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Claire DeRosa / Wisconsin Watch

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The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, but public health experts are urging Americans to learn from failures in responding to this year’s public health crisis — to avoid worse devastation during the next pandemic, Mark Johnson reports for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

“Although COVID-19 caused devastation around the world, the U.S. has paid heavily for its mistrust in science and willingness to politicize health care. America’s response to the pandemic was crippled by its longtime failure to address racial and social inequities in health care, and by its inability to mount a uniform, federal response across all 50 states,” Johnson reports. “Lies and misinformation emanated from the highest levels of government, and reverberated across social media. Fundamental safety measures were mocked and ignored by many.”

Top Stories

Registered nurses Daniele Payne, right, and Katie Zupek wearing powered air purifying respirators tend to a COVID-19 patient in a negative air pressure room in a 12-bed intensive care unit on Nov. 5, 2020 at UW Hospital in Madison, Wis. The U.S. is contending with its third, and worst, wave of the virus yet. On Wednesday for the first time, more than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported in a day.

We’ll face another pandemic. Experts warn it will be ‘even more damaging’ if the U.S. doesn’t take action on lessons learned from COVID-19. — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

As virus spread inside Oshkosh prison, inmates faced isolation, depression; major COVID-19 outbreaks hit other state institutions — Appleton Post-Crescent

Wisconsin unemployment backlog could be cleared by next week, but systemic problems remain — Journal Times 

Can your employer make you get the COVID-19 vaccine? Legal experts say the answer is yes. — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Assembly Democrats consider skipping inauguration because of the lack of a mask requirement — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Time stood still: Photos capture the pandemic ‘before times’ — Cap Times

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“If schools do reopen, families who are sending their kids to school in person really need to think of that as their whole interaction budget. And they need to not be doing anything else. Because even if it’s not happening in the schools, if you’re sending your kids to school, and that means you’re also doing a bunch of other stuff, the bunch of other stuff could lead to a big spike in COVID cases.”

Malia Jones, an expert in epidemiology who works at the UW-Madison Applied Population Laboratory, speaking to the Cap Times

“You don’t have to go to a huge New Year’s bash with hundreds of people in order to spread or get COVID-19. … It could be as simple as popping across the street to a neighbor’s house.”

Brown County Public Health strategist Claire Paprocki, speaking to the Green Bay Press-Gazette

“I’ve, unfortunately, seen a lot of people pass away from COVID here. … The benefit highly outweighs the risk, and it’s not just mortality. The disease can be very debilitating for a long period of time. It can take people sometimes months to recover. There may be lasting effects from COVID. To avoid that, I think this new vaccine is amazing that way.”

Tara Pierce, SSM St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville pharmacist, speaking to the Janesville Gazette about the COVID-19 vaccination

Data to note

WisContext offers these visualizations of Wisconsin COVID-19 statistics. New documented COVID-19 infections and test-positivity rates have continued to decline from a pre-Thanksgiving peak. The state is also seeing fewer COVID-19 patients hospitalized since mid-November, now hovering at mid-October levels.

DHS on Wednesday reported a seven-day average of 29 new COVID-19 deaths each day. Wisconsin’s total pandemic death toll is 4,818, according to DHS data.

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:

A team effort aims to distribute millions of masks and sanitizer bottles in Wisconsin — Cap Times

With in-person services limited, Wisconsin’s libraries check out new ways to serve their communities — WPR

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The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( 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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