RACINE — Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave on Wednesday called for more state funding for local public health departments to battle the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
By state law, local health departments are charged with performing communicable disease investigations and promptly taking all measures necessary to prevent, suppress and control communicable disease, such as case investigation and contact tracing.
“Our health departments have worked tirelessly to protect our communities and mitigate the impact of the coronavirus in Racine County,” Delagrave said. “Ensuring health departments are properly funded is crucially important for the safety of our residents.”
Given the experience in disease investigation — as well as long-standing relationships with local health care providers, law enforcement, schools, long-term care facilities, and other partners — officials believe the COVID-19 response is best performed and funded at the local level.
Local officials, including the Central Racine County Board of Health, have asked that a greater allocation of state money geared toward battling COVID-19 be allocated to local health departments.
“We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with state officials in the battle against COVID-19,” Delagrave said.
There were no new COVID-19 deaths reported in Racine County as of Wednesday afternoon.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported Tuesday that 246 people had died from COVID-19 in the state, an increase of four since the day prior. The previous day-to-day difference was 12 people.
There were 4,845 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin, 225 more than on Tuesday. The number of confirmed cases in all of Racine County had reached 213 as of Wednesday afternoon, an increase of 20 cases since Tuesday. There were 70 probable cases in the county at that time as well.
There were 1,302 Wisconsinites hospitalized for the disease as of Wednesday afternoon, making up 27% of confirmed cases.
A total of 49,502 people in Wisconsin have tested negative for the disease.
Racine County began reporting probable cases on Monday in addition to confirmed cases. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 108 confirmed and 32 probable cases with the City of Racine Health Department’s jurisdiction, which includes Racine, Elmwood Park and Wind Point. There were 105 confirmed cases and 38 probable cases in the jurisdiction of the Central Racine County Health Department, which covers the rest of the county. There have been four deaths within the city Health Department’s jurisdiction and six within the rest of the county for a total of 10 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the county.
Racine County is defining probable cases as: ”symptomatic individuals who have not been tested but presumed positive because they had direct contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.”
In Racine County’s neighboring counties, the DHS reported: 278 confirmed cases in Kenosha County with six total deaths; 94 in Walworth County with seven total deaths; 278 in Waukesha County with 13 total deaths; and 2,304 confirmed cases in Milwaukee County.
There have been 142 deaths in Milwaukee County, the highest number in any of the state’s 72 counties. The Milwaukee County death toll has increased by three since Tuesday.
Don’t avoid hospital in emergency cases
Ascension Wisconsin officials are urging those who are experiencing symptoms of potentially life-threatening medical conditions not to delay treatment due to the pandemic.
For people experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, stroke, mental health or other acute illness or injury, a hospital emergency room is still the safest, most appropriate place to get care, Ascension Wisconsin said in a press release issued Wednesday. If someone is experiencing a life-threatening emergency, difficulty breathing, or warning signs of a heart attack or stroke, they should not delay, but go directly to the emergency room or dial 911.
Even though hospitals are caring for patients with COVID-19, clinicians want to reassure the public that individuals who need emergency care should not delay treatment.
“We are seeing a concerning drop in the number of people coming in for serious non-COVID-related issues,” said Dr. Gregory Brusko, chief clinical officer at Ascension Wisconsin. “Staying home, ignoring the symptoms and suffering out of fear of COVID-19 is a risk people shouldn’t take with their health. Timely treatment is critically important for achieving the best outcomes and lessening the risk of complications. We are prepared and set up to safely treat patients who require emergency care. No patient should delay their care in an emergency.”
Hospitals are equipped to safely protect patients from potential exposure to COVID-19 while taking care of their chest pain, stroke symptoms, traumatic injuries, emotional and mental health and any other acute medical or emergent surgical needs. Separate intake and care areas, waiting room distancing, staff screening, ongoing use of personal protective equipment, as well as extensive safety and sanitization protocols, are in place to ensure all patients are cared for in a protected environment.
“It’s critical to go to the ER if you are experiencing symptoms like pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back; shortness of breath; or nausea or lightheadedness, as these all may be signs of a heart attack,” said Dr. Beth Griffin, emergency medical director at Ascension All Saints Hospital. “The types of symptoms that required emergency care in the past still require emergency care now. Our hospitals and catheterization labs are still treating patients suffering heart attack and stroke, and we are taking the utmost precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Gateway provides details on graduation
The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order, has prompted Gateway Technical College officials to hold the college’s spring commencement in a virtual format, the college announced Wednesday.
The ceremony, which graduates can share with friends and loved ones, will be posted for viewing starting at 5 p.m. May 19 and will be available online until June 19.
An in-person celebration is planned to be held at a future date still to be determined.
“Gateway is committed to honoring and celebrating our students’ accomplishments,” said Stacy Riley, vice president of student services and enrollment management, in a press statement. “This decision was made to protect the health and well-being of our students, their families and faculty and staff while celebrating our students.”
All summer 2019, fall 2019 and spring 2020 graduates, as well as all summer 2020 graduates on track to graduate by March 31, will automatically be included in the ceremony.
All eligible graduates will have the chance to submit a personal message and a photo to be used in the ceremony. Family and friends will be able to comment on the graduates’ messages to offer their congratulations. Gateway will soon announce how the college will handle caps and gowns for graduates.
Commencement speakers will be recorded ahead of time and posted as part of the ceremony. Graduates will receive a link to the ceremony that they can share with others.
Graduates with questions are urged to contact the Gateway Registrar’s office at email@example.com.
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