Seventy-two people who tested positive for COVID-19 in Wisconsin are reported to have recently attended a “large gathering”.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) confirmed it had gathered tracing data on a number of individuals who had contracted the virus, according to US magazine The Progressive.
The findings came to light after hundreds of people in Wisconsin attended a mass rally against the governor’s stay-at-home order on 24 April, where social distancing rules were flouted and only around a third of protesters wore face masks.
However it cannot be proven how many of these people contracted coronavirus at the protest as the health department is not tracking attendance of specific events.
“Possible exposures during protests haven’t been specifically added to the database because we already ask about large gatherings,” DHS spokesperson Jennifer Miller wrote in an email to The Progressive.
“We were able to pull some limited data out of 1,986 cases with onset/diagnosis on or after 4/26, there were 72 cases who reported attending a large gathering.”
She added: “No, it doesn’t specifically state that the 72 were at a rally, but this is the data we have.”
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In an earlier email to the magazine, Ms Miller clarified that the people doing contact tracing in Wisconsin were not asking people who tested positive if they attended the 24 April protest.
“Contact tracers do ask if patients attended mass gatherings, but not specifically about protests, so there’s really no data on who may have contracted COVID-19 at a protest,” she wrote.
Hundreds of people attended the protest outside Wisconsin’s capitol building in Madison, demanding Democratic governor Tony Evers reopen the state and lift restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.
Wisconsin Capitol Police said around 1,500 individuals attended the rally and that no arrests and no citations were issued.
Late on Wednesday, a court ruling in Wisconsin lifted the stay-at-home order, throwing communities into chaos on Thursday as some bars opened immediately and were packed with customers.
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The conservative majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the restrictions made by Mr Evers were invalid and threw them out effective immediately.
President Donald Trump praised the court ruling, calling it a “win” on Twitter.
He tweeted: “Its Democrat Governor was forced by the courts to let the State Open. The people want to get on with their lives. The place is bustling!”