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COVID-19 expert weighs in on new emergency order

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Gov. Tony Evers' new emergency order doesn't mandate anything, but one COVID-19 expert said he thinks it will still be effective in slowing the pandemic's spread.

"Orders are only as effective as they are followed, and everyone should be well aware of this crisis we have in our state with COVID-19," Dr. Ajay Sethi, an infectious diseases expert at UW-Madison, said.

He said data from earlier in the pandemic showed Wisconsinites widely followed Safer-At-Home precautions even before the order went into effect, and that has him optimistic this order will have an effect, too.

Sethi said while slowing the spread of the virus is possible, it won't necessarily be quick.

"It's something where we'll begin to see evidence of our actions within a few weeks, and then in a little over a month, we'll see really positive improvement in preventing deaths and preventing hospitalizations," he said. "But it's something we really have to have faith in."

Gov. Evers urged people to celebrate the upcoming holidays virtually, and Sethi said that could be crucial to controlling the pandemic.

He said small gatherings and everyday interactions are currently driving the surge in Wisconsin.

"We don't need a party of a thousand people or a gathering of a thousand people to spread COVID," he said. "It only takes two people."

Sethi said if people commit to following these protocols, there's widespread evidence it will have a measurable effect. He said other states are in a better position right now because of higher rates of compliance with precautionary measures and stricter regulations.

However, he said if people don't take precautionary steps, the state's situation will get worse.

"We're seeing surges across the state that are really alarming," he said. "It doesn't bode well for what we're going to see moving forward unless we all make that change."

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