With just under three weeks until Election Day, the crucial swing state of Wisconsin is showing an alarming rate of COVID-19 cases, according to an internal government report.
The Oct. 11 document from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services indicates a large majority of Wisconsin’s 72 counties are considered to be sustained hot spots. The report, which was obtained by Yahoo News, defines hot spots as “communities that have had a high sustained case burden and may be higher risk for experiencing healthcare resource limitations.”
Other states with trouble areas according to the report include Wisconsin’s neighbors, Minnesota and Illinois, as well as Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina.
On Thursday, the state shattered its previous record for daily cases with 3,747 new ones reported, triple the amount from one month prior. As of Thursday, more than 1,000 people were hospitalized in the state, including 264 in intensive care — both all-time highs. The death toll in the state now stands at 1,553.
Earlier this week, officials opened a field hospital at the state fairgrounds in an attempt to handle the increase in hospitalizations. On Friday night, the Wisconsin Badgers are set to open Big Ten play in Madison, although fans are not being allowed to attend.
“We can prevent deaths,” Democratic Gov. Tony Evers said in a conference call Thursday, adding, “I don’t know how anyone in the state of Wisconsin can feel comfortable about saying, ‘What the hell, I don’t care about preventing deaths.’ That is unimaginable to me.”
“We need to do all that we can right now to break that transmission, to stop the spread, but it will take time before we see the fruits of that labor in reduced hospitalizations and reduced community spread,” said state Health Services secretary designee Andrea Palm, who added that intensive care units in some hospitals are more than 90 percent full.
Fueling the outbreak in Wisconsin is a number of lawsuits initiated by Republicans in the state against Evers, who has seen stay-at-home orders and mask mandates challenged and attempts to postpone in-person voting thwarted.
Evers recently issued an order to limit capacity at bars, restaurants and stores at 25 percent, but on Thursday a judge rescinded that restriction. The two most populous cities, Milwaukee and Madison, have implemented their own rules.
President Trump won Wisconsin by 23,000 votes four years ago, the first time a Republican had won the state in a presidential race since 1984. The current polling average in the state shows Democratic nominee Joe Biden with a 6-point lead.
Jana Winter contributed to this story.
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