COVID-19 northern Wisconsin update
Coronavirus exposes caregiver shortage
As of May 21, northern Wisconsin counties are reporting:
Oneida —7 positive tests, 641 negative tests, 103 tests pending; 0 deaths
Vilas —5 positive tests, 310 negative tests, 0 deaths;
Forest – 12 positive tests, 332 negative tests, 12 pending tests, 0 deaths; (11 in isolation, 1 released from isolation, none hospitalized)
Florence — 2 positive tests, 222 negative tests, 0 deaths;
Price — 2 positive test, 220 negative tests, 0 deaths;
Iron — 2 positive tests, 189 negative tests, 1 death;
Lincoln — 3 positive tests, 377 negative tests, 0 deaths;
POPULATION: 27, 848
Langlade — 1 positive test, 320 negative tests, 0 deaths;
13,885 positive tests
163,238 negative tests
Caregivers and COVID-19
COVID-19 has infected at least 12,885 Wisconsinites and exposed vulnerabilities in health care systems, including those designed to serve the state’s elderly and disabled residents.
Before the pandemic, Governor Tony Evers in 2019 created a state task force to address a chronic shortage of caregivers for the elderly and people with disabilities. A report released in February described a “crisis,” with 20,655 vacant positions in Wisconsin’s long-term and residential care facilities and an average workforce vacancy rate of nearly 26 percent for long-term and residential care providers.
More than 33,880 Wisconsinites with physical disabilities and intellectual/developmental disabilities require some level of care or support, the report said.
The pandemic is adding hurdles for Wisconsin residents with disabilities to find caregivers, who perform demanding work that typically pays about $12 an hour.
Clients and caregivers are weighing tough questions about how to keep each other safe during close interactions — if that’s even possible at a time when protective equipment runs scarce. Some caregivers have stuck around, others haven’t. Clients who lose their caregivers also lose a semblance of independence. And statewide momentum to loosen restrictions meant to manage the still-spreading virus is adding to their anxiety.
Every respondent to an April survey of nearly 500 Wisconsinites with disabilities and older adults said the pandemic had disrupted their caregiving service. While some of those disruptions overlap, a dozen interviews with people with disabilities, their family members and caregivers across Wisconsin reveal how the crisis has transformed each life in unique ways.
Content courtesy of WPR/Wisconsin Watch