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Wisconsin’s COVID-19 outbreak continues to grow

Wisconsin recorded more coronavirus infections, logging 1,865 COVID-19 cases Sunday on the heels of a five-day streak in which the state reported more than 2,000 cases each day, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.



a man standing in front of a car parked in a parking lot: People line up in their vehicles to undergo the coronavirus disease tests, distributed by the Wisconsin National Guard at the United Migrant Opportunity Services center, in Milwaukee, Oct. 2, 2020.


© Alex Wroblewski/Reuters
People line up in their vehicles to undergo the coronavirus disease tests, distributed by the Wisconsin National Guard at the United Migrant Opportunity Services center, in Milwaukee, Oct. 2, 2020.

In addition to rising case counts, the state’s seven-day average for positive COVID-19 tests was above 9% on Friday, nearly double the rate that health experts recommend.

A high positivity rate can be a sign that a state is only testing its sickest patients and failing to cast a net wide enough to accurately capture community transmission, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The World Health Organization recommends that governments get their positivity testing threshold below 5%.



a man standing next to a car in a parking lot: People line up in their vehicles to undergo the coronavirus disease tests, distributed by the Wisconsin National Guard at the United Migrant Opportunity Services center, in Milwaukee, Oct. 2, 2020.


© Alex Wroblewski/Reuters
People line up in their vehicles to undergo the coronavirus disease tests, distributed by the Wisconsin National Guard at the United Migrant Opportunity Services center, in Milwaukee, Oct. 2, 2020.

Following the spike in cases, Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, issued an emergency order and declared a public health emergency in the state on Sept. 22, including a statewide mask mandate. Republican members of Congress have since filed a lawsuit attempting to block Evers’ statewide mask mandate.

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“Wisconsin is in the midst of a pandemic that is growing at a near-exponential rate,” according to the governor’s office.

The governor also pointed the finger at college students who have returned to campus in person this fall. “College and university students are driving the increase in cases, with the highest rate of new COVID-19 cases in 18- to 24-year-olds,” according to the governor’s office.

“I am concerned about the alarming trends of COVID-19 we’re seeing across our state,” Evers said at a press conference last week. “The longer it takes for everyone to take COVID-19 seriously, the longer this virus will linger.”



a sign on the side of a building: The Neenah Public Library is closed to the public until further notice because of a spike of COVID-19 cases in the community. Apc Neenahlibrarycoronavirus 0316200085


© Dan Powers/Post Crescent via USA Today Network
The Neenah Public Library is closed to the public until further notice because of a spike of COVID-19 cases in the community. Apc Neenahlibrarycoronavirus 0316200085

Experts consider deaths from COVID-19 to be a lagging indictor of the outbreak’s severity, meaning that since deaths trail rising infections, positivity rates and hospitalizations, deaths typically reflect long-term trends, not in-the-moment severity.

As of Sunday, 1,377 people in Wisconsin had died of the virus, according to the health department.

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Mental health services disrupted during pandemic, as needs grow: WHO

GENEVA (Reuters) – Services for mentally ill and substance abuse patients have been disrupted worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the disease is expected to cause further distress for many, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

Only 7% of the 134 countries responding to the WHO’s survey

reported that all mental health services were fully open, with 93% reporting curtailed services for various disorders, it said.

“We think that this is a forgotten aspect of COVID-19, in a sense part of the challenges that we face is that this is an under-funded area historically,” Dévora Kestel, director of WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Use, told a news briefing.

Only 17% of countries have ensured additional funding to implement activities supporting growing mental health needs during the pandemic, she said.

“We estimate, and preliminary information is telling us, that there may be an increase in people with mental, neurological and substance abuse related conditions that will need attention,” Kestel said.

But WHO had no data on life-threatening consequences including any higher suicide rates, epileptic seizures or unmanaged opioid dependence that could lead to overdose, she said.

Many countries, especially low-income ones, maintained mental health services offered in general hospitals which remained opened, but many patients faced other challenges, the WHO said its first assessment.

“Travel restrictions were reported as the most common cause of disruption for 73 percent of low-income countries,” Kestel said.

Outpatient and community-based services, often in middle and high-income countries, were more affected, the WHO said.

But many wealthier countries made use of telemedicine and technologies to follow up on mental patients, it said.

“We see better coverage of alternative services in high-income countries and we need to make sure everybody has access to some kind of alternative,” Kestel said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Editing by William Maclean)

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Coronavirus hospitalizations grow in the Midwest amid climbing cases

Growing coronavirus outbreaks across the American West and Midwest have started to take an alarming turn as some states report growing Covid-19 hospitalizations and a shrinking supply of beds for patients. 

Six states reached record high Covid-19 hospitalizations, based on a weekly average to smooth out the reporting, as of Friday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project, an independent volunteer organization launched by journalists at The Atlantic.  

Most of the states are based in the Midwest, including Missouri, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota. 

There were at least 663 people in the hospital with Covid-19 in Wisconsin as of Friday, well beyond the state’s previous highs in April when roughly 400 people were hospitalized. Only 19% of the state’s hospital beds are available and 27% of the state’s Covid-19 patients are in the intensive-care unit, according to its data dashboard. 

In Missouri, there were at least 1,137 people hospitalized with Covid-19 on Friday, the state’s highest number of patients so far, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Missouri, which tracks the weekly average of coronavirus patients, has reported a steady increase in patients and a slight decline in available intensive-care unit beds since early September.

Public health experts watch hospitalizations closely because they can indicate how severe an outbreak is in an area. It’s considered a better measure than new cases because it’s not as reliant on the availability of testing. 

Nationwide, coronavirus cases were growing by 5% or more, based on a weekly average, in 27 states as of Friday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Kentucky, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Montana reached record-high averages. 

“What we’re seeing is community based transmission right now in the upper Midwest and the Northwest,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told lawmakers on Friday during a U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing. 

“What we’re facing now is just plain old community spread as we saw in the Southeast and Southwest that comes from individuals not practicing the three W’s: wash your hands, watch your distance, wear your face coverings.” 

Wisconsin reports ‘alarming trends’

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday urged residents to stay at home as much as possible and to wear face coverings when in public. Evers extended Wisconsin’s mask mandate last week as he warned of an “alarming increase” in cases across the state, especially on college campuses. 

“I’m concerned about the alarming trends of Covid-19 we’re seeing across our state,” Evers reiterated during a press briefing Thursday, a day after the state reported 27 new Covid-19 deaths — it’s highest daily total on record. 

Wisconsin reported 2,745 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, continuing a trend of climbing infections at a level the state has yet to witness in its response to the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins data. 

“For a long stretch there we were kind of smoldering along, but never really got to a point where we would say that our resources