The message from Kenosha County officials is clear: Follow Gov. Tony Evers’ new COVID-19 emergency order.

In a release issued Wednesday, the Kenosha County Division of Health strongly urged residents and businesses to comply with the statewide order. 

The order notably limits “public gatherings, prohibiting groups larger than 25 percent of an indoor space’s occupancy limit, as determined by the local municipality,” according to the release.

Its requirements take effect at 8 a.m. Thursday. They will remain in effect until midnight on Nov. 6. 

Evers issued the order as Wisconsin last week experienced the third-highest rate of new COVID-19 cases and the third-highest total of new cases in the nation, the release notes.

“Just as the Safer-at-Home Order played a significant role in lessening the growth of cases earlier this year, this new order will help us to keep COVID-19 under control in Kenosha County and across Wisconsin,” Freiheit said. “We have limited resources, in terms of our hospital capacity and health care workforce staffing. Doing all that we can to limit the spread of the virus will allow us to continue managing the flow of cases as effectively as possible.”

Kenosha County numbers

As of Wednesday, Kenosha County had 3,8158 confirmed cases since the start of the outbreak. Sixty-eight residents have died from the disease in the county. 

The disease has affected a wide swath of the county. In looking at the county’s data on COVID-19 cases online, it appears at first that the predominantly affected group, from demographic data, is white residents and people aged 20-29 (927), followed by ages 30-39. 

However, upon closer look, the African American population appears to be disproportionately affected by the virus. 

According to information from the county’s COVID-19 dashboard, African Americans made up 9.8 percent of positive cases in the county. According to census.gov, African Americans make up only 7.4 percent of the county’s total population. They do, however, match their demographic percentage in COVID-19 deaths. Five, or 7.4 percent, of the overall deaths in the county have been those of African Americans.

White residents made up 70.7 percent of positive cases in the county. White residents make up 87.7 percent of the county’s total population, according to census.gov. They also carry the highest percent of total COVID-19 deaths at 91 percent. 

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Freiheit believes order will save lives

Freiheit said the new order will further help save lives.

“With increased spread in our community comes the heightened risk that our most vulnerable populations will get sick,” Freiheit said. “Complying with the statewide order is one more thing we can do to help protect one another.”

Freiheit noted that other states that have implemented similar restrictions did see their numbers decrease.

“We all want to see a return to normalcy in our day-to-day lives,” Freiheit said, “but that will not be able to happen until we permanently bend the curve of cases in our county and our state. 

“That’s why it’s so important to make some sacrifices now, so that we can save lives, prevent illness, and put our community on a sustainable path to recovery from this pandemic.”

For frequently updated information about COVID-19 cases in Kenosha County, visit the Kenosha County COVID-19 Information Hub website at www.kenoshacounty.org/covid-19. A frequently updated list of COVID-19 testing sites in and around Kenosha County is also available at https://www.kenoshacounty.org/2058/COVID-19-Testing-Locations.

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Daniel Thompson is an independent journalist and the founder of The Uptown Observer based in the Kenosha, Wis., area. He started in journalism at the Western Nebraska Observer in 2012 and, most notably,...