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Author: Wisconsin Watch

False pandemic data on social media complicates Wisconsin’s effort to halt spread of COVID-19

When the coronavirus started spreading around Wisconsin in the spring of 2020, Dr. Chad Tamez hosted Facebook Live sessions to help patients understand the mysterious new pathogen. But the family physician in West Bend stopped the online tutorials after a few weeks as the pandemic became increasingly political. More than a half year later, the medical world has expanded its understanding of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Multiple vaccine candidates have reached late-stage trials, and epidemiologists have mapped how the virus spreads and attacks the human body. Those advances draw on rivers of data about COVID-19 —...

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Anatomy of a disaster: Jobless families struggles without aid as Wisconsin Legislators deflect blame

As Wisconsin businesses shuttered this spring to slow the spread of COVID-19, jobless filings and phone calls flooded the state Department of Workforce Development — too quickly for staffers to keep up. But DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman remained optimistic In a May 4 email, Frostman told Unemployment Insurance Division Administrator Mark Reihl to “hang in there.” “If we can get through May, I think we will be cooking with gas with all the new people on board and call centers up and running,” Frostman wrote. Three days days later, Frostman emailed Reihl before a meeting with the state’s Unemployment...

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Trump targets Democratic strongholds in Wisconsin to toss out 170,000 in-person absentee ballots

The president’s team wants to toss 170,000 in-person absentee ballots in Dane and Milwaukee counties, experts call the effort a long shot. It may feel like 2016 all over again for some Wisconsin election officials: a presidential contender wins by about a 20,000-vote margin, there is a nearly even partisan divide and with Thanksgiving around the corner, workers are beginning a recount. But this recount differs in one key respect. President Donald Trump’s campaign is not just looking for an accurate count of votes. The primary aim is to separate out and invalidate tens of thousands of ballots in...

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Standing-Up for Democracy: Blacks in Milwaukee pushed past institutional obstacles to cast their vote

Despite smaller turnout, activists saw hopeful signs of determination as Black voters cast ballots, amid a pandemic and barriers to get-out-the-vote efforts. Early in the morning on Election Day, Angela Lang stood in a conference room in the offices of BLOC — Black Leaders Organizing for Communities — on Milwaukee’s north side, addressing nearly two dozen staff members and volunteers. It was the first time the team was together in the building since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, said Lang, the group’s executive director. They were gathered on Nov. 3 to build on months of community...

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Rural Wisconsin schools succumb to the impact of their community’s mishandling of COVID-19

As infections in the state surge, some rural schools are forced to suspend in-person instruction or integrate virtual students into classrooms. For the first month of the school year, the Millar children of rural Blue Mounds, Wisconsin, stayed home. “It wasn’t very much fun,” the oldest, 10-year-old Adara Millar, said of her virtual learning. “You’re looking at a computer screen for six and a half hours.” To break up the screen time, their father Matt Millar took Adara and her two younger brothers Sterling and Matthias outside for “man stuff.” He notes that description is tongue-in-cheek, but for the...

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Republican schemes to rig Wisconsin’s election system has stirred partisan gridlock and voter frustration

The bipartisan commission that oversees voting in the swing state has deadlocked along party lines on key issues, resulting in inconsistency, turmoil, and delays. As ballots began pouring in by mail after Wisconsin’s April 7 primary, local election officials became increasingly perplexed over which ones to count. A federal judge had ordered that ballots arriving as many as six days after the election should be accepted, but the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed that window, ruling that ballots should be counted only if they were postmarked by Election Day. The trouble was that many ballots were arriving without postmarks, or...

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