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Author: Wisconsin Watch

Wisconsin’s legislature unwilling to act as record-setting death toll overwhelms COVID-19 medical units

Health care workers scrambled to treat patients on a day when 92 Wisconsin lives were reported lost. Outside of the hospital, politicians postured. The exterior of University Hospital in Madison on November 17 looked remarkably ordinary. A line of cars queued outside of the parking garage, where drivers must still push a button and grab a ticket before entering. Patients streamed in and out of the building. The first hint that these are extraordinary times: everyone wore masks as screeners checked visitors’ symptoms and temperatures. Parts of the COVID-19 unit three floors upstairs also looked unspectacular. The floor was...

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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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