Governor Tony Evers announced plans to purchase 10 thousand ventilators and 1 million protective face masks to combat the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the state amidst the global pandemic with an executive order.
According to a press release from Evers’ office, Evers enacted executive order number 16 last Friday to quickly increase the size and efficiency of the healthcare workforce. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the legislation emerged following the statewide effort to expand the field of workers and eliminate non-essential barriers for healthcare workers.
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“It is absolutely imperative that our healthcare workers and first responders have the equipment they need to stay safe and healthy as they care for our communities,” Gov. Evers said in the press release. “The state appreciates any donations, but we are also prepared to pay a fair market value for large quantities of this equipment that are offered.”
Though the state has already received about 104,680 N95 respirators, 260,840 face masks, 48,168 face shields, 40,512 surgical gowns, 192 coveralls and 70,375 pairs of gloves, more equipment is needed to appropriately protect healthcare workers.
The administration’s proposed legislation would spend $10 million to add 64 new employees to the Division of Public Health, give $17 million in grant funds to local public health agencies, proscribe canceling insurance policies during the pandemic and allocate $20 million of local government emergency assistance.
Evers also proposed the expansion of funding to assist child care programs, unemployed workers and organizations that assist the homeless. Though, the order primarily targets aiding the health care system and the workforce.
“While our health systems respond to COVID-19, they also must continue to care for patients with other conditions and issues, such as cancer or accidental injury, that require ongoing or immediate attention,” Evers said in the press release. “This action will ensure that more Wisconsinites get the care they need when they need it.”
The total number of COVID-19 cases across Wisconsin has risen substantially over the weekend. Without proper personal protective equipment, healthcare workers are vulnerable to the virus and the mounting cases, according to Public Health nurse and Public Health faculty instructor at Rasmussen College, Sandra Lumen.
Lumen emphasized how contagious diseases are always an important public health consideration. Lumen said retaining the PPE equipment needed to protect staff is critical in the fight against COVID-19.
“Health care workers are priority testing right now because they are in the frontline of exposure while testing and taking care of people who have the virus,” Lumen said. “PPE is their primary protection against COVID-19, and the shortage of PPE for health care workers will lead to more infections of those vital people.”
According to the WSJ, in a battle for federal funding regarding the allocation of the federal stimulus package across states, Republican legislators have been hesitant to spend state dollars on COVID-19 support and PPE equipment.
The significant pushback from the GOP legislature stems from their concern over the general scope and cost of Evers’ proposed legislation, according to the WSJ. Legislators are unsure that the state’s general fund balance can support Evers’ large funding request.
The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau also said that the Evers Administration could use its existing federal dollars in the state’s account to pay the approximated $500 million in equipment, employment costs and additional expenses, according to the WSJ. The federal funds presently used by the state could be replaced by revenue from federal stimulus dollars.