Local residents’ compliance with order begins to slip

Joe Block

Despite a month of increasing deaths in their counties, Dane and Sauk County residents are relaxing their compliance with the Safer at Home order, according to data from the University of Maryland. The University used anonymized and aggregated location data from mobile devices and other sources.

The State of Wisconsin had one of the earliest cases of COVID-19, on Feb 5. Governor Evers instituted the Safer at Home order on March 25, prohibiting all but essential travel. At that point the state had seven deaths and 585 cases. As of April 27, there were 281 deaths and 6081 cases statewide, according to data provided by the state.

On March 27 Dane and Sauk County each had one death. Dane had 158 cases and Sauk 10. Positive cases and deaths steadily increased over the next month. As of Monday, 21 people have died in Dane County and three in Sauk.

Despite the Safer at Home order and increase in cases and fatalities, resident compliance has gone down. According to University of Maryland data, Dane County residents staying at home dropped from 39 percent in the week from March 25 to April 1, to 35 percent last week. In Sauk County, those staying at home dropped from 28 percent to 24 percent.

Travel has increased over the same time period. In Dane County, the average trips per person increased from 2.4 to 2.6. Trips for non-work purposes increased from 2 to 2.3. In Sauk County, trips per person went from 2.8 to 3, with non-work travel increasing from 2.3 to 2.5 trips per person.

Residents are driving more as well. Starting with an average of 18.5 miles over the March 25 to April 1 time period, travel increased to 22 miles in Dane County. In Sauk, distance traveled is higher, increasing from 32 to 34 miles. In Sauk a third of those trips are outside the county. In Dane County 16 percent of trips are outside the county.

The daily number of tests done in the state has remained relatively flat between March 27 and April 27, bouncing between 1500 and 2000 per day, according to the COVID Tracking Project. This data is pulled from the state’s website. The testing capacity--the number of tests that potentially can be performed--is up to 10,992. The state website notes testing capacity data “are estimates and do not reflect actual number of tests performed in the state. Capacity is dependent on availability of test supplies and adequate staffing.” From March 27 to April 27, Dane County saw its positive cases increase from 158 to 414, with Sauk County moving from 10 to 42.

Evers has extended the Safer at Home order to May 26. While emergency room visits statewide for suspected COVID-19 are slightly dropping, deaths are increasing, more than doubling over the past two weeks to 281, according the state data and the COVID Tracking Project.

According to Evers, “Wisconsin has seen a decrease in the exponential growth in the number of cases since Safer at Home was put into place on March 25. Wisconsin’s rate of doubling of infections was 3.4 days in early March before Safer at Home. Over the past two weeks, the rate of doubling is now approximately 12 days.”

The Safer at Home order instructs residents to stay at home except for essential travel. Social distancing of six feet must be maintained. In addition, the state recommends, but does not require, facemasks.

The website for the “Badger Bounce Back” plan includes gating criteria for reopening the state, including a 14-day downward trajectory of influenza-type symptoms. The website makes no mention of gating criteria for deaths.

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