Local officials feel strain as Wisconsin’s coronavirus outbreaks worsen and state leaders stay paralyzed — 10/5/20

A roundup of top news and information about Wisconsin’s response to the coronavirus

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Today we highlight a story by the Appleton Post-Crescent about how Wisconsin’s statewide leaders have punted pandemic responsibilities to local officials — an enormous lift as COVID-19 cases continue to surge statewide, filling hospitals with patients. 

Gov. Tony Evers and Department of Health Services secretary-designee Andrea Palm last week hosted a conference call with local officials, asking local governments to take action against the virus, report Madeline Heim and Alex Groth.

But some local officials questioned the effectiveness of a patchwork response to a global pandemic. 

“This pandemic has no boundaries,” Neenah Mayor Dean Kaufert — a former Republican lawmaker — told the reporters. “Having that local response may not have an impact because of another community not doing the same type of cautious atmosphere.”

Wisconsin remains one of the nation’s top virus hotspots, and Evers has expressed frustration about limits placed on his pandemic powers in May. That was when the Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with the Republican-controlled Legislature in striking down his administration’s Safer at Home order, leaving a few local governments to enact their own public health orders.

GOP lawmakers have offered no pandemic plans of their own. The Legislature has not passed a bill since April

Evers has since issued a statewide mask mandate, citing research demonstrating that properly worn masks can act as a key tool to slow the virus’ spread. The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative legal group, is suing to overturn the order.

Top Stories 

John Hart / State Journal

Students on the campus of UW-Madison wear face coverings while walking between in-person classes on the first day of the 2020 fall semester.

Whose job is it to address COVID-19 surges in Wisconsin? In the Fox Valley, local leaders are frustrated with ‘punting’ of responsibilityAppleton Post-Crescent 

COVID-19 hospitalizations at record levels in Wisconsin, Dane CountyWisconsin State Journal 

West Wing outbreak grows and Trump’s condition is unclearThe New York Times 

After testing positive for COVID-19, Ron Johnson says he’s still against mask mandatesWisconsin State Journal  

Republican state lawmaker Scott Allen tests positive for COVID-19, Democratic opponent has symptomsMilwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Workers face permanent job losses as the virus persistsThe New York Times 

Applications, admits, deferrals: The COVID-19 calculations behind UW-Madison’s freshman classWisconsin 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 tips@wisconsinwatch.org.

Quotable

“After 6 months of fighting this pandemic, we know what works to curb the spread of this virus and what will lessen the burden of COVID-19 in our community … We implore you to promote, facilitate and encourage these behaviors in our community. The ongoing reckless disregard of these basic public health measures is threatening the viability of our local businesses, education of our children, and provision of medical care to everyone in Northeast Wisconsin.”

— Prevea Health CEO Ashok Rai, in an open letter Friday signed by more than 200 Green Bay-area doctors as COVID-19’s spread overwhelms area hospitals 

“Our leaders are in a position to powerfully affect public health in this pandemic by making sure the message they send is consistent with what we all need to be doing …The tragedy is that much of this (the infections and deaths) is preventable.”

—William Melms, chief medical officer at Marshfield Clinic Health System, speaking to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services on Monday reported four new deaths linked to the virus, bringing the state’s total to 1,381 during the pandemic. 

Seven Wisconsin communities remain on The New York Times Upshot’s list of 20 U.S. metro areas with the most new COVID-19 cases, adjusted for population. They are: 

  • Oshkosh-Neenah 
  • Green Bay 
  • Appleton 
  • Marinette
  • Manitowoc 
  • Platteville 
  • Fond du Lac

Meanwhile, six Wisconsin communities sit on the Upshot’s list of 20 metro areas where new cases are rising the fastest, adjusted for population. They are:

  • Sheboygan 
  • Manitowoc 
  • Appleton
  • Beaver Dam 
  • Oshkosh-Neenah 
  • Wausau-Weston

Wisconsin continues to set daily records for COVID-19 hospitalizations. Hospitals statewide reported 782 COVID-19 patients on Monday, a dramatic increase from 714 patients just a day earlier. 
Here are the latest data from the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

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: tips@wisconsinwatch.org.

One giant outdoor classroom: Montessori school offers ideal space during COVID-19Wisconsin State Journal 

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