Tony Evers announces COVID-19 isolation centers, requests federal disaster declaration
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Tony Evers announces COVID-19 isolation centers, requests federal disaster declaration

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Lowell Center

UW-Madison's Lowell Center, 610 Langdon St., will become a voluntary isolation facility for people with symptoms of COVID-19.

Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday announced the opening of isolation centers in Madison and Milwaukee, where people with COVID-19 could recover without infecting others, and requested a federal major disaster declaration for the state.

The two isolation facilities, to be operated by the Wisconsin Emergency Operations Center, will open Wednesday and will be located at Madison’s Lowell Center, 610 Langdon St., and a Super 8 hotel in Milwaukee. The state is providing guidance to communities considering their own centers.

The facilities are meant for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms, which can include fever, cough, shortness of breath and fatigue. Staying at the facilities is voluntary, and those who do will receive wellness checks by phone every four hours during the day and at night, if needed.

The purpose is to free up capacity at hospitals for people with more serious symptoms and provide a place for people to self-isolate who may be homeless or live in communal settings where they could expose others to the infection, Wisconsin Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said.

“This allows hospitals to discharge people to the isolation center, thus opening a bed for someone who has more serious symptoms,” Van Dijk said.

People with symptoms who haven’t been in hospitals but don’t have a good place to isolate “will protect their loved ones and other community members from contracting the disease from them,” she said.

The Lowell Center will be able to take up to 137 people, while the Milwaukee facility can accommodate up to 110 people, she said.

The facilities won’t provide medical care but will offer food, fresh linens and security. “It is basically like being in a hotel where you take care of yourself,” Van Dijk said.

The state may set up similar centers in other locations, Van Dijk said.

The expected length of stay will be 14 days, or 72 hours after symptoms dissipate.

Emergency request

Evers’ emergency request, submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, would cover all 72 counties and the state’s federally recognized tribes.

“By seeking this declaration, we are hopeful the state will be able to access critical programs that are needed to deal with the pandemic now, and with the recovery that will be taking place down the road,” Evers said in a statement.

Under the request, Evers seeks public assistance, direct assistance, statewide hazard mitigation and assistance programs including crisis counseling, community disaster loans and supplemental nutrition programming.

As of Monday, the Department of Health Services had confirmed 1,341 cases of COVID-19 and at least 16 deaths in the state. More than 15,000 people have tested negative.

More than 200,000 people have filed initial unemployment claims in Wisconsin over the last two weeks as employers have been ordered to shut down or been forced to lay off workers, according to preliminary numbers from the Department of Workforce Development.

Evers said federal assistance will be necessary to rebuild critical safety nets across the state.

“As we deal with this horrific pandemic, this declaration will assist with acquiring the needed resources for the people of Wisconsin,” Dr. Darrell L. Williams, the state’s emergency management administrator, said in a statement.

In Wisconsin, Evers has the authority to spend $1.9 billion in federal stimulus funding on his own, but has called on state lawmakers to pass legislation to give state agencies more flexibility in handling the crisis.

Evers is already using his authority to try to purchase 10,000 ventilators and 1 million protective face masks.

Last week, Evers proposed a $700 million legislative package meant to address health care needs related to the outbreak, extend the statewide public health emergency indefinitely and boost health care staffing. The legislation would also waive the state’s voter identification requirement for the April 7 election, extend the online registration deadline and waive the requirement that witnesses sign absentee ballot envelopes.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, have argued such legislation would be too costly, but also have expressed plans to take up some form of legislative action in the near future.

State Journal reporter David Wahlberg contributed to this report.

“This allows hospitals to discharge people to the isolation center, thus opening a bed for someone who has more serious symptoms.” Julie Willems Van Dijk,

deputy secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services

"This allows hospitals to discharge people to the isolation center, thus opening a bed for someone who has more serious symptoms."

Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services

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