The Latest: Evers unveils second virus response package

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Latest on the coronavirus outbreak in Wisconsin (all times local):

2:40 p.m.

Gov. Tony Evers has released a second sweeping package of proposals in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic for the Legislature to take up.

Republican leaders have been negotiating with Evers and said hours before he released the measures Wednesday that they have yet to reach a deal.

The latest Evers proposals come after he floated a $700 million package last week that Republicans rejected.

In the latest proposal, Evers wants to increase funding for Medicaid providers, create a reinsurance program to reduce health insurance premiums and provide grants for food assistance and meal delivery, among other things.

He also wants to increase tax cuts for poor families and waive interest and penalties on delinquent property taxes.

Republicans haven’t said when the Legislature will come back to debate a bill, but it could be as soon as next week.


2:05 p.m.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin crossed 1,500 on Wednesday, with 24 deaths.

The latest figures from state and local health departments show the coronavirus continues to spread across the state. Of the positive cases, about 26% were hospitalized at some point. The data does not say how many are currently in the hospital.

Milwaukee County has registered the most deaths with 16. Only people whose death certificates say they died from COVID-19 are reported by the state, said Gov. Tony Evers’ spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff.

The number of new positive cases reported Wednesday was up 14% from the previous day.


1:25 p.m.

One quarter of Wisconsin’s confirmed COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized, based on new data reported by the state Department of Health Services for the first time Wednesday.

The state had not reported any numbers on hospitalizations before Wednesday. The move came amid growing criticism from Republican lawmakers, and questions from reporters, about why the numbers were not included along with deaths and confirmed cases.

The figures posted Wednesday show that of the state’s 1,351 confirmed cases, 337 had been in the hospital. That is 25%. It is not immediately clear how many remain hospitalized.

There are about 11,000 hospital beds in the state, which hospital leaders have said are typically about 58% full.

The state did not report how many hospital beds were still open or how many of the COVID-19 patients were in intensive care units. Wisconsin has about 2,600 ICU beds.

The state reported 16 deaths, but local health departments had the figure at 27. That data sometimes lags behind state totals, which are updated daily.

A majority of other states have been reporting hospitalizations. Earlier Wednesday, Republican legislative leaders criticized Gov. Tony Evers’ administration for not making the data available.

State health leaders had been saying prior to Wednesday that they were working on reporting the numbers as soon as possible.


12:55 p.m.

A wide majority of Wisconsin residents support Gov. Tony Evers’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic so far, including his orders to shut down schools and businesses.

A Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday shows that 76% of respondents support what Evers has done. The survey showed 86% support for closing schools and businesses and restricting public gatherings as Evers ordered.

Only 51% said they supported how President Donald Trump has responded, but his job approval rating of 48% was unchanged from February. Evers’ job approval was at its highest ever, 65%, up from 51% in February.

A staggering 9% of respondents said they had lost a job or been laid off. Another 21% said someone else in the family has lost employment.

Former Vice President Joe Biden opened a wide lead on Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential race. Biden had 62% support compared with 34% for Sanders, who won Wisconsin’s Democratic primary in 2016. Sanders was ahead of Biden in the February poll, conducted before the Democratic field narrowed.

The poll of 813 registered voters was conducted between March 24 and Sunday. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.


12:45 p.m.

The University of Wisconsin athletic department projects the coronavirus pandemic will result in a revenue shortfall of more than $4 million this fiscal year.

The figure represents 2.5% of the athletic department’s $159 million 2019-2020 budget. The university lost millions in revenue because of the early end to the men’s basketball season.

The State Journal reports that with all 67 games of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and 11 of 13 Big Ten championship contests canceled, UW could be out more than $2.5 million in revenue, based on the 2019-20 budget and actual figures from previous years.

Aside from spring athletics, the UW is looking ahead to whether sports will resume at a full level before the college football season is scheduled to begin in late August. The university draws around 15% of its annual revenue from football ticket sales.

11:45 a.m.

Republican legislative leaders on Wednesday urged people to volunteer at the polls on Tuesday to help Wisconsin’s presidential primary and spring election go off as smoothly as possible.

There’s a severe shortage of poll workers across the state because of the coronavirus outbreak, which led Gov. Tony Evers to call on the National Guard to assist staffing some polling sites.

“It’s a creative way to help solve the problem,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said of tapping the National Guard. “If the National Guard does not have other duties making sure our communities are safe, I certainly support using them.”

Vos said both he and his wife planned to volunteer at the polls. He said he was bringing hand sanitizer and felt safe being there.

“If you are bored at home and sick of watching Netflix, volunteer and go work at the polls,” Vos said.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald credited local election clerks and mayors with being resourceful in finding ways to manage a reduction in workers. He cited the record-high number of absentee ballot requests, over 1 million as of Wednesday, as evidence that people are getting the message not to vote in person.

“I think we are up to the task and it sounds like it’s going to get done,” Fitzgerald said.