By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
One of the results of a pandemic is the high level of panic and uncertainty. To combat that, city and county officials have taken to providing a daily update of the COVID-19 situation in Milwaukee.
This past Wednesday, May 13, Mayor Tom Barrett kicked off the update with a request from the Blood Center of Wisconsin.
While quarantine put many places on lockdown, the need for blood has remained.
Barrett said that lately there has been an increase in the need for blood donors, specifically those with an -O blood type.
To schedule a blood donation, individuals can visit the Blood Center of Wisconsin website.
Earlier this week the Wisconsin National Guard opened two community testing sites in Milwaukee. One is located at UMOS and the other at the Midtown Center. Barrett said there has been a strong demand at both sites and that hundreds of people have been tested.
He said that given the strong interest, the sites are likely to remain in place next week. He stressed that symptomatic individuals remain the priority.
“Testing is extremely important to identify people who need care,” Barrett said.
He added that Milwaukee has 17 sites, including five Federally Qualified Health Care Centers, that offer COVID-19 testing and individuals should reach out to IMPACT 2-1-1 to find a site close to them and to schedule an appointment.
As part of the increased testing sites, Milwaukee is working on tracing cases. If a person tests positive, he or she will be asked to list the people he or she has been in contact with. From there, a trained official will contact the list to determine how far the virus may has spread.
Ann Christiansen, the health director of the North Shore Health Department, further elaborated on testing.
She said that if a person tests positive, he or she will receive a call, while the person is waiting for the results, he or she should practice isolation. If the test comes back positive, a health care provider will work with the individual to determine the next steps.
Christiansen said that if the test comes back negative, it does not mean that the individual is not at risk to contract coronavirus in the future nor does it mean that the individual did not have coronavirus prior to the test. A negative test means that the person does not have coronavirus at the moment, she said.
Christiansen added that an antibody test, which tests someone’s blood, would determine if the person had coronavirus in the past.
She said that sometimes a test can come back negative, but the person is displaying the symptoms. If that is the situation, that person should contact his or her health provider and monitor the situation and if necessary, test again.
“This is your opportunity to get tested,” she said.
Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley also spoke during the update. He noted that the county budget is being impacted by the pandemic and about $40 million has been used to provide services.
Crowley said that normally revenue from the Milwaukee County Zoo and beer gardens help the budget, but under these circumstance that isn’t possible. He said that the county has made a request to the state government to have funding returned to Milwaukee and that cuts are being made where possible.
Dr. Ben Weston, the director of medical services at the Office of Emergency Management, said that Milwaukee County has over 4,000 cases of coronavirus and over 200 deaths caused by the virus.
With the Stay at Home order to be ending soon, Weston noted that many people are eager to get back to business as usual. He said it is important that when pulling back on social distancing practices that Milwaukee does so in a measured manner.
“We’re at the end of a peak but at the beginning of a pandemic,” Weston said, noting that right now, the situation is fragile.
For additional information on coronavirus, please visit the City of Milwaukee Health Department at city.milwaukee.gov/coronavirus.