Improving projection should encourage more social distancing, say Milwaukee County officials

Improving projection should encourage more social distancing, say Milwaukee County officials

While a national model is showing Wisconsin hitting its peak for COVID-19 sooner than expected, health experts and elected officials called for continued social distancing and noted that modeling doesn’t take into effect in-person voting during Tuesday’s primary and elections.

Revised modeling from the University of Washington shows Wisconsin hitting its peak resource use on Monday, with fewer hospital resources than previously anticipated.

Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management, said the county has been using this model as well as others, including one created by the Medical College of Wisconsin and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“Unfortunately, none of the other models were quite as hopeful,” he said. “And of course, none of the models predicted or integrated a mass gathering event of the size and scope as took place yesterday as we saw thousands of people gathering together to cast their ballots in person.”

Weston said the model was “encouragement” for people to stay at home and not loosen restrictions.

“We’re on the right path, but we need to stay the course,” he said.

Ann Christiansen, director of the North Shore Health Department, said that some of the models assume that social and physical distancing measures are in place for “quite some time” including through May.

“We’re optimistic, but we’re not thinking that once we’ve reached that peak, that this is really the end point, that all of this will be lifted and life will go back to normal,” Christiansen said. “Life will probably go back to normal in a slow way where we begin to lift things one at a time and see the impacts of those in some gradual way. And we don’t yet have a sense of what that will be.”

Milwaukee County officials urged continued social distancing efforts.

“There is one takeaway and one alone that can responsibly be made from that study and that is we absolutely have to stay exactly as vigilant as we have been,” County Executive Chris Abele said. “We have to maintain that because the model will change in a heartbeat.”

Dr. John Raymond, Medical College of Wisconsin CEO, said that the amount it takes for COVID-19 cases to double in Milwaukee and Wisconsin is around 5.7 days, which he called “excellent news.”

He’d like to see the doubling time go to a week as soon as possible to avoid overwhelming the capacity of intensive care units and ventilators in the Milwaukee area. Raymond spoke during a daily webinar hosted by MCW and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

Weston told reporters that health systems in the Milwaukee area have expanded capacity, increasing the number of standard beds by 50 percent and their intensive care unit beds by 100 percent.

They have “several hundred ventilators” in the county, and they’re continuing to gather numbers and look into other options for ventilators as well, he said

There were 1,500 confirmed cases and 67 deaths in Milwaukee County as of Thursday morning.

There were 30,115 negative tests, 2,756 positive tests and 99 deaths, the Department of Health Services reported Wednesday. There were 790 hospitalizations, about 29 percent of positive cases.

Wisconsin Health News is removing the password on all stories related to the coronavirus. For the latest developments follow us on Twitter at @wihealthnews or check out our website. For complete healthcare coverage, sign up for a free trial to our daily email newsletter. 


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