Dane County and Madison health care officials are telling residents to limit travel, self-quarantine themselves if they are ill, and stay away from large gatherings of people to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
With two confirmed cases coronavirus in Dane County as of March 11, Dane County officials are setting up an emergency command center and need the public’s help in slowing down the spread of the virus.
“We want to do everything we can do to get out ahead of this and keep as many people safe as possible from getting the virus and doing everything within our power to manage the situation appropriately,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi at a March 11 press conference with Dane County public health officials.
One Dane County resident who tested positive for the virus in February is now virus-free, the other person who contracted the virus while traveling in the United States is isolated at home, said Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison and Dane County. She said people who were in contact with the patient are being notified.
State health officials announced on Wednesday, March 11 that three more people in Wisconsin tested positive. Dane County and Madison health officials said taking precautions now will prevent a community spread of the virus.
“While a person’s chances of chances of getting sick from coronavirus in Wisconsin are still low right now, we need to ask everyone to be a public health practitioner and follow our recommendations to prevent widespread illness in the future,” Heinrich said at Wednesday’s press conference.
Older people and people with health conditions—heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes, to name a few—are at higher risk of getting coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports. Currently, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medication approved to treat it, the CDC reports.
On Tuesday the World Health Organization (WHO) declared coronavirus a pandemic, as local authorities lay out plans to protect residents.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers declared a state of emergency Thursday with the new COVID-19 cases announced, directing resources and efforts to fight the virus statewide. He said 37 Wisconsin residents are returning from Princess Cruise Ship that may have been exposed and will be under self-quarantine for two weeks. Later Thursday, two new cases in Dane County were announced.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison announced on Tuesday that it will cancel in-person classes starting March 23 until at least April 10 because of virus fears.
Dane County health officials say residents should also be prepared to work from home if their job allows, have an alternative plan if day cares close, and self-quarantine themselves for 14 days if they travel domestically or internationally to places that have high coronavirus outbreaks.
Parisi said based on public health recommendations, Dane County government employees will be restricted from traveling for work to states with 10 or more COVID-19 cases.
“Should community spread of this virus occurs, the demand on public services will be exponentially greater,” Parisi said. “So we need to do our best to keep the people to deliver those services.”
Public health officials encourage employers and institutions to provide work-from-home options for employees, paid sick leave and flexible healthcare policies.
With Wisconsin’s April 7 general spring election looming, Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell alerted municipal clerks this week to have a back-up election poll location ready if they use a health facility as a polling place. They were also told to expect a shortage of poll workers because of coronavirus concerns.
Parisi said that state and local authorities, with CDC and DHS guidelines, will determine if other measures are taken, including cancellation of large events of gathering.
People who show symptoms of fever, cough or difficulty breathing, and think they were exposed to the coronavirus, are encouraged to call ahead to their health care provider before a visit. Dr. Amy Franta, Vice-president of Medical Affairs at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital said that will allow for the patient to be seen in an alternative site away from other patients and prepare hospital staff to protect themselves.
Infectious disease health experts from UW Health, SSM Health, UnityPoint Health-Meriter at Wednesday’s press conference, emphasized that they are working together to prepare for the coronavirus.
Dr. Nasia Safdar, UW Health Medical Director of Infection Control and Prevention said hospitals are concentrating on making sure there is enough capacity to treat and isolate coronavirus patients, protect healthcare employees from getting the virus, and securing enough inventory for personal protective equipment for employees to take care of sick patients.