graph of Wisconsin testing

According to a New York Times report, Green Bay has the second-highest average daily growth rate of coronavirus cases in the United States, making the city a possible new coronavirus hotspot.

With 618 confirmed cases as of April 24, the state's fourth most-populous county now trails only Milwaukee County in the number of cases in the state. Brown County has the highest rate of tests coming back positive, at 26 percent.

Public health officials have connected over half of Brown County's cases to two beef-processing companies and a sausage-maker. Of the county residents who've tested positive so far, 255 are employees of JBS Packerland. The meatpacking plant is temporarily closed.

But on April 28, Trump issued an executive order calling on meat-processing plants to remain open, declaring them critical infrastructure.

At a time when Trump is focused on reopening the economy, communities like Green Bay are still struggling to get the virus under control. In a week, cases in Brown County increased by 1,000 percent to surpass 500, according to Green Bay Press Gazette.

Are there other large outbreaks in Wisconsin that are eluding discovery? Without adequate testing, there’s no reliable way to find them fast enough to contain them.

While Gov. Tony Evers has struggled to get testing supplies (and protective gear) for well over a month, pleas from him and other governors have fallen on Trump’s  deaf ears, a problem that’s compounded by his administration’s ineptitude.

‘Not a shipping clerk’

The lack of widespread testing is the reason Wisconsin hasn’t been able to open up its economy sooner. The state has capacity to conduct 11,000 tests per day, but it's currently only performing about 2,000, due to the shortage of testing materials and protective equipment.

Like other states, Wisconsin needs the federal government to assist in sourcing and procuring supplies. Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency provided only 10,000 swabs and 10,000 testing mediums to the state.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan told NPR that short supplies are due to a lack of response from the Trump administration. 

"They have not directed FEMA to actually get supplies to the states. Instead, they're taking credit for anything the state buys through the private markets, and they're getting some limited supplies through the CDC," he said.

Wisconsin is not alone in its struggles to get help from the federal government.

In mid-April, Politico reported that “the federal government’s haphazard approach to distributing its limited supplies has left states trying everything — filling out lengthy FEMA applications, calling Trump, contacting Pence, sending messages to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and trade adviser Peter Navarro, who are both leading different efforts to find supplies, according to local and states officials in more than a half-dozen states. They’re even asking mutual friends to call Trump or sending him signals on TV and Twitter."

Trump has disavowed his administration’s role in the blunders and hold-ups that have hamstrung governors. In March, Trump said the burden is on the states to take care of their needs. As a result, states have to compete against one another in a cutthroat market.

“Governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work,” he said in March. “The Federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. You know, we’re not a shipping clerk.”

Tammy Baldwin

US Sen Tammy Baldwin

Yet somehow, the National Security Stockpile managed to send Milwaukee two rounds of shipments on April 6 and April 8 containing over 335,800 tabs of hydroxychloroquine. That's the malaria drug Trump has been touting as a possible COVD-19 treatment. Sen. Tammy Baldwin has called for an investigation.

The nation is currently testing just over 218,000 people a day. That’s nowhere near what’s needed. Even the White House’s goal of testing 2 percent of the population in each state would leave the country far short of the testing needed to reopen.

“We need to deliver 5 million tests per day by early June to deliver a safe social reopening,” according to "Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience," a report issued by Harvard University's Center for Ethics. “That number would need to increase over time (ideally by late July) to 20 million a day to fully remobilize the economy. We acknowledge that even this number may not be high enough to protect public health.”

Unless things within the Trump administration change radically, that target will be difficult to achieve.

By not acting when he was first alerted of the impending crisis, Trump put the nation far behind where it needs to be in order to reopen. Instead of recognizing and correcting this failure, he’s continued to avoid responsibility at every turn. 

While Wisconsin is starting to figure out what reopening might look like, experts insist that the path to normalcy will require increased testing. As long as this administration fails to provide increased testing capacity, any discussion of a return to normalcy is purely academic.

Priorities Wisconsin, part of Priorities USA, provides research and information to progressives and Democrats. It also helps turn out the vote during elections.

[Editor’s Note: The Wisconsin Department of Health Services updates  statistics each day on its website around 2 p.m.]



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