MADISON, Wis. (AP) — With coronavirus cases soaring in Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers launched a television ad Friday criticizing Republicans for inaction and the state’s second-largest school district announced it would remain all-virtual at least until late January.
The number of positive coronavirus cases in Wisconsin has nearly doubled in a month, with the state setting daily records for new cases, deaths and hospitalizations this week. A field hospital to handle overflow patients opened near Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Evers has repeatedly blamed Republicans who control the Legislature for blocking his efforts to get the virus under control. Republicans are part of a lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s mask mandate and the Tavern League of Wisconsin is suing to overturn Evers’ order limiting capacity in bars and restaurants.
Republicans and the Tavern League argue that Evers has overstepped his authority with the orders. They say the limits need legislative approval. Evers has faulted Republicans, who haven’t been in session since April, with not coming forward with their own plan to combat the virus.
Evers is now putting money behind his criticism, with his first television ad released during the pandemic. It’s part of a six-figure buy running in the Green Bay, La Crosse/Eau Claire and Milwaukee media markets, his campaign said. Evers is not on the ballot on Nov. 3, but two Republican legislative leaders shown in the ad are. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is running for reelection and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is running for Congress in an open seat. Wisconsin is also a battleground in the presidential race.
The ad also shows a clip of President Donald Trump removing his face mask, while a narrator says, “Republicans are playing politics with our pandemic response.”
Also Friday, the Madison school district announced it would continue to be virtual only through Jan. 22, the end of the second quarter. The roughly 26,000 students in the district have not been in schools since March.
“This was an agonizing decision for all of us,” Superintendent Carlton Jenkins said in a statement. “It is always our preference to have students in school buildings, learning face to face and engaging with teachers and staff, however at the heart of this decision was our ultimate responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone who enters our buildings each day.”
Meanwhile, Rock and Chippewa counties are among those asking people who test positive for COVID-19 assist with contact tracing efforts.
“Despite increased staffing and the assistance of the state contact tracing team, the number of people to be contacted has now exceeded the capacity of the Rock County Public Health Department,” Rock County Public Health Director Marie-Noel Sandoval said. “We are no longer able to conduct the same level of contact tracing that we would during a typical outbreak.”
Chippewa County announced that health officials will no longer be contacting all potential contacts of those who test positive, instead only contacting those who are deemed “high-risk.”
Those contacts include students and schoolteachers, those who have visited bars or restaurants, health care workers, day care workers, and all household contacts, Wisconsin Public Radio New s reported.
Public health officials say one reason for surging cases is people lacking the knowledge of who might be sick.