Reading Time: 3 minutes
Claire DeRosa / Wisconsin Watch

Wisconsin Watch is a nonprofit newsroom that focuses on government integrity and quality of life issues, and we always provide our news for free.

You can read all of our coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage by signing up for our Wisconsin COVID-19 Update newsletter, and please consider becoming a member to support our nonprofit journalism. 

A pair of Dodge Correctional Institution inmates died after contracting COVID-19, the Wisconsin State Journal reports — revealing the first confirmed coronavirus deaths in the state’s prison system. 

And they come as Wisconsin continues to break records for COVID-19 cases statewide. The Department of Health Services on Thursday reported 3,132 new positive cases, setting a daily record and surpassing 3,000 for the first time. 

State Journal reporter Emily Hamer confirmed the September deaths of two men in their 60s with the Dodge County Medical Examiner’s Office. But the Department of Corrections is withholding information about any inmate’s cause of death or contributing factors, citing privacy laws. That means it is unclear how many Wisconsin prisoners have died from the virus, Hamer reports. 

The deaths follow a COVID-19 outbreak at Dodge Correctional in September and ongoing outbreaks at Kettle Moraine and Oshkosh correctional institutions, Hamer reports. 
The prison outbreaks come months into criminal justice reform advocates’ calls for Gov. Tony Evers to cut populations at overcrowded prisons to protect vulnerable inmates. As Wisconsin Watch reported in May, Evers refuses to wield his power to release inmates despite campaigning on a promise to cut prison populations by 50%. Inmates said overcrowding leaves them regularly too close to their peers and staff at a time when experts call distance a top tool for slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Top Stories

UW-Madison students sit spaced out and with face coverings in a first-year history seminar outside the Humanities Building on the first day of classes in the fall 2020 semester. John Hart / State Journal Archives

First COVID-19-related deaths confirmed in Wisconsin prison systemWisconsin State Journal 

Republican lawmakers are in court to end Wisconsin’s mask mandate, but they won’t talk about itMilwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Aspirus Wausau Hospital opens another COVID-19 unit as patient load multiplies in 3 weeksWausau Daily Herald

Campus COVID-19 spike subsides: What’s behind UW-Madison’s drop in cases?Wisconsin State Journal 

Milwaukee to enforce city’s existing COVID-19 order, not new capacity limits issued by Gov. Tony EversMilwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Markesan Superintendent Duane Bark dies after battle with COVID-19Beaver Dam Daily Citizen 

Coronavirus found in mink on Taylor County ranch; first documented case in state’s $227M industryWisconsin State Journal 

What are we missing? And how are you coping? Help us provide critical information and accountability by filling out this form or emailing us at


“There are people who are afraid and being told not to say things that are going on for fear that a school might be closed down. … Or they’re being told to do things that are unethical.” 

— Ron “Duff” Martin, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, speaking to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about accusations that some school districts are flouting COVID-19 safety guidelines

Food access trouble?

We know that when classes are virtual, many Wisconsin students and families lose access to food schools provide. And as the school year starts, some meal sites are closing. Share your experience with News414, Wisconsin Watch’s service journalism collaboration with Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service and Outlier Media. Click here for details.

You can also view a list of Milwaukee-area food distribution sites for students here.

Data to note

DHS on Thursday reported nine new deaths linked to COVID-19, bringing the state’s recorded death toll to 1,424 during the pandemic. 

Here is a look at trends in cases, deaths and percentage of positive tests from our partners at WisContext:

!function(e,i,n,s){var t=”InfogramEmbeds”,d=e.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0];if(window[t]&&window[t].initialized)window[t].process&&window[t].process();else if(!e.getElementById(n)){var o=e.createElement(“script”);o.async=1,,o.src=””,d.parentNode.insertBefore(o,d)}}(document,0,”infogram-async”);
!function(e,i,n,s){var t=”InfogramEmbeds”,d=e.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0];if(window[t]&&window[t].initialized)window[t].process&&window[t].process();else if(!e.getElementById(n)){var o=e.createElement(“script”);o.async=1,,o.src=””,d.parentNode.insertBefore(o,d)}}(document,0,”infogram-async”);

Resilient Wisconsin

People helping others and showing resilience during this time of anxiety. Send suggestions by tagging us on social media — @wisconsinwatch — or emailing us:

Causey’s Career Corner: How one collectible store is beating the odds despite the pandemicMilwaukee Neighborhood News Service 

PHOTOS: Kanopy Dance has gone virtualCap Times

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, PBS Wisconsin, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

Popular stories from Wisconsin Watch

The byline "Wisconsin Watch" represents members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's editorial and public engagement and marketing staff.