Vice President Mike Pence visited the battleground state of Wisconsin for a campaign stop on July 17, to launch a series of attacks on critics of the Trump administration’s failed coronavirus policy that more than 140,000 deaths.

Pence spoke indoors at Ripon College, as one of a handful of stops in Wisconsin. Attendance at the private college was limited to 50 people, who were required to wear masks. Pence also wore a mask when he entered the building, but took it off during his address, despite campus rules.

The city of Ripon, about 22 miles west of Fond du Lac, is known as the birthplace of the Republican Party, which formed at a schoolhouse in 1854 that is now a historic landmark.

Nicole Safar, Executive Director of A Better Wisconsin Together, used the occasion to call out state Republicans for not standing up to Donald Trump. He said that they should heed the advice of health experts to make sure Wisconsin’s children are safe, and school teachers and support staff are protected as communities decide how to proceed with the start of the new school year.

“Keeping kids, teachers, support staff and our communities safe shouldn’t be politicized, but that’s what Donald Trump has done with his bullying,” said Safar. “The question is what will Wisconsin Republicans do about it: stand up for the safety of our kids and communities or keep quiet and let Donald Trump’s bullying go unchecked?”

With the Trump campaign in free-fall, driven in large part by public concern over his inept and dangerous failure to respond to the global COVID-19 pandemic, he has responded by bullying public schools to start in-person instruction in the fall. Trump and his Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have also threatened to withhold federal aid unless they accede to his politically-motivated demands.

Meanwhile, Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence was caught on camera this week declaring, “we don’t want CDC guidance to be a reason why people don’t reopen their schools.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the national public health agency with the express mission is to “protect America from “health, safety, and security threats.”

Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature have remained largely silent on the school re-opening issue, even as local districts have begun to announce plans for how to move forward with back-to-school plans, even as cases skyrocket both in Wisconsin and nationally.

The state GOP has previously used their control of the state legislature and the state Supreme Court to undermine statewide “Safer at Home” measures, that were designed to keep communities safe and slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. As a result of their lack of concern for the state’s taxpayers, each of Wisconsin’s 1,900 local municipalities and 420 local school districts are individually responsible for adopting any public health safety measures.

“Everyone wants to get back to normal, and kids going back to school in person is a huge part of it. If we’ve learned anything from the bungled handling of the outbreak and reckless re-openings fueling surges in COVID-19 cases across the country and here in Wisconsin, we need to do it safely,” added Safar.

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The White House and Lee Matz