WED Health Care Report: MCW president leaning toward people wearing masks in public; MCW projects coronavirus peak in third week of April

— Medical College of Wisconsin President Dr. John Raymond says he’s warming to the idea of more people wearing protective masks in public as state health officials are tracking increased community spread of COVID-19. 

In a webinar hosted by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, Raymond pointed to an emerging national debate about whether people should wear surgical masks as they go about their daily lives. 

He noted that “no good data” exists supporting the notion that wearing a mask in public prevents the spread of any particular disease. But he conceded that he’s changing his thinking about the practice, particularly for those who face greater risk of exposure. 

That includes grocery store workers, hospitality, other food workers, the trades, construction, housekeeping and even faith-based leaders. 

“We absolutely know that in a health care environment, surgical masks prevent the spread of viruses,” he said. “My own personal thinking is evolving. It’s my opinion, it’s not necessarily scientifically based — but if you have a mask, I would wear it.” 

He noted wearing a protective mask could provide comfort to individuals during the uncertainty created by the pandemic. Plus, he said it sends a message to those nearby that the wearer is serious about social distancing. 

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— Dr. John Raymond, president of the Medical College of Wisconsin, says he’s “cautiously optimistic” that efforts to reduce coronavirus transmission are working but says more information is needed to know for sure. 

During a webinar hosted yesterday by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, he noted that data “hinted that our daily growth rate and doubling rate” were beginning to fall

He said the daily growth rate for new confirmed cases was between 30 percent and 35 percent last week, while the number of positive cases was doubling around every three days. The latest numbers show the daily growth rates have fallen to 16.6 percent in Milwaukee and 16.8 percent for the state overall. 

Plus, the doubling rates have increased to around four days for both Wisconsin and Milwaukee, where many of the state’s cases have been found. 

“I’m cautiously optimistic, but there’s still a possibility for reporting lag, so tomorrow’s numbers are going to be very telling,” he said yesterday. 

He said “measurable impacts” of social distancing on disease spread weren’t expected until up to 10 days after the start of social distancing practices. But he noted the potential slowdown “is consistent with the timing of recent interventions” in the state. 

Schools were closed on March 18, around the same time that many bars and restaurants shut down. Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order was implemented March 25. 

“First and foremost, we need to establish that the trend is continuing,” Raymond said. “But if it does, that means that social distancing is beginning to work here in Wisconsin.” 

Still, he said that will only validate the current measures being taken to reduce the virus’ spread. 

“If anything, we need to redouble our efforts,” he said. “We’re in the first mile of a marathon, and we have a long way to go.” 

— The Medical College of Wisconsin projects the coronavirus peak to be the third week in April while the Department of Health Services predicts the peak will last two weeks.

“We’re still projecting the third week in April for there to be a saturation of health care beds in the state,” Raymond said. 

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Wisconsin will reach a peak on April 27.

That prediction is assuming that Wisconsin’s growth rate continues at last week’s rate of about 30 percent. Raymond said the growth rate “appeared to have slowed over the weekend” to 18 percent, but attributed that to the lag in reporting confirmed cases. 

Meanwhile, DHS is predicting Wisconsin’s peak to last about two weeks. 

“The peak of about two weeks, with the largest number occurring there, is what most of the models say,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer and state epidemiologist for communicable diseases. “Our hope however, because the piece of the models that we have control over, meaning how well we keep separation between people, will actually cause a delay in the peak.”

The goal of stretching the peak aims to lower the total number of people infected during the peak. 

“We are operating under that assumption that it might be two weeks. But we are really trying to enforce our social distancing so that we can make that peak as low as possible,” he said.

According to Westergaard, the modeling approaches from both national and international groups can predict how the virus acts under “normal” circumstances, because it’s known how long it takes for someone to get infected and how well it spreads between people. 

“A lot of the worst-case scenario modeling is reflective of those parameters in the setting where people are interacting as normal,” he said. “In those worst-case scenario models we’re seeing the number of people infected double every two days.”

Westergaard referenced Italy that has seen doubling and New York City that is starting to see the exponential growth of COVID-19 

“How long that really rapid exponential growth in epidemic lasts is unclear, but it’s really determined by how well we do social distancing and how we keep separation between people,” he said. 

— The Department of Health Services reported 16 deaths from COVID-19 and 1351 confirmed cases in Wisconsin, but local health departments suggested yesterday the death toll is at 24. 

Milwaukee County has reported 10 deaths, while Ozaukee and Washington counties have reported six deaths total.

Dane, Fond du Lac and Sauk counties are each reporting two deaths as of yesterday afternoon.

Iron and Waupaca counties have at least one death, according to DHS. Forty-eight counties have at least one confirmed case.

A number of county health departments are providing their own data sooner than DHS. But the state health department says that its reports are the “official state numbers.”   

Click here for coronavirus resources and information: 

— ND Paper, a Chinese company with a mill in Biron, has donated 1,500 Tyvek suits and 20,000 surgical masks to the state’s coronavirus response effort. 

“ND Paper’s generous donation will help protect Wisconsin medical workers who are working around the clock to keep our communities safe from this devastating virus,” said Scott Suder, president of the Wisconsin Paper Council. 

The state is taking donations and buying large quantities of personal protective equipment as hospitals prepare for a potential influx of COVID-19 patients. 

See details on Wisconsin’s PPE donation and buyback program: 

— Organizers for the Backline Music Accelerator program are offering a free two-week program for musicians participating in the program, aimed at helping them make it through the current crisis. 

Between April 6-17, the program will host lunchtime webinars with expert guests discussing issues of importance for young artists in the music industry. That includes the process for securing financial support and other resources, managing personal finances, mental health, ways to connect with industry and more. 

For one of the sessions, Instagram’s head of music will detail the social media platform’s response to COVID-19 as well as best practices for artists. 

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– As restaurants close for coronavirus, farmers find ways to get food to our homes

– UW-Madison Dairy Cattle Center closes temporarily


– Coronavirus to peak in Wisconsin May 22, report says

– $10,000 cash advance grant to become available to business owners

– Marquette-ISM business outlook plummets in March

– Is COVID-19 posing a threat to food security?


– UW-Madison temporarily closes Dairy Cattle Center

– Some Wisconsin colleges allow students to forego grades due to coronavirus upheaval

– State schools superintendent: Closing indefinitely is uncharted territory for K-12 schools


– Wisconsinites in limbo as state unemployment system overwhelmed


– Resilient Wisconsin: Health care workers on the front lines — 3/30/20

– Jockey donating PPE, including 250,000 isolation gowns, for coronavirus fight

– DHS: 1,351 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin

– With maintaining care in mind, veterinarians adjust practices during coronavirus pandemic

– The Latest: Health leader says Wisconsin hospitals not full


– Harley-Davidson COO Michelle Kumbier leaving company

– Briggs & Stratton cutting salaries 25-30% along with executive pay cuts


– Allen-Edmonds, Rebel Converting join to manufacture face masks


– Coronavirus pandemic deals another blow to Wisconsin’s newspapers


– Ald. Coggs asks whether Milwaukee can handle COVID-19 and DNC simultaneously

– Bill would provide grants to convert spaces to combat virus


– Commercial real estate brokers refocusing role as advisers during COVID-19 pandemic


– Local grocery stores adjust to new normal under COVID-19

– Kohl’s to furlough many store associates, CEO takes no salary


– Farm Tech Days names Jennerman as next general manager


– Festa Italiana cancels 2020 festival, Polish Fest postpones its June dates


– ‘Everyone has to have it’: Broadband gap leaves rural wisconsin behind during coronavirus crisis


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