Everyone Needs to Do More to Fight COVID-19

At the state level, much more must to be done. (Photo: May James, Getty Images/AFP)

Everyone Needs to Do More to Fight COVID-19

We have little room for error if we are going to prevent thousands of people from getting sick and dozens from dying every day.

The COVID-19 numbers in Wisconsin are horrifying. This past week, we were hitting 5,000 cases and 50 deaths a day in Wisconsin alone. We've reached over 225,000 cases across Wisconsin and more than 2000 deaths. Our state often had the second-most cases in the country on any given day -- even though we are only 1.6% of the population. Our seven-day positivity rate is at 28.8%, while single days have soared even higher into the mid-30%, with counties like Brown County getting as high as 45.5% the same week President Donald Trump brought a superspreader rally to Green Bay.

We are in serious trouble and we ALL need to do better.

First, the federal government needs a plan to fight COVID-19. That means this administration must provide the resources needed to local and state governments performing much of the testing and contact tracing. We have to help those who are unemployed through no fault of their own, and we must help small businesses who've lost demand or are being asked to not have customers -- as one out of five have already closed since the beginning of the pandemic. We have to protect our front-line workers and all workers to ensure those who go to work get home virus-free.

We must utilize the Defense Production Act to get the PPE and reagents states and hospitals need to process COVID-19 tests. And we must follow the science -- meaning wearing masks should be mandatory until we have a vaccine in place.

Further, we need a plan for the production and distribution of any forthcoming vaccines -- ensuring that those who need it most get them rapidly without delay.

At the state level, much more must to be done. Our testing needs should match national models, not just best guesses. Wisconsin also needs to hire substantially more contact tracers to keep up with the testing backlog to prevent others from getting sick. Two recent models estimate that with our population and our number of COVID-19 cases we should have more than 20,000 people contract tracing, rather than the approximately 2,000 currently tracing in our state. Even without our current surge, these projections indicate we need thousands of more tracers than we currently have.

A path forward for Wisconsin depends on an end to partisanship that undermines science-based efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 -- from mask orders to occupancy limits. We must work together. Gov. Tony Evers has made good faith efforts to stop the spread, but Republican lawmakers have stood in the way over and over again. That partisanship must stop. The Legislature hasn't met for over six months to pass another COVID-19 package. That is way too long to ignore the reality on the ground for Wisconsinites.

We also need urgency from our state government. I truly don't see the urgency to make the public aware of just how bad the situation is in Wisconsin. We must do things differently. We need bipartisan calls for action. We need major addresses to the people of our state about why we are one of the worst hotspots in the country. But we need urgency. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is insanity. Right now, I see too much insanity.

Finally, we need the public to take this seriously. Obviously, that means avoiding large gatherings, social distancing, and staying home when possible. But most importantly, we need to wear masks when around other people. And when we say you can't bring groups of people together, that applies to everyone. No more Packers parties. No more birthday parties. No more bonfire parties. No more parties -- period -- until our situation is significantly better.

And to businesses negatively affected by the pandemic, it's time to realize a few things. We have to watch out for each other and practice our business in a safe manner. For those businesses being asked to limit capacity, government should be stepping in to help them get through these tough times financially. Because one thing is true -- dead people don't make good customers. Lawsuits forcing bad behavior result in short-term profits with long-term losses and the loss of human life.

I've had the good fortune of talking frequently with experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Scott Gottlieb about our situation. We are in a dire period with our high COVID-19 numbers going in the winter and flu season. We have little room for error if we are going to prevent thousands of people from getting sick and dozens from dying every day.

Recently, I sat through a presentation with Dr. Fauci and Dr. Francis Collins from the National Institute for Health on "long haulers" -- people who had COVID-19, displayed symptoms, and are still experiencing ongoing conditions. This information hasn't gotten much into the public domain. They told us that initial data indicates a mind-numbing 35% of people who got COVID-19 and were symptomatic are having ongoing, potentially long-term conditions in their pulmonary, cardiac and neurologic health. Put simply, their hearts, lungs and brains are under attack and suffering longer term impacts. Once again, President Trump is lying to us. We aren't rounding any corners.

Please. Do more to take COVID-19 seriously. This is urgent. Our lives depend on everyone doing more and behaving better. That also means you. Forward, Wisconsin.

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