Sunday, September 27, 2020

Wisconsin On The Verge-- Time For A Choice



Last week the U.S. new cases numbers were back over 50,000-- even though cases were down in California and Texas, the two biggest states both population-wise and COVID-wise. All week the spiking has been in the Midwest. Friday, for example, Illinois was #4 with 2,805 new cases, Wisconsin was #5 with 2,504 new cases, Missouri #8 with 1,765 new cases, and climbing numbers in Kansas, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, and Iowa.

When you look at cases per million residents, the U.S. has a ghastly 21,928, far worse than European country. Five Midwestern states have worse outcomes-- Nebraska, Illinois, South Dakota, North Dakota and Iowa. Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas are just a week or so away from overtaking the national average. And Wisconsin, with 19,518 cases per million residents, may... or may not. The state is definitely spiking, but at least part of the population is fighting back and attempting to prevent a full-blown catastrophe of Floridian proportions. Yesterday, Wisconsin reported 2,817 new cases (4th worst in the nation), bringing the state total to 113,645.

Yesterday, The Atlantic, published a chilling essay by Robinson Meyer, Wisconsin is on the Brink of A Major Outbreak. "In every state that has so far seen a large spike of COVID-19 cases," he wrote, there has been a moment when the early signs of an uptick are detectable-- but a monstrous outbreak is not yet assured." He then asked, "Can a state realize what’s happening, and stop a surge in time? Wisconsin is about to find out."

In the past week, Wisconsin has crashed through its own coronavirus records, reporting more cases and more COVID-19 hospitalizations than it has at any time since the pandemic began... It now ranks among the top states in new cases per capita, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it is reporting more new cases, in absolute terms, than all states but California, Texas, and Florida.

Wisconsin’s outlook was deteriorating into the weekend. Yesterday, it reported more than 2,620 new cases of COVID-19, an all-time high. More than 540 people are hospitalized with the virus statewide.

The outbreak started about a month ago. It seemed, at first, like a product of students returning to college campuses. The University of Wisconsin at Madison brought back tens of thousands of students to campus in August. Within a week of classes starting, more than 1,000 of them tested positive, and the university shut down all in-person instruction. Other states in the Midwest saw similar spikes after colleges and universities restarted for the fall.

[NOTE: This is also when bikers were returning from the super-spreader rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, which also hit Wisconsin hard.]

But those states are not seeing what Wisconsin is now. Cases are popping up in too many places, and among too many different age groups, to be blamed on college kids. In fact, every age group except 18-to-24-year-olds has seen cases rise this week, according to official data. “There’s a surge happening in cases across the state, for the most part,” Ajay Sethi, an epidemiology professor at the University of Wisconsin, told me.

Any coronavirus outbreak is bad news, but a surge in Wisconsin, at this moment, would be particularly awful. The problem is one of both political geography and poor timing. Wisconsin could determine the outcome of the presidential election: The state went for President Donald Trump in 2016 by only 22,748 votes, and both Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have campaigned there this month. The election is little more than a month away, and if the threat of infection scares Wisconsinites away from polling places, the outbreak could play a role in who wins the state.

...The Badger State is seeing an explosive rise in cases: On September 1, it reported an average of about 750 new coronavirus cases a day; now it reports more than 2,000 a day. Wisconsin has reported nearly as many new cases per capita this week as Texas and Georgia did at the peak of their outbreaks this summer, according to the CDC.

At the same time, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Wisconsin has more than doubled since the month began. “The surges are in Green Bay, in northeastern Wisconsin, and there’s a little evidence of an uptick in Milwaukee,” Sethi said. “A lot of these counties are where older individuals live, on average.”

But the state is not doomed to becoming the next Arizona, and it has already had some success halting the spread of the virus. After the University of Wisconsin at Madison shut down in-person classes earlier this month, case counts plummeted across the state. (The school is now loosening those restrictions.) Nationwide, many colleges and universities have successfully kept the virus in check through frequent testing and mask requirements.

But those tools aren’t as easy to deploy in a fractious state. This week, Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, announced that the rising case counts forced him to extend a statewide mask mandate through November. Mask mandates are supported by public-health officials in the Trump administration and the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Yet the state’s top Republican legislators immediately attacked the move. “Moot, illegal, invalid, and almost assuredly headed for litigation,” Scott Fitzgerald, the state’s Senate majority leader, said in a statement. If the mask mandate is overturned in the state legislature, as Fitzgerald has repeatedly threatened, then Wisconsin’s odds of a deadly surge will worsen.

Leaders in Wisconsin should recognize that they hold the entire region’s fate in their hands, because their reckless action could set off a much larger blaze. The Midwest now reports more COVID-19 cases per capita than any other region. It is the only part of the country to have escaped a large-scale outbreak so far, but a major spike could prove especially devastating, because the residents of many midwestern states skew older.

The next few months will prove decisive in the Midwest. Infections didn’t really start going in the Southwest until the summer arrived, when the searing daytime heat drove people indoors, where the coronavirus seems to spread most easily. In the Midwest, indoor season arrives in late autumn. It is nearly 80 degrees Fahrenheit in Green Bay today. The weather in December probably won’t be as favorable.
Goal ThermometerFrom the very beginning of this pandemic, the Republican legislature has been on COVID-19's side, not on Wisconsin's side. It's time to throw these bums out on their asses. The problem, of course, is that Wisconsin is one of the most gerrymandered states in America-- by the same legislators who now deserve to be defeated and see their political careers ended. Blue America is working to help a some of the progressive candidates running to flip the Assembly. I asked them how they look at the role of government in this pandemic, now just in terms of how badly the legislature has handled it, but what they expect going forward.

Francesca Hong, who will be representing part of Madison in the Assembly next year, noted this morning that "There were over 14,803 new COVID19 cases in Wisconsin this week. That number is higher than the total number of cases reported in the month of June. Over 1,200 Wisconsin lives lost yet Speaker Vos and Sen Fitzgerald are too busy suppressing democracy and our right to vote safely to notice. These leaders do not fucking care if Wisconsinites die, especially since those who are dying are disproportionately people of color.Protecting white supremacy/patriarical capitalism is their only priority. They have no plan to combat this virus nor do they hold themselves accountable even though they hold all the legislative power. We must vote the Wisconsin GOP legislators out. All of them. Our lives depend on it."

Jacob Malinowski is running for a Republican-held Assembly seat to represent his neighbors in the western suburbs of Milwaukee, right where Milwaukee county meets Waukesha and Kenosha counties. "I don't blame anyone for the pandemic," he told me last night, "but I directly blame the inaction of the Wisconsin State Assembly GOP for how bad it has gotten in Wisconsin. Because they refuse to show up for work, families across the state are struggling with COVID-19. We desperately need new leadership who actually listen to experts-- not our do-nothing, money-driven politicians."

The Assembly district Emily Voight, a Calumet County Supervisor, is trying to flip is straight north from Jacob's, just south of Green Bay. "The state legislators have refused to act, using the pandemic as a reason to not meet or enact any legislation; yet they are expecting local governments to continue functioning in person and passing the buck on to us. If schools and local governments can convene in person or virtually, why can’t our state representatives?"

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At 11:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Americans "have had enough" of this COVID "hoax" and want life to go back to normal. They don't want to hear anything from someone who bothered to become educated.

Many times on this site, both in the articles and in the comments, the idea that Trump won due to a rebellion against those who know more than they do has been presented. The tone of the comments from such people in MANY other media sources I've seen or heard boils down to "stop telling ME what to do". Michael Moore first encountered this when he met with the Michigan Militia many years ago. He put it in one of his movies.

Once, these blue-collar workers were the core of the Democratic Party base. They see the Party having shit on them when they were at their lowest to cater to minorities at their expense. Then the Party actively took their means of support away from them with NAFTA and GATT. The only particular change they see since it began is that it has become more overt. They. Are. Pissed.

The Democratic Party leaders have to be the most clueless vegetables on Earth. It's no wonder that too many voters came from the same fields.

At 3:25 PM, Blogger Citizen X said...

I moved out of Wisconsin because of it's asshat politicians and bigger asshat population.


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