5 deaths at Wisconsin prisons as virus rages across state

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The seven-day average for new coronavirus cases in Wisconsin hit another record high on Friday, as the state confirmed for the first time that five people have died within the prison system.

Wisconsin’s death toll approached 2,000 with 1,972 dead and more than 220,000 total positive cases. There were 5,096 new cases on Friday, bringing the seven-day average to 4,230. That number is more than six times higher than just two months ago.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported that five inmates have died from COVID-19, according to a total released by the Department of Corrections under pressure from criminal justice groups and the newspaper. The deaths come after a series of coronavirus outbreaks in several prisons over the past few months, totaling more than 4,300 positive cases among inmates as of Friday.

Corrections Secretary Kevin Carr said in a statement that the department “remains committed to ensuring we are protecting the people we serve.”

“Our agency will be reporting a total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, satisfying our desire for transparency without jeopardizing privacy protections,” Carr said. “We understand the strong public desire for this information, and this will provide the public and loved ones of persons in our care a clearer picture of the current state of COVID-19 in DOC institutions.”

The State Journal reported that two inmates died at Dodge Correctional Institution, one at Green Bay Correctional Institution and another at Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution. It’s unclear where the fifth death occurred.

Even as the virus raged across Wisconsin days before Tuesday’s election, Gov. Tony Evers noted that local clerks and poll workers are prepared to handle voters.

“For those who are voting in person now, I believe it’s safe,” Evers said at a briefing Friday, adding that polling places have adequate supplies to protect voters.

Some 400 Wisconsin National Guard members will help staff the polls statewide, down from how many were used at each of the previous two statewide elections.

“If we want to do this right … and stop it in it’s tracks, we have to wear a freaking mask,” Evers said.

Evers said when political leaders don’t wear a mask, it sends a message that it’s not important, referencing campaign rallies by President Donald Trump, who along with his rival, Joe Biden, was stopping in Wisconsin on Friday.

“I’ll bet you there will be more than a handful of people in the crowd that aren’t wearing a mask,” the Democratic governor said of the Trump rally in the Green Bay area.

He noted that the Biden campaign has dealt with the coronavirus in more proactive ways.

“One campaign is sure the hell safer than the other,” Evers said. Biden was to campaign in Milwaukee Friday evening.

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