A room in the intensive care unit dubbed “The Cove” is where Door County Medical Center in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., has treated its handful of COVID-19 patients. The hospital added anterooms so the staff can unzip the outer doors and change into and out of protective gear. “It was a real learning curve — at the time we didn’t know how this (pandemic) was going to play out. We have been able to do everything a large urban hospital can do. We are proud of that,” says Dr. James Heise, chief medical officer. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch
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‘This is slowly grinding us into dirt’

Of note: This week we highlight two Wisconsin Watch stories that reveal the challenges facing the state as it becomes a hotspot in the coronavirus pandemic. While Wisconsin’s rural hospitals are holding their own financially — for now — a Madison emergency room nurse is calling for residents to wear masks and keep their distance to slow down the flood of COVID-19 patients overflowing hospitals here. 

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A room in the intensive care unit dubbed “The Cove” is where Door County Medical Center in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., has treated its handful of COVID-19 patients. The hospital added anterooms so the staff can unzip the outer doors and change into and out of protective gear. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

Wisconsin’s rural hospitals weather pandemic better than most, but warning signs remain

Wisconsin Watch — October 16, 2020

Wisconsin’s rural hospitals are faring better than in most states. But a significant number — roughly one-third — remain underwater financially. And if rural residents continue to ignore the statewide mask order and fail to engage in social distancing, the COVID-19 surge that is swamping many urban hospitals in Wisconsin could also overwhelm rural health care facilities, said Tim Size, executive director of the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative.

Mariah Clark is an emergency room nurse at UW-Hospital who has been treating patients with COVID-19. “Wisconsin, I love you, but you’re doing it wrong,” Clark said of Wisconsinite’s response to the pandemic. Courtesy of Mariah Clark

‘This is slowly grinding us into dirt’: An ER nurse reflects on the relentless pandemic

WPR/Wisconsin Watch — October 14, 2020

As a weeks-long surge of coronavirus infections continue to grip Wisconsin, the state’s hospitals are filling up — so much so that health officials are preparing a facility to handle overflow patients diagnosed with COVID-19. As of Oct. 12, 74 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in Dane County alone, where Mariah Clark works as an emergency department nurse at UW Health in Madison. That was compared to just 17 hospital patients infected with the virus as recently as Sept. 18.

Read more from the series at: Outbreak Wisconsin

Kevin Mineau inserts his ballot into the DS200 vote-counting machine during the partisan primary in Rib Mountain, Wis., on Aug. 11, observed by election official Mike Otten. In 2018, some servers that tabulated votes from DS200 machines in Wisconsin were left online for months, experts found, opening them up to possible hacking. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

Wisconsin election infrastructure is mostly secure — but inaccurate counts are hard to catch and correct

Wisconsin Watch — October 10, 2020

Long-time Wisconsin resident and election reformer Jim Mueller said when he was a municipal clerk two decades ago, elections were not a stressful part of small town administration. And, “in my mother’s age, anybody that learned how to count by grade five could be a poll worker,” he said. These days, clerks need to worry about many threats, including Russian hackers.

Citizens United is infamous. But an obscure case four years later — and state lawmakers’ response — has made Wisconsin politics a ‘plaything of the super rich.’

The Badger Project — October 12, 2020

So far this year, three people each have donated more than $2 million to a political party in Wisconsin. Before 2015, the total any single person could have given in annual political donations in Wisconsin was $10,000. That’s it. What changed? A monumental 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision you’ve probably never heard of: McCutcheon v. FEC.

When armed vigilantes are summoned with a few keystrokes

New York Times — October 16, 2020

Tapping on his cellphone with a sense of purpose, Kevin Mathewson, a former wedding photographer and onetime city alderman in Kenosha, Wis., did not slow down to fix his typos as he dashed off an online appeal to his neighbors. It was time, he wrote on Facebook in late August, to “take up arms to defend out City tonight from the evil thugs.” One day earlier, hundreds of residents had poured onto the streets of Kenosha to protest the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake. Disturbed by the sight of buildings in flames when he drove downtown, Mr. Mathewson decided it was time for people to arm themselves to protect their houses and businesses. To his surprise, some 4,000 people responded on Facebook. Within minutes, the Kenosha Guard had sprung to life.

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (wisconsinwatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, PBS Wisconsin, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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