Officials: Wave of COVID-19 cases related to in-person voting still possible, ‘too early to know’

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MILWAUKEE -- Despite the lowest one-day increase in cases in the state Monday, Milwaukee County health officials said they are still expecting a formal peak in COVID-19 cases.

Thousands lined up to vote last Tuesday, April 7. Milwaukee County health officials said it won't be until the coming days or early next week that people could start to see cases of the coronavirus related to in-person voting emerge.

Darren Rausch

"Any blip that we will see due to the election is probably still yet to come," Darren Rausch, Greenfield public health officer, said.

The lowest one-day case increase in Milwaukee County is also being looked at as an outlier, despite evidence that the Safer at Home order is pushing the trend of cases downward.

"Our counts in Milwaukee County are doubling about every 8.5 days in terms of cases," said Rausch. "By comparison, in the first week and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic in the county, our case counts were doubling in less than two days."

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett pointed to two areas Tuesday where significant gains have been made since the early days of the pandemic -- coordination of healthcare resources and preparing for an alternate care facility.

"In the week since election day, we've had 560 additional cases. 42 additional deaths since election day. I don't think anybody is pretending we're out of the woods, yet," Barrett said.

Tom Barrett

Barrett also said that symptomatic testing capacity must be boosted: "We're not at the point where we're doing all of that. We need to get beyond that so we can contain this and get our economy going again."

Health officials said limited testing, especially early on, means that deaths have been potentially undercounted -- especially unattended deaths or deaths among people who were already terminally ill from another disease.

"It's just too early to know in the pandemic, for sure," said Rausch.

What is known is that social distancing is essential in the days and weeks ahead. Health officials said they have updated patient questionnaires to ask if those who are being tested voted and voted in-person.

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