Mask-wearing was spotty during the opening of the 2021-22 legislative session in the state Assembly Monday. Credit: Amber Arnold / Wisconsin State Journal
Credit: Claire DeRosa / Wisconsin Watch

Wisconsin Watch is a nonprofit newsroom that focuses on government integrity and quality of life issues, and we always provide our news for free.

You can read all of our coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage by signing up for our Wisconsin COVID-19 Update newsletter, and please consider becoming a member to support our nonprofit journalism. 

Today we highlight a USA TODAY/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting investigation about lax scrutiny and a rising COVID-19 death toll at meatpacking plants.

About 45,000 American meatpacking workers have contracted the coronavirus and at least 239 have died, a team of reporters found. But the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration has failed to inspect 26 of the 65 meatpacking plants where at least one worker died. 

“Experts say that’s in large part because the agency weakened reporting requirements during the pandemic,” the reporters write. “Even fewer deaths triggered the kind of robust investigation OSHA typically conducted before the pandemic. Worker advocates say that’s also a consequence of a hands-off approach from OSHA.”

OSHA has cited just five meatpacking plants for violations during the pandemic. Among them: a JBS plant in Green Bay, Wisconsin, according to the report.

Top Stories

Mask-wearing was spotty during the opening of the 2021-22 legislative session in the state Assembly Monday. Credit: Amber Arnold / Wisconsin State Journal

COVID-19 deaths go uninvestigated as OSHA takes a hands-off approach to meatpacking plants — USA TODAY/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Low staffing numbers still a concern as Veterans Home at Union Grove endures second outbreak, 12 total deaths — Journal Times 

Evers asks feds to release more COVID-19 vaccine to Wisconsin as state officials move closer to picking next group to get shots — Milwaukee  Journal Sentinel 

What we know about Wisconsin’s COVID-19 vaccine plan, what groups will get it and when — Milwaukee  Journal Sentinel 

Vaccine rollout confirms public health officials’ warnings — Associated Press 

Differences over masks highlight divide over COVID-19 measures in Wisconsin Legislature — Wisconsin State Journal 

Wisconsin Senate Republicans release slimmed-down COVID plan — Cap Times 

Health care workers at small or private organizations get vaccinated after weeks of hurdles — Janesville Gazette

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

“Our vaccine team is working across the state on vaccine distribution. … In a state where our statewide mitigation strategies have been struck down and challenged time and time again, it is absolutely critical that Wisconsin get additional doses of vaccine to meet demand and box in the virus.”

Gov. Tony Evers in a statement urging the federal government to distribute more vaccine

“If Governor Evers cannot figure out how to distribute the vaccine to those who need it, he should step aside and let someone who can lead this effort do it.”

U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Janesville, in a statement

Data to note

WisContext offers these visualizations of Wisconsin COVID-19 infections, deaths and hospitalizations. 

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services on Monday reported a seven-day average of 40 new daily COVID-19 deaths. 

Public health officials continue to urge Wisconsinites to wear masks and practice physical distancing until vaccinations are more widely distributed.

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

Iced by pandemic, Middleton High School hockey players build rinks to share with community — Wisconsin State Journal 

UW Hospital set transplant records in 2020 despite COVID-19 — Wisconsin State Journal 

Beloit College’s Boynton leads conference on COVID-19 approach — Beloit Daily News

Access to some stories listed in the Wisconsin COVID-19 Update may be limited to subscribers of the news organizations that produced them. We urge our readers to consider supporting these important news outlets by subscribing.

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Wisconsin Watch

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