From left, photos of Sister Mary Francele Sherburne, Sister Josephine Seier, Sister Bernadette Kelter, Sister Mary Regine Collins, Sister Marie June Skender and Sister Annelda Holtkamp can be seen inside of a chapel in Milwaukee. The six died from complications of COVID-19. Credit: Angela Major / WPR
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Credit: Claire DeRosa / Wisconsin Watch

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With the tumultuous presidential election (mostly) in the rearview mirror, Congress on Wednesday closed in on a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package to benefit ailing businesses and millions of Americans who lost work to the pandemic, USA TODAY reports. 

“The looming deal would restart a boost to federal unemployment insurance benefits and provide some form of relief for state and local governments,” reports Nicholas Wu, citing an unnamed source. “Liability protections, a hurdle in negotiations when Republicans insisted they be included in any deal, are not likely to be in this package, the source said, though lawmakers continued to negotiate.”

U.S. Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, said stimulus checks of $600 or $700 — “double that for family and kids” — were part of the negotiations, Wu reports, along with $300 per week to boost unemployment benefits.

Top Stories

From left, photos of Sister Mary Francele Sherburne, Sister Josephine Seier, Sister Bernadette Kelter, Sister Mary Regine Collins, Sister Marie June Skender and Sister Annelda Holtkamp can be seen inside of a chapel in Milwaukee. The six died from complications of COVID-19. Credit: Angela Major / WPR

Stimulus checks part of looming COVID-19 relief deal as Congress finalizes negotiations — USA TODAY 

‘They’re boiling over’: 9 months of COVID-19 push Wisconsin families to a breaking point — WPR 

‘Every single one of them changed lives’: 6 nuns at Greenfield convent die of COVID-19 — WPR 

COVID-19 vaccination ramps up in Wisconsin but will take months — Wisconsin State Journal 

Most Wisconsin nursing homes likely to wait two weeks to get COVID-19 vaccine — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

First COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in Green Bay for Prevea Health and HSHS health care workers — Green Bay Press-Gazette 

State’s testing of city wastewater could help Janesville track virus — Janesville Gazette 

Lie of the Year: Coronavirus downplay and denial — PolitiFact Wisconsin

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Quotable

“The small business economy has been hit hard by the COVID-19 virus. … Sales are 50% or less in this health and economic crisis for one-in-five small businesses. To make matters worse, one-in-four report they will have to close their doors for good if current economic conditions do not improve over the next six months. … Small business is pleading with Congress to act as quickly as possible to pass relief for our hard working and job creating small business owners here in Wisconsin.”

Bill G. Smith, Wisconsin state director of NFIB, which represents small and independent business owners, commenting on a new survey on COVID-19 impact

Data to note

WisContext offers these visualizations of Wisconsin COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths. New documented COVID-19 infections have continued to decline from a pre-Thanksgiving peak. The state is also seeing fewer COVID-19 patients hospitalized since mid-November, although daily totals are still hovering above levels from before November’s surge. The Department of Health Services reported 74 new COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, pushing the state’s total to 4,196 during the pandemic.

Calculate your exposure risk

In Wisconsin, even small gatherings can carry a big risk of exposure to the coronavirus, according to a nationwide tool that estimates the danger by the size of gathering and county in which it is held. Data scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Stanford University developed the tool, which you can find here.

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

Local small businesses get state boost for their COVID-19 innovations — Janesville Gazette

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The byline "Wisconsin Watch" represents members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's editorial and public engagement and marketing staff.