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Officials: 216 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state; 3,455 negative tests

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MADISON -- The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and local officials announced on Friday, March 20 there are now 216 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the state. To date, there have been 3,455 tests for COVID-19 that have come back negative, according to state officials.

There have been three deaths in the state as of Friday morning. The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office (MCMEO) on Friday said they are investigating the death of a 66-year-old man from complications of COVID-19. The man was a Milwaukee resident and had been hospitalized for several days prior to his death. The first death was a male in his 50s from Fond du Lac County. The second death was a male in his 90s from Ozaukee County.

"Unfortunately, this number is expected to rise -- and things will get worse before they get better," Gov. Tony Evers said. "Our hearts go out to the families and communities mourning these loved ones."

Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm also cautioned that the worst was yet to come.

“Sadly these deaths will not be our only deaths, we will see more," she said.

There are 2,500 ICU hospital beds in Wisconsin and 620 ventilators, but those will not be enough to deal with an expected surge in patients, Palm said.

Evers and state health officials also said Friday that the state continues to face a shortage of tests and equipment for health care workers treating the sick.

Gov. Evers, DHS announce updates to mass gatherings order

Gov. Tony Evers on Friday, March 20 directed Palm to issue updates to the previous order prohibiting mass gatherings of 10 or more people.

The updated order maintains the ban on gatherings of 10 or more people and indefinite school closures, but includes some important changes and clarifications:

  • Treats bars and restaurants are the same. Bars will be able to have carryout sales of alcohol and food, if allowed by local ordinances and state law. This will help ensure thousands of establishments can stay in business during this unprecedented health emergency.
  • Media and news organizations can remain open to provide the public with vital information.
  • Laundromats may remain open.
  • Banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions may remain open if they practice social distancing.
  • All parts of the food delivery system – from farms to stores – may remain open.
  • Clarifies that cafeterias in healthcare facilities may remain open to serve our healthcare workers.
  • Allied health professions, such as acupuncturists, are unaffected by the mass gathering ban.
  • All parts of our transportation system can continue to serve our economy.
  • Any facility used for in-person absentee voting or as a polling location may remain open for voting, except for sites at long-term care and assisted care facilities.
  • Hair salons, day spas, nail salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors, body art establishments, and tanning facilities must close effective 5 pm on Fri., March 20, 2020.

All gatherings that bring together or are likely to bring together 10 or less people in a single room or confined space, whether inside or outside, at the same time must preserve social distancing and follow all other public health recommendations issued by DHS or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Voluntary cancellation, closure, or limitations on the size of gatherings beyond the requirements of this order are permitted and encouraged.

People should follow simple steps to prevent illness and avoid exposure to this virus including:

  • Avoid social gatherings with people of all ages (including playdates and sleepovers, parties, large family dinners, visitors in your home, non-essential workers in your house);
  • Frequent and thorough handwashing with soap and water;
  • Covering coughs and sneezes;
  • Avoiding touching your face;
  • Staying home when able.
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