‘Wear a freaking mask’: Gov. Evers, health leaders urge people to take coronavirus seriously

MADISON, Wis. — The state is recording an average of more than 4,200 cases a day and the average daily death toll has hit a record high. State leaders are urging Wisconsinites to take the basic steps to stop the spread of COVID-19: wear a mask, physically distance and stay home.

“Frankly I’m surprised and disappointed that we’ve had as low success, or we’ve failed as much as we have to slow it,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ chief medical officer.

Westergaard said data shows 1 in 10 Wisconsinites have been infected, which means many are still susceptible. He said we can turn it all around, but we need to act quickly before it gets worse.

“The worst case scenario is that it’s really just getting started,” said Westergaard.

State health leaders said we know exactly what we have to do to slow the spread, but we’re just not doing it.

“The things that work elsewhere don’t seem to be working here because we’re having difficulty with compliance around very basic things,” said Governor Tony Evers. “We have not rounded any corner. So if we want to do this right, and stop it in its tracks, people have to wear a freaking mask.  It’s as simple as that. How can we convince people to do that? We need to have our leaders wearing a mask.”

Evers pointed to Republican leaders and President Donald Trump’s rallies that attract hundreds of people. Often times many attendees are seen not wearing masks.

A representative for Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Vos has “repeatedly encouraged people to follow CDC guidelines and wear a mask.”

“Encouraging but not doing doesn’t sell in my book. That is not leadership,” said Evers.

Evers wants to see Republicans lead by example.

It’s conflicting views of the virus that doctors believe are confusing people.

“There might be one leader who says. ‘Times are really bad right now.’ Public health officials say ‘It’s never been worse.’ But you can also find someone who says, ‘You know what? This virus isn’t really that bad. Nearly everyone survives it, it’s just the flu,'” said Dr. Jeff Pothof, UW Health’s chief quality officer.

Pothof said believing the wrong information can make people think the risk isn’t that great. So they decide to attend a party or go to a bar, and then get infected with COVID.

“They made a poor decision based on bad information, and unfortunately with COVID-19 you don’t get a do over. Once you catch the disease, that’s just it — you live with the consequences,” said Pothof.

Although testing has been expanded with 71 new community testing sites across the state, leaders said testing is not going to stop the spread.

“What we do after testing is what matters, and the safest choice is to stay home.  Staying home is how we flattened the curve back in March and April and staying home is how we will do it again,” said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm.

Even if you’ve tested negative a couple days after being exposed to someone who has COVID, Westergaard said you’re still at risk of becoming infected for the next 10-12 days.