Soon this singularly awful year will be over and optimism about COVID19 vaccines - along with flat-out, coast-to-coast exhaustion - could dull the memory of what we've gone through.
So I want to gather examples of what some Wisconsin right-wing politicians and officials actually did and said while everyday citizens with less power and fewer resources were - and continue to be - overwhelmed, sickened, impoverished and killed by COVID19.
This updates a similar item posted November 9th.
Note that the COVID19 data cited below is taken from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services' COVID19 dashboard website.(Also note that COVID19 for Wisconsin published daily by The New York Times is gathered differently and consistently shows higher numbers.)
* Wisconsin GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos - on the eve of what would be the Legislature's fully-paid eight-month-plus vacation - said on April 7th "you are incredibly safe to go out," and headed outside swathed in personal protective equipment.
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican, wore a mask, gloves and other protective gear as he sought to assure voters it was "incredibly safe" to vote in person for Tuesday's election amid the coronavirus pandemic....
Vos' message was strikingly disconnected from his PPE-heavy outfit, in which the speaker looked more like a surgeon than one of the state's most powerful politicians. Vos did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
By that day, April 7th, there had been 2,578 confirmed cases of COVID19 in Wisconsin and 92 deaths. On Friday, December 18, the confirmed cumulative case number in Wisconsin had soared to 451,676 and the confirmed death toll to 4,345.
* On May 5th, The Wisconsin Supreme Court - meeting virtually and respecting COVID19 distancing guidelines - heard arguments in a case brought by GOP Legislative leaders to overturn Democratic Gov. Tony Evers 'Safer-at-Home' order extension. The Justices overturned the Evers order several days later by a 4-3 vote.
During the May 5th argument, Chief Justice Patience Roggensack (the Court is officially non-partisan, but has a 4-3 majority which usually supports conservative and GOP positions) opined that a highly-publicized outbreak of COVID19 in Brown County (the Green Bay-area) meatpacking plants which employed large numbers of migrant workers in close quarters had not hit "regular folks."
The food and commercial workers union called it "shocking and deeply offensive that Roggensack would suggest that workers in meatpacking plants aren't 'regular folks' who deserve protection."
On May 5th, state data showed a total of 1,966 confirmed COVID19 cases and 13 confirmed deaths in Brown County. Using the latest, December 18 data, those Brown County numbers had soared to 25,042 confirmed cases and 155 confirmed deaths, with both categories having jumped by more than by a factor of 10.
* Speaking of factors of 10 and other COVID multipliers, Racine GOP State Senator Van Wanggaard, an opponent of state masking orders, explained on October 8th to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel why he wouldn't budge off that position.
He said he wouldn't back a mask requirement even if COVID-19 becomes 10 times worse than it is now. Wisconsin now has an average of 2,300 new cases per day — an increase of 180% over a month ago, according to the state Department of Health Services....“Nobody should be dictating to me when I have to wear a mask.”
On October 8th, state data showed Racine County had a total of 3,611 confirmed COVID19 cases and 78 confirmed deaths. On December 18, those numbers had soared to 16,452 confirmed cases and 236 confirmed deaths.
So not a ten-fold increase, thank goodness, but substantial increases nonetheless.
* On August 3rd, GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald urged the Senate to overturn a statewide mask-wearing order issued by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
“I just said I think it’s a mistake,” Fitzgerald said of the mask order. “I think things are going well right now. People are complying if they want to.”
On August 3rd, the confirmed COVID19 case number in Wisconsin was 55,328 and the death toll was 949. By December 18, the confirmed case number had soared to 451,676 and the death toll to 4,345.
The State Senate never took up the measure, has remained on hiatus since mid-April and Fitzgerald has since been elected to Congressional seat safely gerrymandered for Republicans by the GOP-led Legislature.
Which brings us to Wisconsin's senior GOP US Senator and all-in Trump enabler Ron Johnson.
* In the very early days of the pandemic on March 18 - note that Wisconsin did not report deaths until March 20th, state data show - Johnson was sugarcoating COVID19 risks and framing the issues in business-like/balance-sheet statistics, as The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported:
"...97 to 99 percent will get through this and develop immunities and will be able to move beyond this. But we don’t shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways. It’s a risk we accept so we can move about. We don’t shut down our economies because tens of thousands of people die from the common flu,” Johnson said.
Johnson acknowledged that coronavirus has a far higher fatality rate than the seasonal flu, but said, “getting coronavirus is not a death sentence except for maybe no more than 3.4 percent of our population (and) I think probably far less,” he said...
By the way, 3.4 percent of the US population is more than 11 million people.
* Months later on Monday, October 13 and having personally recovered from the virus, Johnson said he still opposed masking orders and repeated his position that COVID19 "is not a death sentence."
The Associated Press provided some context:
As of Monday, more than 152,000 people in Wisconsin had tested positive for the virus, with 1,474 deaths, according to the state Department of Health Services...Wisconsin has seen a surge in cases in recent months, and has been one of the top five states in the country for new cases per capita.
The number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 in Wisconsin also hit a record high on Monday at 950, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association....
Johnson reiterated his opposition to Wisconsin’s mask mandate, issued by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. A judge on Monday upheld the order, rejecting attempts by the Republican-controlled Legislature and a conservative law firm to overturn it.
* And if you think Johnson's affinity for statistics right now is, empathy-free and cold-blooded, rest assured that he volunteered an answer for that just yesterday on October 18.
That's when media nationwide, including Newsweek, reported Johnson had twice last week killed $1,200 federal government support checks aimed at alleviating some of the damage that COVID19 has done to people, families, business owners and the country, writ large:
'I'm Not Heartless': GOP Senator Defends Blocking Stimulus Checks Twice in One Day