Signals were mixed Friday on whether Wisconsin is emerging from the pandemic — or at risk of sliding into a dangerous new phase. While Dane County loosened some of its masking requirements — and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was safe for the quickly growing number of vaccinated people to travel — the Milwaukee County coroner announced that a 14-year-old boy had died of complications of COVID-19.
Wisconsin Watch’s reporters and editors are investigating state and local impacts of the global pandemic and issues related to quality of life in Wisconsin. This page groups together all our original reporting, as well as our roundups of news from around the state and nation.
Effects of Wisconsin’s terminated mask mandate continue — 4/1/21
On Thursday, a day after the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mask order — and halted his ability to impose new public health orders — the fallout from the high court decision continued. Elimination of the mask mandate will cost Wisconsin nearly $50 million a month in federal emergency food aid, affecting thousands of low-income Wisconsin residents.
Wisconsin Supreme Court curbs Evers’ pandemic powers — 3/30/21
Gov. Tony Evers will have to get legislative permission to issue any more public health emergency orders, the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s conservative majority ruled Wednesday. The high court’s ruling means that the statewide mask order — set to expire today — cannot be reinstated without the Republican-controlled Legislature’s approval.
Wisconsin swings open door to vaccine eligibility — 3/30/21
As Wisconsin and the nation race to get shots into arms to stem the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday announced that all state residents ages 16 and older will be eligible for vaccinations beginning Monday.
Wisconsin’s pandemic funding targeted toward businesses — 3/29/21
Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday he will send $2.5 billion in federal relief to help Wisconsin businesses recover from the coronavirus pandemic. “The Democratic governor delivered the news at a Milwaukee cafe just before he vetoed a bill that would have given that decision-making power over billions coming to Wisconsin through the federal American Rescue Plan to Republicans who control the state Legislature,” the Milwaukee Journal reported. Evers didn’t spell out how he would spend all of the $3.2 billion he will control but said $2.5 billion of it would be used to help businesses.
Case numbers in Wisconsin creeping back — 3/26/21
COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are ticking back up in Wisconsin this week after weeks of falling or steady levels, David Wahlberg of the Wisconsin State Journal reports. In response, a top Department of Health Services official is urging people to keep wearing masks and avoid large gatherings. The warning signs include a daily average of 459 cases on Thursday — up from a daily average of 386 cases a week ago. “We don’t want to take five steps back just when we’re at the cusp of things getting a lot better,” DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said.
Echoes of 1918 flu pandemic resonate today — 3/25/21
Today we highlight a story written for The Conversation by University of Michigan professor J. Alexander Navarro, who studied the flu pandemic from a century ago. Navarro, who runs the Center for the History of Medicine, found that as the pandemic stretched past two years, residents grew tired of wearing masks, avoiding gatherings and staying away from movie theaters and restaurants. The public also was anxious to celebrate the end of World War I. These pressures prompted political leaders to loosen restrictions, sparking the worst spike in cases of the pandemic, which killed 675,000 across the United States, including 8,459 people in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin ‘long-hauler’ chronicles COVID-19 struggles — 3/24/21
Today we highlight a story profiling a Wisconsin “long-hauler” whose COVID-19 symptoms persist long after he was infected. WPR’s Rob Mentzer tells the story of Paul Mathis of Rib Mountain, Wisconsin, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 in October. Five months later, Mathis still suffers from a sudden racing heart beat, shortness of breath and a diminished sense of smell. Mathis is among a set of people — as many as one-third — who contracted the virus but who have yet to fully recover from it.
Racine aims to narrow racial disparities in vaccination — 3/23/21
Black and Latino elected officials and leaders in Racine are urging residents of color to get vaccinated, the Journal Times reports. The effort is an attempt to bring more protection to communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis. On Tuesday, the city opened a community vaccination clinic, and it is offering free bus rides to anyone traveling to get the vaccine.
Wisconsin shields locations of COVID-19 outbreaks — 3/22/21
Wisconsin continues to withhold the names of businesses and other workplaces with COVID-19 outbreaks. Even though the state budgeted $75 million to trace the virus’ path, the state Department of Health Services chose from the earliest days of the pandemic to reveal little about outbreak locations, according to an investigation by the USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin. Then, during last fall’s surge, the state’s most powerful business and manufacturing group sued to make doubly sure nobody but the state could access those records.
CDC: Student desks can now be 3 feet apart — 3/19/21
As a growing number of Wisconsin school districts welcome students back into the classroom, new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued Friday should make that easier. The CDC is now recommending 3 feet between students, relaxing the old 6-foot standard.
Reflections on a year of pandemic living — 3/18/21
Today we highlight the latest installment in the WPR/Wisconsin Watch audio diary series, Outbreak Wisconsin. In this episode, we hear from five Wisconsinites reflecting on loss, opportunity and introspection prompted by a year of pandemic living. A Madison nurse says the COVID-19 crisis made her job “more human.” A Milwaukee business owner found new outlets for her products. A Door County senior citizen found contentment after leaving a locked-down assisted living facility. A laid-off Madison bartender switched careers. And a laid-off Eau Claire shuttle service worker found fulfillment helping people with disabilities.