The other night my little granddaughter, Lilah, asked me whether she would ever be able to hug me again. Staying safer at home is hard on my family, and I know that it’s been hard on yours too. Joe and I missed gathering all our kids and grandkids around our table for an Easter meal. I have missed visiting my dad in his nursing home- although I was able to wave through the window the other day. But the good news is that our sacrifices are making a difference. We are flattening the curve, as they say, and we can’t let up yet.
Wisconsin’s model indicates that, without action, COVID-19 would have caused 22,000 infections by April 8 and between 440 and 1,500 deaths. These projections were based on data compiled by our Department of Health Services between March 3 and March 15, 2020. This data showed that without action, Wisconsin would have seen exponential growth in COVID-19 cases- doubling every 3.4 days. We had no choice but to take action.
We have been able to change our trajectory because our Governor, his administration, and all of you stepped up. Those bleak projections have not become our reality because so many of you stayed home and kept your communities healthier. Now, we have to stay the course because while the number of new cases is smaller each day than it could have been, the cases are still increasing. Last week, Polk County had its first two cases confirmed while cases in Dunn, Pierce, and St. Croix County are also still increasing.
The Department of Health Services has developed a tool to review the capacity of our healthcare system as this pandemic continues. As I’m writing this, our Northwest Wisconsin facilities have 62% of their beds already filled, 3 COVID patients on the ICU, and 6 patients on ventilators. Rural hospitals are at particular risk of becoming overwhelmed by this virus so it’s on each of us do our part to keep our number of positive cases low and slow.
I know it’s hard. I wish with all my heart that I could wrap Lilah, and all my grandkids, in a big hug. But especially in my role as chief medical examiner, I am exposed on a regular basis and it is not worth risking the health of my family. So I stay home. They stay home. And we stay physically distant.
The best way to approach this is not to assume that you could catch coronavirus by breaking isolation and coming into contact with others. Assume, instead, that you are already contagious and act accordingly. Do your part to protect your loved ones, neighbors, and the healthcare workers that are fighting to keep us all healthy. I know that your sacrifices are great, and I am working hard on the front lines of our emergency response team and as your Senator to support you too. Together, we can do this- and we already are. Let’s keep up the fight.