By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
As coronavirus or COVID-19 continues to spread, Milwaukee residents are remaining in quarantine. Earlier this week, city and county officials held a virtual press conference to address some of the updates and ever-changing circumstances surrounding coronavirus.
County Executive Chris Abele kicked the conference off. Abele noted that cases in Milwaukee are continuing to grow. There’s been over a thousand confirmed cases and deaths have reached over 50.
The number of cases in the African American community remain disproportionally high, he said. However, he noted, its essential that Milwaukeeans continue the behavior and actions they are currently doing.
“Anytime we’re talking about even what looks like a daily slow in the increase of cases that is never a reason for anyone to feel any less vigilant,” Abele said. “If anything, it is crucially important we maintain same level of vigilance.”
As part of this vigilance, the Milwaukee County Department of Transportation has made some changes.
Donna Brown-Martin, the director for the Milwaukee County Department of Transportation, said that effective Thursday, April 9, only 10 passengers will be allowed on a bus at a time. Milwaukee County Transit System will be adding extra buses on streets with high ridership.
Abele said this isn’t to hinder people but rather to continue to slow the spread of infection.
“Transit is there for essential rides,” Abele said, adding that riders should exercise caution if a bus looks too full.
Abele then handed the mic off to Mayor Tom Barrett.
Barrett said he’s hoping Milwaukee will reach the peak of this pandemic soon, in order for things to start returning to normal.
That is, once the peak is reached its expected that things will begin to slow down.
Dr. Ben Weston, the director of medical services for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management, noted that there has been a lot of questions surrounding the end of social distancing, when Milwaukee hospitals will reach their peaks and so on.
He explained that the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has created models to project the possible outcomes. Two weeks ago, the models predicted a longer time frame, but those projections have changed several times since.
Now the models show the peak happening in days rather than months and that the peak will be using less hospital resources than originally thought.
This model seems to give a reason to hope that fewer people will get sick and fewer people will die, Weston said. He said that the county is using multiple models to have a more rounded outlook, but that many of them predict a more negative projection. Weston added that none of the models included the election and the gathering of hundreds of individuals to vote.
“We should take the positive change in the Washington model to be a sign of encouragement, but encouragement to stay home not an indication to loosen restriction,” Weston said.
Ann Christiansen, the health director for the North Shore Health Department, said that in addition to COVID-19, health providers are keeping an eye out for other health concerns such as the increasing rates of suicide and the number of drug overdoses.
There are a lot of resources out there for those experiencing issues such as IMPACT 211, the National Suicide Hotline and the National Disaster Hotline, she said.
The spread is continuing to narrow in part due to the social distancing and physical distancing in place, she said. Christiansen said that those measures won’t go away as soon as quarantine ends.
“Life will probably go back to normal in a slow way where we begin to lift things one at a time and see the impact of those in some gradual way,” she said.
Michael Hafemann, the superintendent for the House of Correction, also spoke during the press conference. He said that seven inmates have tested positive and two have been transferred to local hospitals because of extensive corrections. Four staff members have tested positive and 21 staff members are self-quarantining.
Hafemann said before taking their post, staff members are required to have their temperature taken. If the temperature is normal and no other symptoms are shown, they will resume their post. Furthermore, each dormitory is sanitized three times a day, whereas before it was done once a day and common areas are now cleaned twice a day.
While quarantine remains in place and coronavirus continues to spread, not all hope is lost. The more Milwaukeeans choose to stay home and the more protective measures they take such as wearing masks and good hygiene, the sooner the curve can flatten.