Wisconsin coronavirus numbers on the rise: Dr. Rai talks ‘scary’ trend

"This is not going to be a problem that only affects California and Texas and Florida. It will affect Wisconsin and it already is."
Published: Jul. 2, 2020 at 7:56 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - "So what's scary for us is our numbers are rising every day." That's the message from Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai on the coronavirus situation in Wisconsin.

Dr. Rai joined us on Action 2 News This Morning to discuss the trends in the state, the importance of wearing a mask and what's in store as we think about back to school.

Watch the videos in the story for Dr. Rai's recommendations and analysis of the current trends.


“To be honest with you, in Wisconsin, we’re on the cusp of being one of those states. If you looked at our trend right now and the percent of positives that we’re seeing, and just the volume of people who are coming in with symptoms asking to be tested--we opened up two more testing sites last week and they’re already filling up so we’re looking at opening up more--this is not going to be a problem that only affects California and Texas and Florida. It will affect Wisconsin and it already is.

“The resurgence is so widespread. In March and April, we had identified businesses. We had identified risk factors. Not only in Wisconsin, but in other states. It could be a meat packing plant or different industry. And it was easier to respond to that. This is so much more widespread. Instead of going to three big fires that are spreading in the community, we have thousands of small fires really creating a much larger fire than we had previously. So it is very concerning.

"At that point when we had the breakouts we knew a good portion of our population was still staying at home. We don't have that right now so we know the spread is happening even faster today than maybe it happened in March and April and May.

“When you think about it, we were the only state that didn’t have any rules when it reopened. We had an hour to plan. We did not have days or weeks to plan a reopening like we were supposed to have. So the other states that are being overwhelmed right now, they actually had plans. They had phases and now they’re dialing that back. We don’t even have that. So what’s scary for us is our numbers are rising every day. I’m not even just talking about the total number of positives. But it’s the percent of positives of those we’re testing. That’s a very scary thing when you look week after week. If you looked from May 24 until now, we’ve continuously increased. That’s scary, and we have nothing to roll back. There’s no regulations versus the other states actually have that. So we’re not Texas and Florida or California--yet.”

CLICK HERE for Wisconsin coronavirus numbers.


"In an ideal situation, it would be ideal. To reduce the spread of the virus, it's the only tool we have right now. As you heard Dr. [Anthony] Fauci talk about when a vaccine would be available, it's a far way away. So much of the economy, so much of society depends on us controlling the virus right now. That really should be our focus. So what controls the virus? Staying safe at home and physically distancing does, but that hurts the economy. It prevents schools from opening up. So what other factors do we have to help mitigating the spread of the virus while we wait for a vaccine? And that's really maintaining physical distancing when you can. And creating a barrier, which is a mask. And that's really what we're trying to talk about right now, is that masking is necessary for us to keep society going and get our kids back to school.

“There may be some mild protection, and it’s really hard to tell, especially how the droplets are aerosol-ized. The mask in itself isn’t going to protect you a lot. It may protect you a little. But it will protect more spread from happening. So there is a dual advantage like Dr. Fauci said to wearing a mask. But the biggest advantage is preventing the spread of the virus, which is our goal. Which has been our goal since March when we asked everybody to stay at home. And yes, on April 1 we said, ‘please wear a mask.' And that was before the federal government even said to wear a mask. And the main reason we said that is we started to see the spread from people who did not have symptoms to other people and getting them very sick. So we needed to, once again, create a barrier or we say mitigate the risk. And that’s what our goal was to do.”


"The smartest thing for a business to do is mask their employees. Patrons will come in and out, but your employee is going to be there in that closed situation for a much longer period of time. If you want to create a safe environment for your patrons, put a mask on your employees. I think the restaurants down there are doing a very good job about advocating for that. I don't think we'll get to a full masking mandate here. People will talk about enforcement and how difficult that is. Yet we enforce a lot of things that we can't see every day, such as seat belts. But at the same time, the one thing you could enforce is an ordinance around businesses requiring masking of their employees, because there's licensure involved, there's permits involved. Hopefully we'll get to a universal masking policy in the country. Maybe we'll get to one in Wisconsin. Maybe we'll get to one in Green Bay. But we could take steps to get there very quickly. One is like what the Milwaukee businesses are asking for, which is a mandate for masking, especially for the businesses. And that would help local businesses stay in business."


“There’s certain people that definitely would get a medical waiver. First of all, if you’re under the age of two you shouldn’t be wearing a mask. A baby should not be masked at that point. There’s a certain small, very small sector of society that have severe lung disease, obstructive lung disease, such as really bad emphysema, where wearing a mask may not be ideal. For those people, they could get a medical waiver. But those are the people that should be advocating for everybody else to mask because they’re the ones who wouldn’t survive the virus. So yes, there’s a certain sector of society that may not be able to wear a mask. But for the other 99 percent, they should be masked.”


“I think the number one factor in reopening schools outside of having a plan for safety if they have issues there is to make sure the percentage is down enough in our society where we feel it is safe for students to return to school. We’re not heading in that right direction. We have five, six weeks to get this under control so we can get our children back to school, which is a priority. But for us to actually achieve that, we need local businesses and our local population to understand, how do we mitigate this risk? How do we get people to stay at home? How do we get people to wear masks if they’re out in public and in indoor places so we can keep businesses going, and more importantly, so we can get children back to school.

"Transmission is not age-group related. It's how that virus infects the different age groups and how that age group responds to that infection. So yes, younger people will transmit it to older people as easily as they transmit it to each other. So staff, adults, parents, grandparents--all at risk."


“Locally, we’re doing well. We’ve done very well in maintaining our population and keeping them--even those that are testing positive--healthier at home than in the hospital. But that’s a for now type of situation. If you looked at the other states where hospitals are becoming overwhelmed, like Arizona and Texas, they were where we were at weeks ago where they had a younger population that was getting more and more positives and then they went out and infected more people and then suddenly you have an at-risk population getting sick. And once that hits, it’s very easy within days to overwhelm the health system. So we’re not there yet. We hope we don’t get there. That’s why we’re trying to mitigate this as much as we can right now.”

CLICK HERE for Wisconsin hospitalization numbers.


“I think it’s the same advice we’d ask you to do any weekend. And it’s amplified in a situation where people are off. Stay outside as much as you can. Be safe. Use safe practices. Small groups if you’re going to get together. Still try to maintain your distance. If you have to be inside and you have to be close to somebody, wear a mask. Those are the things we need you to do to be safe. Obviously worry about the heat this weekend. Be very responsible with any fireworks, too.”

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