Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, April 26

Partisan rancor masks real progress against coronavirus in Wisconsin

A lot of good things are happening in the fight against the novel coronavirus that shouldn’t be missed as our political leaders bicker over how to gradually allow more of Wisconsin’s economy to open.

Most significant: Wisconsin is close to the governor’s testing goal, thanks to 48 labs with a weekly capacity to test nearly 77,000 patients for the virus. Gov. Tony Evers’ goal is 85,000 tests per week, a key milestone toward loosening restrictions on public movement.

“Right now laboratory capacity is sufficient to test anyone with symptoms,” Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the state’s chief medical officer, said Thursday.

The governor, based on advice from health officials, also wants to see a downward trend in the percent of tests that come back positive. For the last two weeks, that metric has been relatively flat at about 10%, according to the state Department of Health Services.

An outbreak linked to Green Bay meatpacking plants pushed Wisconsin’s cases up in recent days. But cases at Madison’s hospitals have leveled off, and emergency room visits with flu-like symptoms are trending down statewide.

That means COVID-19, the potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, hasn’t overwhelmed our health systems, which was the greatest fear only weeks ago. UW Hospital also is testing promising plasma treatment for COVID-19 patients, and the state is hiring more tracers to alert people who came into contact with those who are sick.

The public, to its credit, appears to be following social distancing guidelines, which recommend staying 6 feet apart in public and driving only for groceries, medicine or work. Good job and keep it up, Wisconsin. A Wisconsin Policy Forum report last week showed traffic monitored at 61 locations on highways across Wisconsin decreased more than 40% from March to April, representing 1 million fewer vehicles.

An estimated 1,500 protesters rallied against the governor’s stay-at-home order at the state Capitol on Friday, drawing lots of attention. Yet some wore masks or bandannas over their faces, and stayed a safe distance apart. So even they recognize a health risk, and that we can’t return to normal tomorrow. The protesters also were peaceful, and Gov. Evers wisely respected their free speech rights.

The governor has been much more consistent and clear about the risks and how we get out of this crisis than the president. And while top Republicans filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn Evers’ extension of his “safer at home” order until May 26, the GOP hasn’t come up with a clear alternative. The truth is: Gov. Evers patterned his plan for when to loosen restrictions after federal guidelines from the Trump administration.

Moreover, Wisconsin started loosening some of its rules last week. Golf courses have opened. Libraries can lend books again. Many businesses deemed nonessential now can sell products curbside. Evers also has pledged to loosen restrictions further and faster if key measures of COVID-19 improve.

Significantly, none of Wisconsin’s top Republican leaders spoke at Friday’s protest. That tells you the politicians are closer on this issue than they’d like to admit.

Another bright spot: Rates of new confirmed COVID-19 cases didn’t increase in Wisconsin compared with the rest of the country after the April 7 election. Thanks to 1.1 million voters who sent in absentee ballots rather than heading to the polls, the election was much safer than some feared.

Companies in Wisconsin such as ND Paper, Kohler and Foxconn have donated tens of thousands of face and medical masks or shields for health care workers, according to the governor. Some 3,000 people have volunteered to help health providers.

Wisconsin still faces significant risk and challenges. As of Saturday, more than 5,600 people had tested positive and 266 had died from COVID-19 here. But don’t lose sight of all the progress being made to defeat this virus.


The Journal Times of Racine, April 26

Games in empty stadiums better than no games at all

We think it’s safe to say that, after more than a month of no games and no tournaments, sports fans were starving for news.

Thursday night’s first round of the 2020 NFL Draft – not a game, just teams picking players to play in games at a later date – had a record combined average audience of 15.6 million viewers for coverage on ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, and digital channels, the NFL announced Friday. The viewership shattered the old record of 12.4 million viewers, set in 2014.

We miss our live sporting events. We miss them even more because we’re stuck inside, watching reruns of Super Bowl XLV, or of final rounds of The Masters from previous years.

We also miss going to the ballpark, to the arena, to the stadium. But that is something we will probably not get back at the same time we can have the live events.

There’s the all-too-real possibility that our favorite spectator sports will have to be played in front of no fans, that sports leagues and tours will be able to clear the players to play well before communities will be able to open the venues to let the fans watch in person.

If that’s our only option, we will take it.

If you’ve seen a major sporting event played in an empty stadium, you know how odd and a little sad those can be. No fans cheering the home team and booing the visitors. No explosion of excitement at a big play.

We don’t want to imagine Giannis Antetokounmpo defying gravity on his way to a thunderous dunk, or Christian Yelich smashing a ball over the Miller Park fence, or Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams connecting for a long touchdown pass, without a crowd roaring its approval.

But as we wait for the COVID-19 pandemic to subside to the point where mass gatherings won’t make the pandemic worse, we’d much rather have games in empty stadiums that we can watch on television than have no games at all.

We’ll throw open our windows and cheer with our neighbors if we have to.

Mostly, we sports fans just want the games back.


The Janesville Gazette, April 27

Thumbs up/down for Monday, April 27

Thumbs down to drinking (or injecting) bleach. We never imagined having to advise people against doing this, but after President Trump’s comments on the subject last week, we feel compelled to weigh in. Drinking bleach is bad, people. Injecting bleach is bad, too. Very bad. Wiping surfaces with disinfectants can kill the coronavirus, but injecting or drinking them could kill you. That’s why so many jaws dropped when Trump said last week, “I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that.” Just bad. Really, really bad.

Thumbs down to Capitol protesters. It wasn’t drinking bleach, but the protest at the Capitol on Friday, in defiance of social-distancing guidelines, fell in the same category of stupid. It’s fine to object to the state’s safer-at-home orders (feel free to write a letter to the editor), but don’t put others in danger in the process. Tony Evers’ Badger Bounce Back plan calls for reopening the economy in three phases, and progressing through those phases requires reducing the infection rate. Essentially, these protesters made it more difficult to get what they claim to want: an economic recovery. They’re trying to “liberate” the state, but getting sick with COVID-19 isn’t our idea of liberation.

Thumbs up to the 1,300 candles at the Capitol. On Thursday, sensibility visited the Capitol in the form of health care workers who placed 1,300 candles on the grounds in honor of those hospitalized with COVID-19 in Wisconsin. It was a touching gesture, and our hearts go out to those on the front lines fighting the virus. The health care workers’ display of solidarity Thursday night contrasted with the selfishness of protesters who deliberately violated social-distancing guidelines. The majority of the public sides with the health care workers, a new poll finds. According to a The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, only 12% said the restrictions to contain the virus go too far, 61% of respondents say the restrictions are about right and 26% believe the limits don’t go far enough.

Thumbs up to surging testing capacity. Part of the governor’s Badger Bounce Back plan calls for increasing COVID-19 testing capacity to 12,000 tests per day, and last week Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm reported the state has reached nearly 11,000 tests per day. The plan also calls for hiring 1,000 people to conduct interviews with people who test positive to track down others who might have been exposed the virus. As we stated in Sunday’s editorial, a successful reopening requires the state to ramp up testing and contact tracing investigations. Without these two elements in place, it would be difficult for Wisconsinites to feel confident about venturing out of their homes and spending money at local businesses.