A globe is constructed Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, at the Foxconn campus in Mount Pleasant. Credit: Angela Major / WPR

Mink farm worries; white voters in WI abandoned Trump; bartender retools after COVID-caused layoffs; Foxconn sued; Rhinelander administrator cleared 


Of note: A day after Republican lawmakers rescinded Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mask order — only to have the Democratic governor issue a new one within hours — we highlight Wisconsin Watch’s latest COVID-19 story focusing on the risks posed by Wisconsin’s large mink farming industry. Until the worldwide public health emergency hit, Wisconsin knew very little about the state’s 19 mink farms, which are the No. 1 producers of mink pelts in the country. Now officials are scrambling to protect both minks and humans from the type of cross-species infection seen in some other countries that could generate dangerous variants of COVID-19.

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A wild mink leaves a live trap in Ontario, Canada in 2008. The photo was taken by scientists during a field study of interactions between escaped domestic and wild American mink. Officials in Wisconsin are scrambling to protect both humans and mink after outbreaks of the virus that causes COVID-19 on two Wisconsin mink farms killed 5,500 animals last year. Credit: Courtesy of Larissa Nituch

Wisconsin’s No. 1 mink farming industry now seen as a COVID-19 risk

Wisconsin Watch — January 30, 2021

The first sign of trouble was that the mink stopped eating. Next came coughing and sneezing, lethargy and labored breathing. Captive mink have a flu season in the fall, just like people — they get it from us, in fact. But what appeared in the two Taylor County, Wisconsin mink farms that saw outbreaks in October was not flu but the virus that causes COVID-19. The Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison confirmed the suspicion within days. The mink almost certainly got it from farmworkers, a jump called “reverse zoonosis.” 

Related story: As world reels from coronavirus, UW researchers report on chimpanzee-killing disease, raising concerns about jump to humans

Trump pollster’s campaign autopsy paints damning picture of defeat

Politico — February 1, 2021

Former President Donald Trump has blamed the election results on unfounded claims of fraud and malfeasance, including in Wisconsin. But a detailed autopsy report that circulated among his political aides paints a far different — and more critical — portrait. The post-mortem obtained by POLITICO says voters felt Trump wasn’t honest or trustworthy, and they overwhelmingly disapproved of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. And while Trump spread baseless accusations of ballot-stuffing in heavily Black cities, the report notes he lost by hemorrhaging support from white voters. The assessment was based on exit polling of voters in 10 “key target” states, including Wisconsin. Interestingly, voters in states that stuck with Trump in 2020 and those that “flipped” toward Joe Biden had the same level of support for mask mandates: 75%.

Related story: Wisconsin Republicans grapple with state of party post-Trump

A globe is constructed Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, at the Foxconn campus in Mount Pleasant. Credit: Angela Major / WPR

Developer sues Foxconn for breach of contract over stalled Wisconsin project

WPR — February 3, 2021

Three years after committing to build a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and create 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin that have still yet to materialize, Taiwanese tech company Foxconn is being sued by a real estate company for failing to deliver on its promises. The state pledged a $3 billion tax incentive deal, and at the local and regional levels, Mount Pleasant and Racine County created a tax-increment financing district to pay for $911 million in infrastructure improvement. But Foxconn has changed its plans several times. It has not been clear about what it is building or how many people it will employ. The state has asked the company to renegotiate its contract. Meanwhile, Foxconn has yet to receive any state tax credits.

‘It’s a scary transition’: After pandemic closes doors at bars and restaurants, Amy Moreland carves a new career path

WPR/Wisconsin Watch — February 3, 2021

When Madison bartender Amy Moreland was first laid off in mid-March, she expected to be jobless for a few weeks, maybe a month. She did not predict the COVID-19 pandemic to rage for so long. Moreland was hired by a brew pub, then laid off again. Now, she has gone back to school to pursue social work. “It’s a scary transition,” she said. “Maybe brighter skies are ahead.”

Former Weston administrator cleared of 2 charges, resolution reached in Rhinelander misconduct 

Wausau Pilot & Review — February 5, 2021

Prosecutors in Oneida County have all but concluded the case against Rhinelander’s former administrator, after a judge found two charges filed against Daniel Guild without merit and reached a resolution in the third. Documents and audio recordings of city council meetings, obtained by Wausau Pilot & Review, detail a circus-like atmosphere where the level of conflict was so high that two Rhinelander Police officers were required to attend every closed session of the council. Guild began his tenure in September 2018 in Rhinelander and quickly found himself in a complicated power struggle with other city leaders. 

Wisconsin Watch

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