Part Four: PREDICTING THE STORM: Wisconsin’s Approach to COVID-19
by Jacques C. Condon
Part Four, with this and other posts raising issues worth considering in addressing Wisconsin’s response to COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus pandemic.
Part Four: Predicting The Storm
WISCONSIN SNOW STORM
Anyone who has endured Wisconsin winters is aware of two annual, unwelcomed events. One is flu-season, often hitting the community hard.
COVID-19 is a coronavirus strain, akin to the yearly flu, and has demonstrated flu-like symptoms in many individuals.
But, as made clear by medical professionals, the CDC, and even the government at all levels, COVID-19 is not your typical flu (with the word “flu” perhaps a generic, misnomer for this particular strain). In fact, what seems to separate this virus from others is its worldwide spread and exclusion of many (and the hiding in many), particularly younger and more healthy people, of symptoms, severity and morbidity.
Contrast this to some past pandemics that were believed as more deadly to younger generations, such as H1N1.
And pandemics are typically rare, with the number countable on one hand over the last 100 years or so.
Thus, at least in terms of COVID-19, there are certainly exceptions — not everyone is treated equal and no group, whether classified by age, gender, ethnicity, or health, has been excluded — but the statistics, as of now, are largely demonstrating elevated mortality concern to certain segments over others, particularly the elderly or those with already compromised conditions.
Furthermore, the response to COVID-19 has been somewhat astounding. Where 40,000 to 60,000 Americans die of the flu every year, a number that is barely a blip on societal radar, this coronavirus strain is largely predicted to be just as lethal, has garnered world-wide chaos in many countries, yet, on a whole, has demonstrated a small mortality rate compared to other medical issues such as cancer or everyday societal numbers related to drunk driving or even highway death.
It is a serious infection and deadly disease, and also one ripe for question given many unknowns.
PREDICTING THE STORM
In Wisconsin, schools closed early. In the district where I live, they closed before the first known case was documented in the County.
Schools have been closed, per Governor Evers, until April 24 (as of now).
On a national level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has continued to update COVID-19 spread in the State. According to the CDC, Wisconsin is identified as having “community transmission” — no indication whether it meets the CDC’s definition of substantial — but clearly states it is in “defined area(s)”.
You can look back at my prior post on “substantial community transmission” — the CDC recognizes community transmission in Wisconsin but, again, in defined areas.
Set aside the CDC for a second. A link on that site brings you to Wisconsin’s governmental equivalent, the Department of Human Services (DHS), where it indicates that the spread of COVID-19 “positives”, at the time of this writing, as around 6% of those tested.
Let’s flesh this out.
I’ve tracked the testing results (like you can do at home). (One of the criticism, rightly given, is a lack of testing — the problem being that you need to know where the virus is to be able to attack the virus — that, apparently, has been greatly improved.) The Wisconsin Covid-19 website has been tracking those tested, negative and positive, as well as “deaths”. I’m adding numbers for total, to get a percentage, with normal rounding:
|Date||total||negative (%)||positive (%)||deaths positive (%)|
|March 21||4,909||4,628 (94%)||281 (6%)||4 (1.4%)|
|March 22||6,611||6,230 (94%)||381 (6%)||4 (1.0%)|
|March 23||7,466||7,050 (94%)||416 (6%)||5 (1.2%)|
|March 24||8,694||8,237 (95%)||457 (5%)||5 (1.1%)|
|March 25||10,674||10,089 (95%)||585 (5%)||6 (1.0%)|
|March 26||12,290||11,583 (94%)||707 (6%)||8 (1.1%)|
A few takeaways from the reported numbers. While positive results have gone up, so too have the negative results — virtually the same percentage despite 7000 more tests. The death rate percentage has also remained consistent; experts expect the death number to rise, something any epidemic, whether it be the flu, cancer, or anything else, would support.
MEDIA CHICKEN LITTLE
Take this data, when crunched, with it showing a consistent trend in percentages. Yet here is the headline from the newspaper:
“Wisconsin’s confirmed coronavirus case total grows to over 700 cases, a 55% increase in two days”
Wait. What. Seems like funny math. Yes, the number of total positives increased by 250 over the last two days, which, accordingly, would be a large percentage of an already low number. Conversely, the number of negative results over that same period increased by 3,346, with the percentage of negative/positive nearly identical over the past six days.
Perhaps a less click-worthy headline would say “Wisconsin’s confirmed coronavirus case percentages the same over six days”.
This is one example.
In fact, current news reports — which can drive a person to whatever conclusion they hope to reach, whether it be a Chicken Little, “The Sky Is Falling”, to seeing “Light At The End Of The Tunnel” — are that New York City, which has taken the brunt of infections (and deaths), has experienced sickness amongst hundreds of police officers.
Similarly, Amazon warehouses have had members of its operations get sick.
And where certain businesses such as grocery stores have stayed open, the likelihood of those workers all remaining Covid-free — if the virus is as virulent as espouseed — is slim.
So has the NYC police force, Amazon, or your local grocer shut down? No. The sick are sent home and told not to come in. Life continues.
To be sure, life continues uneasily, with staffing shortages, COVID-crazed customers, and a fear (whether actual or not) that you will be next.
Bring back in the CDC. The universal theme throughout the CDC guidelines — if not in plain language — is the stress of personal hygiene. None of which seems hard. Wash your hands, avoiding touching your face, and stay at home if you’re sick.
As more and more stories pop-up about a government official that “has the virus” or a celebrity that “has been infected” or even a friend of a friend “that got the Covid” (or worse, died from the disease), keep in mind that the guidelines are there to protect you and the public.
If you’re sick, stay home.
Wash your hands.
Avoid touching your face.
Which also makes one think about the community spread, in Wisconsin — the next part in this series.
Jacques C. Condon, Marquette 1999, is owner of Condon Law Firm, LLC, in Thiensville, handling civil litigation, business law, and problem-solving cases ranging on everything from sports and entertainment to local-level government action.