In a rare primetime address, Gov. Tony Evers night called for unity in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday.
The governor’s address comes as Wisconsin had yet another record-breaking day in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. On Tuesday, Wisconsin reported more than 7,000 new cases, 66 deaths and 291 hospitalizations due to the coronavirus.
“I don’t have to tell you that this year has been one of many, many major challenges,” Evers said. “A global pandemic, coupled with economic uncertainty and another election season has shaken our patience, our empathy and our compassion for one another. Our optimism has been battered, our resilience strained and our character tested.”
Evers urged residents throughout the state to give their “undivided attention” to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As cases surge across the state, Evers announced an executive order that includes new measures to combat the spread of COVID-19. The order advises Wisconsin residents to stay home, urges precautions that they should take to remain safe if they have to leave their homes, and encourages businesses to take additional steps to protect workers, customers and the communities in which they operate.
“We must get back to the basics of fighting this virus just like we did last spring and it starts at home,” Evers said. “It’s not safe to go out. It’s not safe to have others over. It’s just not safe and it might not be safe for a while yet, so please cancel the happy hours, the dinner parties, the sleepovers and play dates at your home. If a friend or family member invites you over, offer to hang out virtually instead. And with the holidays just around the corner, we recommend that you plan to celebrate just with your own household.”
Evers also announced that in the coming days he will introduce new COVID-19 response legislation to provide more support for Wisconsinites, although he offered no specifics. He also once again called on Congress to pass legislation providing additional resources to states across the country.
During his talk, Evers pointed to projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation which, based on current data, show that an additional 2,500 Wisconsinites could die from COVID-19 by Jan. 1 if no further actions are taken to slow the spread of the virus.
The state’s current COVID-19 death toll stands at 2,395.
“Wisconsin, this is serious,” Evers said, his voice rising. “The crisis is urgent.”
Evers then noted that his administration took steps earlier this year to contain COVID-19 by issuing a Safer at Home order.
“We estimated then that our efforts would save between 300 and 1,400 lives,” Evers said. “That order was struck down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, a decision that hamstrung our ability to respond to this virus by using the tools supported by science and public health experts.”
Since then, Wisconsin has become a “national hotspot” for COVID-19 cases, Evers said.
“We once led our region in containing the virus but now surges in our state rival what we saw in New York City this last spring,” he said.
Since Friday, the state has reported 25,000 new cases of COVID-19, Evers noted.
“It took us seven and a half months to get to 100,000 cases but it only took 36 days to add another 100,000. The way things are going, it will take us only 20 days to reach another 100,000,” Evers said.
Evers pointed out that federal CARES Act funding that the state received earlier this year will expire on Dec. 31. Without additional support from Congress, the state will have to foot the bill for the pandemic response after the new year, he added.
“I know this year has been extremely difficult and I know good news is hard to come by these days,” he said. “But as I stand here tonight, I tell you that I’m hopeful that we can beat this virus and we can rebuild and recover. Anybody would be a fool to count us out, Wisconsin. The surges we see, the new cases, the hospitalizations and the deaths, these are not foregone conclusions. They are predictable and preventable.”
Evers says efforts must continue to ensure the health and safety of Wisconsin residents.
“Right now, we’ve got plenty to prove and a lot to lose.”