Gov. Tony Evers declared a public health emergency in the state of Wisconsin Thursday morning in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
In a press conference, Evers explained with his declaration, the state will be able to access specific resources to help prevent the spread. His announcement comes one day after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus to be a pandemic.
While Wisconsin hasn’t had as many cases as other states, as of Thursday afternoon, eight total cases were confirmed, including two more confirmed cases Thursday in Dane County.
The first case in Wisconsin was found in late January, and the patient has since recovered. All other cases are currently in isolation.
The two Dane County cases are the first in the state were the result of community spread. Both diagnosed cases had contact with a previous case earlier in the week, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
With the confirmation of community spread and cases in Minnesota and Illinois, Evers announced the state of emergency decision to allow more resources to respond to the outbreak.
“We have been working aggressively to slow the spread of COVID-19, and this declaration allows us to get the resources we need to continue to be proactive when it comes to protecting Wisconsinites,” Evers said in a statement. “It is the latest step in the work our state agencies have been doing around the clock with our health care partners to prepare for the possibility of COVID-19 becoming a global pandemic.”
Along with the response from the governor, several University of Wisconsin System schools have begun preparing to stop the outbreak.
UW-Madison declared on Wednesday classes would transition to online instruction from March 23 until April 10 with the possibility of extension.
In addition to in-person courses, all non-essential campus related activities of more than 50 people — such as student organizations and alumni events — have been cancelled. In accordance with the NCAA’s announcement to cancel all athletic events until the end of the academic year, UW-Madison’s athletic teams are suspended.
Residence halls remain open, but UW-Madison encouraged students to relocate at this time in an effort to maintain social distancing — a particular challenge in a dorm setting with many shared spaces.
All further updates about the cancellations and accommodations are being posted on the university’s COVID-19 website.
With the confirmation of community spreading, State Health Officer Jeanne Ayers relayed the importance following proper directions to limit the spread.
“These cases should serve to remind all of us about the importance of social distancing and maintaining good hygiene to prevent the spread of the disease,” Ayers said.