fans at the stadium for games is not advisable at this time.”

As of Oct. 3, Green Bay has the worst 14-day avg. new daily cases per 100,000 residents (84.6) of all NFL cities, per the NFLPA.

Read the full story from Richard Ryman.

3:50 p.m.: Milwaukee cancels official trick-or-treating 

The City of Milwaukee has canceled trick-or-treating this year as Wisconsin’s surge in coronavirus cases shows no sign of improving.

Milwaukee will not have designated trick-or-treat times like it has had in the past and the activity will not be sanctioned by the city’s Health Department since it is deemed high-risk during the coronavirus pandemic, city officials said Tuesday.

City officials are also urging neighborhoods not to have their own door-to-door Trick-or-Treat activities.

“The city of Milwaukee Health Department does not support any trick-or-treating door-to-door, whether it be at any traditional time as we have known it to be in the past or any individual neighborhood times that we know happen sometimes the day before or the night-of,” Interim Health Commissioner Marlaina Jackson said.

Read the updating story from Mary Spicuzza and Alison Dirr.

2:20 p.m.: Theaters, music venues among those in line for new small-business grants

As the Wisconsin economy continue to struggle six months into the coronavirus crisis, Gov. Tony Evers has announced $109 million in new and renewed grant funding for small businesses.

Among those that stand to benefit: music venues, hotels, restaurants, bars, nonprofit cultural venues, and privately owned movie theaters.

“It’s really focused on our mom-and-pops, our Main Street businesses. We want to get dollars into their hands,” said Missy Hughes, CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. “These businesses are so stressed. It would really help with what they’re facing.”

The money for the grant programs is coming from funds earmarked by the federal CARES Act that passed in March. Talks in Washington on additional relief remain stalled. 

Read the full story from Piet Levy.

1:47 p.m.: Editorial: In refusing to work with governor, Scott Fitzgerald and Robin Vos have made things worse

Republicans in other states have taken strong action when faced with rising coronavirus cases. 

But in Wisconsin, Republicans who control the Legislature instead run to court to overturn an order by Gov. Tony Evers mandating face masks in public spaces.  

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald have offered NO plan of their own to fight the deadly virus. 

If you’ve been wondering why case counts rose exponentially during a terrible September in Wisconsin — far higher than surrounding states — look no further than this: 

Wisconsin has no statewide plan to fight coronavirus.

Read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial e 

1:31 p.m.: Evers announces reduction of capacity in restaurants, bars

 Gov. Tony Evers took action Tuesday to limit indoor gatherings including in bars and restaurants as coronavirus cases surge in the state and despite repeated legal challenges to such measures from Republicans. 

The move by his administration to cap businesses at 25% of capacity starting Thursday comes as Wisconsin suffers from some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the country and as the presidential campaign moves into its final phase. The limits do not apply to campaign events. 

The order by Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm puts back in place some restrictions the state hasn’t seen since May, when the state Supreme Court agreed with Republican lawmakers and threw out the administration’s stay-at-home order. 

Read the full story from Patrick Marley and Molly Beck.

12:53 p.m.: Here’s how rise in hospitalizations impacts you

 As coronavirus cases have soared in Wisconsin, some hospitals are treating several times the number of COVID-19 patients they were a month ago.

Some hospitals are reaching capacity, diverting other patients and experiencing severe staffing shortages as health care workers exposed to the virus in the community must quarantine at home.

Health officials are warning that the state’s health care system will become overwhelmed within weeks if residents do not adhere to social distancing guidelines and wear masks.

Here are some answers to questions about the recent surge in hospitalizations. Read the full story from Sophie Carson.

12 p.m.: More than 300 new coronavirus cases reported at Oshkosh prison

The Oshkosh Correctional Institution had an increase of more than 300 COVID-19 cases among inmates Monday, according to the state Department of Corrections.

The number of active cases at the prison grew from 22 Sunday to 341 Monday, an increase of 319, according to the Corrections Department.

It’s the second large current outbreak of cases in state prisons. There are 437 active cases at the Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution in Plymouth.

The Department of Corrections reports 908 active cases and 1,983 total cases in its system statewide since the pandemic began.

Read the full story here.

10:20 a.m.: Fiserv Forum, Miller Park won’t be used for early voting after all because of legal issues

Fiserv Forum and Miller Park will not be used for in-person absentee voting for the November election after all, the Milwaukee Election Commission announced Tuesday. 

Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg cited “legal challenge concerns” as the reason behind the change. 

“Unfortunately, the addition of these two sites could be legally challenged due to a recent court ruling, and we don’t want to do anything that could risk a City of Milwaukee voter’s ballot (not) being counted,” she said in a statement. 

Follow the updating story from Alison Dirr.

8:50 a.m.: Brown County voters will be asked about powers of local health officials in referendum

Voters in Brown County will see a referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot asking whether they support a change in state statute that governs the powers of local health officials. 

The question appears on the ballot as follows:

Should Wisconsin State Statutes be amended to provide County Boards of Supervisors with a mechanism to approve or overturn any actions taken by County Health Officers that impose county wide restrictions on citizens and/or businesses, or that require county wide closure of businesses?

It’s only an advisory referendum, meaning the results will be conveyed to state lawmakers and won’t produce any changes by itself. 

Read the full story from Haley BeMiller.

7:15 a.m.: Health experts targeting much higher volume of flu vaccinations

With Wisconsin currently one of the nation’s top hot spots for the coronavirus, people sick with flu could overburden a health care system that’s already bursting in several communities in the state.

While some states have reported temporary shortages of flu vaccines in recent weeks, a spot check of health care providers and pharmacies in southeastern Wisconsin is not showing a similar shortage here. 

A record number of doses of flu vaccine are being manufactured this year — between 194 million and 198 million in the United States, with shipments staggered throughout the fall by pharmaceutical companies.

The Milwaukee Health Care Partnership, a group of around 50 hospitals and clinics, public health departments, retail pharmacies, community groups, insurance companies and medical schools, has discussed ways to get as many people vaccinated for the flu as possible this fall, said Greg Stadter, the partnership’s program director.

Read the full story from Meg Jones.

6:45 a.m.: Policymakers have stood still while coronavirus rages in Wisconsin

When Florida, Arizona and Texas were faced with a surge in coronavirus cases this summer, governors took action by closing bars, limiting seats in restaurants or requiring face masks to bring their caseloads down. 

But with Wisconsin now one of the worst COVID-19 hot spots in the country, Republicans who control the Legislature are in court trying to throw out Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate — the only weapon the governor is wielding — and aren’t putting forward any other strategies to combat the outbreak. 

The partisan battle with Evers over the statewide mask mandate comes after another fight the governor lost with the GOP over his stay-at-home order and leaves the state with few game-changing moves it can make in the face of crowded hospitals and rising case counts. 

“I think, unfortunately, more people are going to have to die before our policymakers accept we need laws and policies that improve the health and safety of our state” — when lawmakers are personally tied to a person who has died or has been hospitalized, said Patrick Remington, former epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s preventive medicine residency program.

Read the full story from Molly Beck and Patrick Marley.


3:33 p.m.: Bishop in Green Bay says Catholics at liberty to avoid in-person Mass

Bishop David L. Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay announced he is reinstating the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass due to concerns about the continued escalation in the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The dispensation takes effect immediately and will remain in effect until further notice.

“This is NOT a closure of public Masses on Sundays or weekdays,” a release noted. “We will continue to celebrate the Mass publicly every Sunday at all of our parishes for those who are able to attend and willing to strictly follow the proper health protocols including social distancing of 6 feet, hand sanitizing, mandatory masks and building disinfection following each Mass.”

In September, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki reinstated the obligation of local Catholics to attend Mass, saying it was a “grave sin” to deliberately miss.

2:48 p.m.: Monday numbers show Wisconsin still among nation’s worst virus spots

Wisconsin reported 1,696 new coronavirus cases Monday as the virus continued to rampage across the state.

The state Department of Health Services also reported four deaths, bringing the death toll to 1,381.

Mondays typically turn out the lowest case counts of the week, as fewer tests are conducted and processed over the weekend. Still, the nearly 1,700 tests reported Monday make it the second-highest Monday case count ever — behind only last week.

The number of new daily cases over the last seven days was 2,395. The seven-day average statistic is meant to smooth out anomalies in the data and better represent current trends.

On Monday the state ranked third in the U.S., behind North and South Dakota, in a New York Times analysis of highest weekly case counts per capita.

The Oshkosh, Green Bay and Appleton metro areas were among the top five metro areas in the country with the highest daily case counts when adjusting for population, according to the New York Times. Seven metro areas in Wisconsin made the top 20. No other state had more than two metro areas on the list.

Read the full story from Sophie Carson.

2:13 p.m.: Sen. Ron Johnson said virus diagnosis won’t keep him from voting in person on Supreme Court justice

Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said Monday that he would vote in-person to confirm U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett even if he’s still testing positive for coronavirus. 

“If we have to go in and vote, I’ve already told leadership I’ll go in a moon suit,” Johnson said during a talk radio interview with The Ross Kaminsky Show.

Johnson, who announced Saturday that he had tested positive for COVID-19, again stressed that he was not experiencing symptoms.

Specifically asked if would find a way to go and vote in-person even if he tested positive the day before the vote, Johnson said, “I would certainly try to find a way — making sure that everybody was safe.”

He compared it to a trip he planned to make Monday to his doctor’s office, saying, “Where there’s a will there’s a way. We can do these things.”

Read the full story from Mary Spicuzza and Daniel Bice.

12:39 p.m.: Milwaukee courts moving ahead with more jury trials, including at Zoofari center

While COVID-19 spikes around Wisconsin, Milwaukee County’s courts system is moving forward with plans for more jury trials, including at the Zoofari Conference Center.

Courthouses and nearly everything that goes on in them shut down abruptly in mid-March as the broader public suddenly understood the danger and import of the coronavirus pandemic.

After weeks of planning and courtroom modifications, some limited criminal jury trials were held starting in late July. 

Phase two of the plan to return to pre-pandemic court operations began last week, and Monday, it expanded to include space at the Zoofari Conference Center, a county-owned facility at 9715 W. Bluemound Road, just outside the entrance to the Milwaukee County Zoo.

Chief Judge Mary Triggiano said the center will host trials over terminations of parental rights, and petitions for children in need of protective services, which normally would take place at the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center less than two miles away, at 10201 W. Watertown Plank Road.

Zoofari will also host jury selection for more complex civil trials, which would be held in a downtown courtroom while the jury watches on iPad-type devices in another courtroom across the hall. The unusual approach helps assure proper social distancing that cannot be achieved when all trial participants are in a single courtroom.

The courthouse complex’s largest courtrooms have been set aside for jury trials in criminal cases, where hundreds of defendants have been backlogged, and kept jailed, because their rights to speedy trials were denied during the early months of the pandemic.

Jury trials for those cases resumed in July, with judges sharing two of the largest courtrooms, which required tighter planning and scheduling via a spread sheet matrix showing which weeks which judge gets a chance to hold a jury trial.

— Bruce Vielmetti

12:16 p.m.: Testing site in Oshkosh hit with long wait times

The COVID-19 regional testing site in Oshkosh was experiencing wait times of three to four hours Monday morning, according to the Winnebago County Health Department.

The drive-up testing site at Sunnyview Expo Center, run by the National Guard, is the only public testing site in the Fox Valley, which has seen an explosion in cases in recent weeks. Other testing sites in the area are associated with hospital systems or pharmacies and require appointments.

“We are asking that people please be patient and plan accordingly if they are heading to the testing site. Staff is working as efficiently as possible to get through the large number of cars waiting in line,” the Winnebago County Health Department said in a news release.

The health department asked people to register for a test online to help the line of cars move more quickly. Register here.

The expo center is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Find other testing sites in the Fox Valley here.

— Sophie Carson

11:33 a.m.: Aspirus Hospitals see ‘exponential’ spike in COVID patients

 Aspirus hospital system has seen a significant jump in the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to its hospitals over the last three weeks, and health officials expect numbers to keep rising.

Matt Heywood, president & CEO of Aspirus, said at a news conference Monday morning that three weeks ago the entire hospital system was treating only 10 COVID-19 patients. That number has jumped to anywhere between 60-80 people being treated throughout the system at a time. About 25-35 of those patients are being treated at Aspirus Wausau Hospital.

“So, this increase has been exponential,” Heywood said.

The virus is affecting people of all ages, Heywood said. About 50% of COVID-19 patients in the hospital system are 70 years old or older. Another 30-35% are 50-69 years old. And 15-20% of patients are 49 years old or younger.

Aspirus has six hospital locations in northern Wisconsin, including Stevens Point and Wausau.

Read the full story from Melissa Siegler.

8:41 a.m.: Waukesha County Expo Center to host two new testing dates

There will be two new free COVID-19 testing dates, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 5 and Oct. 6 at the Waukesha County Expo Center, 1000 Northview Road, Waukesha.

Read the full story from Cathy Kozlowicz.

SUNDAY: Streak of 2,000 new cases ends, but numbers still alarming

State health officials reported 1,865 more cases of COVID-19 Sunday, following a five-day streak of more than 2,000 cases reported in a day.

The 1,865 cases account for 17.2% of the 10,815 test results reported by the state Department of Health Services Sunday. It follows Saturday’s single-day record number of cases at 2,892.

DHS reported five more deaths, bringing the death toll to 1,377 statewide.

— Read the full story from Benita Mathew

SUNDAY: Sauk County health officer, citing ‘political gamesmanship,’ resigns

A county health official in Wisconsin says he’s frustrated with the lack of leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and is quitting.

Sauk County Health Officer Tim Lawther said in a resignation letter that the virus is being turned into “a political tool,” the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

“The political gamesmanship has empowered some County Supervisors to demand retraction of evidence-based public health guidance,” Lawther wrote. “It has encouraged and rewarded political allies to rail against science and data-driven measures to protect our neighbors. It has emboldened others to think it is appropriate to treat public health professionals with disrespect and disdain when they are just trying to do their jobs with skill and grace.”

The letter, dated Sept. 14, said Lawther plans to step down on Oct. 14.

Sauk County Board Chair Tim McCumber said Lawther’s handling of the pandemic response was likely off putting to some due to his personality. McCumber said another problem was the size of the Sauk County Board of Supervisors, a group of people with varying viewpoints, and it was difficult to reach a unanimous consensus.

The board itself was motivated to “find that perfect balance” between allowing businesses to operate and keeping the public safe, McCumber said.

“It’s been tough,” he said.

— Associated Press

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Coronavirus in Wisconsin: Health departments recommend against trick-or-treat, but many communities set time windows anyway

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