Boots & Sabers

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Tag: Coronavirus

Evers Vetoes COVID Compromise Bill

Evers gonna Evers.

In the hours after Wisconsin lawmakers Friday afternoon passed the state’s first bill to address COVID-19 since April, Gov. Tony Evers vetoed it.

 

The bill, which has ping-ponged between both chambers of the Legislature over the last month as lawmakers made changes to the plan, finally came to rest at Evers’ desk — but the version that made it there was one the Democratic executive said Republicans “knew I wouldn’t sign.”

 

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But Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMaieu slammed Evers’ decision in a joint statement, countering that “it appears Governor Evers cares more about his own power than the people of Wisconsin.”

That’s about right. I’ve bolded the two key provisions that Evers doesn’t want.

In its current form, the bill would have prevented health officials from barring gatherings in places of worship, given the Legislature oversight of the distribution of federal funds that are allocated to Wisconsin related to combating COVID-19, not allowed employers and health officials to require vaccinations against the virus and provide liability protection for businesses and others tied to COVID-related claims.

It would also have covered COVID vaccinations under the SeniorCare program for elderly individuals; allowed the Legislature’s powerful budget panel to transfer up to $100 million in certain appropriations for COVID expenses; and broaden open enrollment options for students seeking in-person education, among a host of other things.

 

Legislature must end Evers’ arbitrary rule

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.

The Legislature had belatedly awoken from their slumber to take action to reassert our representative form of government by ending Governor Tony Evers’ latest emergency declaration. While much of the media is aping the rhetoric from the Democrats that it is an effort to end the mask mandate, it is about much more than that. It is about our very system of government and whether or not we will live under a representative government that reflects the consent of the people or under the arbitrary power of a single man.

 

When the pandemic began, we were beset with incorrect information that projected the deaths of tens of millions of Americans if the government did not act immediately. While those projections proved to be incorrect, in the moment the threat justified the use of an emergency declaration to take immediate steps to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. An emergency declaration is a legal provision that allows the governor to make immediate decisions and react quickly in the case of a natural or man-made disaster. Emergency declarations are not intended to be permanent, but simply a tool to allow immediate action until the Legislature can convene and develop a response in the normal course of representative government as prescribed by our state Constitution. We are now almost 10 months into a series of emergency declarations under which our representative republic has been suspended and laws are being written and enforced on the authority of a single man living in a mansion on Lake Mendota. Under these emergency declarations, Governor Evers has closed businesses, changed election laws, suspended civil liberties to assemble, forbidden people to leave their homes, suspended accountability rules for education and other government bodies, and doled out tens of millions of dollars to individuals and businesses without any oversight. And, yes, Evers has ordered all Wisconsinites to wear masks.

 

The Legislature has now had time to meet to develop and pass legislation to respond to the ongoing health concern of COVID-19 and yet Governor Evers continues to issue emergency declarations and govern as if he is imparted with that divine knowledge and right that our previous rulers assumed. The fact that the governor disagrees with the policy choices of the Legislature in response to COVID-19 is not a reason to abandon representative government. Nor should the citizens of Wisconsin surrender our civil liberties to the arbitrary will of a single man.

 

These principles are rooted in the very foundation of our nation and our state. Our system of government was established under the principles that all people are created equal and that we are all equally flawed. We are humans, after all, and imbued with all of the passion, bigotry, avarice, jealousy, ignorance, stupidity, as well as love, compassion, honor, nobility, intelligence, and kindness that is the natural human condition. We are all a swirling mess of contradictions and subject to following our worst instincts.

 

If we are all equal, and all equally flawed, then why would any human surrender his or her natural rights and liberty to the arbitrary will of another? But since such surrender is necessary for the protection of individual rights, we establish governments as the least worst option to protect those individual rights. Those governments were established to reflect the will of the people through representation so that no single man or woman would ever have arbitrary power over another, but only wield power through the consent of the governed.

 

That is why our government is structured to have three coequal branches and an elaborate system of checks and balances to keep any branch from ruling supreme. That is why it takes the consent of two branches of government, the legislative and the executive, to pass a law. That is why citizens can appeal to the judicial branch if they think their rights were violated by a law enacted and enforced by the other two branches. Our government is specifically constructed so that it is difficult to wield power over the governed without their consent being obtained through multiple sources.

 

All of this representative government is thrown away when we allow our governor simply to bypass it through endless emergency declarations. Wisconsin is currently living under the rule of one man and will be so until the Legislature reestablishes normal order and representative government. This is about our right to govern ourselves under the constructs of our state Constitution or abandon it for the arbitrary rule of the governor. This is about our very liberty. And no, it is not about the masks.

Jay Weber is reporting this morning that after more analysis, the Assembly Republicans has determined that the repeal bill passed by the Senate has some flaws. The Assembly will be writing a different version and then, after passing, they will need to go into the reconciliation process with the Senate.

What is telling to me about all of that is that in all of the time that these emergency orders have been in place and the legislature was in stasis for most of last year, nobody worked on this. Nobody did the homework, wrote drafts of bills, discussed the strategy, debated the process, or anything else. It appears that the legislative Republicans truly did sit on their duffs all year and just now started to put some work into protecting our rights. This is despite repeated sternly-worded press releases and public statements last year that they were very concerned for our rights and our businesses. That is truly disappointing.

Well, they are off their duffs now, but all of the bluster and activity means nothing if they don’t accomplish anything. They need to get this done.

Bureaucracy Shifts From Slow to Stop

If you thought that the Evers Administration couldn’t be any slower in making decisions in this emergency, they are suspending work.

MADISON – The state advisory panel recommending when Wisconsin residents should get the COVID-19 vaccine is pausing work while the Evers administration gathers more information on how President Joe Biden’s vaccine strategy will affect the state.

 

The hiatus, which could last weeks, also comes while the distribution of vaccine doses is ramping up; it will likely take months to provide shots to everyone already eligible.

 

Wisconsin is in the middle of distributing vaccine doses to residents in the first and second phase of the state’s rollout, which includes frontline workers, teachers and people over the age of 65 — more than 1 million people.

Vaccinating Wisconsin

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Since I hammered on Evers for his poor administration of the vaccine rollout last week, I thought it behooved me to offer a few ways to improve it.

Last week this column was highly critical of Governor Tony Evers’ administration’s utter incompetence in managing the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine. Another week has passed, and Wisconsin has dropped from 40th to 43rd of the 50 states in the number of doses administered per 100,000 citizens. An old boss once told me to never bring him a problem without at least one solution, so here are a few suggestions that Governor Evers could do to improve his failing administration.

 

First, Governor Evers needs to take ownership of the decision-making process. Just last Wednesday, the state vaccine advisory subcommittee voted to approve which Wisconsinites will be included in Phase 1B – the second group of Wisconsinites who will be eligible to receive the vaccine. Now that the subcommittee has approved it, the full committee will need to review the plan. If the full committee decides that they want to modify the eligibility, then it will go back to the subcommittee for more work. If the full committee votes to approve Phase 1B, then the subcommittee and full committee will begin work on Phase 1C and eventually Phase 2. The vaccine has been available for almost seven weeks and Wisconsin still has not decided who will be in the second wave. That is entirely too slow. If this is truly an emergency, then Governor Evers needs to act like it. Governor Evers should get into a room with the committee, advisers, and other important stakeholders and not leave until all of the phases are determined. These are decisions that can, and should, be made in an afternoon.

 

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Third, the overriding focus of vaccine distribution and administration should be to put needles into as many arms as possible. It is an emergency, right? In an emergency, speed of execution is more important than accuracy. As General George S. Patton famously quipped, “a good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

 

That means that while clinics should prioritize the distribution according to the 1A, 1B, etc. phases, the first priority should be to empty the refrigerators of vaccines as quickly as possible. Ideally, the time between when a clinic receives an order of doses and when they are out and need to order more should be less than 48 hours. It is better for a vaccine to go into the arm of someone in Phase 1C instead of sitting in storage for two days.

What is a COVID Death?

This tragic story helps illustrate the issue with COVID death statistics:

Louisiana Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, who died while battling COVID-19, suffered a heart attack following a procedure, a hospital official said.

 

The 41-year-old was receiving treatment in the intensive care unit at Ochsner LSU Health in Shreveport when he died Tuesday, the Monroe News-Star reported.

 

LSU Health Shreveport Chancellor G.E. Ghali confirmed Letlow underwent an operation related to the virus and later went into cardiac arrest.

 

“It’s devastating to our entire team,” Ghali told the paper, adding that he “had no underlying conditions.”

We all saw the headlines when they came out. Things like, “Congressman-elect dies of COVID-19” and “Rising Republican Dies of COVID-19.” But was it?

We do not know the specifics of why he was undergoing heart surgery. They say it was related to his COVID illness, but how? What were they actually doing? And given the shock of the doctors, it seems that they did not think it was a high-risk surgery. Clearly it was the heart attack that killed him, but is the underlying COVID the real culprit? What a bit fat guy dies of a heart attack or diabetes, do we say that he was killed by obesity? No, so why label COVID as the problem here? If someone has a heart attack while driving and is decapitated in the crash, what killed her? It gets complicated. An argument could be made either way by rational people.

In the case of COVID, however, we have defaulted to classifying ANY death where COVID is present as a “COVID” death. We see the stats where this is happening. COVID deaths are increasing while it looks like we have virtually cured many other previously-deadly ailments. People who were shot, drowned, had heart attacks, strokes, etc. are all mixed in with the COVID death statistics. Sometimes, they are called a COVID death even if they do not have a firm diagnosis but the person had “COVID-like symptoms.” There is a distinct preference to label deaths as being caused by COVID if the slimmest of connection can be found.

The question is… why? Why have officials all across the country chosen to default to COVID when declaring the cause of death.

Hint… follow the money… follow the power.

Evers fights for more government with COVID-19 bill

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News this week. Thankfully, this bill is still dead.

Gov. Tony Evers is urging the Republican leadership of the Legislature to pass his self-styled “compromise” bill addressing the ongoing health concern precipitated by COVID-19. Setting aside, for a moment, that Evers’ bill is not a compromise (hint: compromise bills are rarely announced by only one side) and that Evers has actually taken the Legislature to court over the legality of bills passed in a so-called “lame duck” session, let us examine the priorities of the governor during the ongoing health concern.

 

Evers’ bill consists of 17 provisions. Seven of the provisions are designed to expand government and/or reduce the government’s accountability to the people. Eight of them would make waste, corruption, and graft easier with taxpayer money. And two of them are regulatory overreaches that will wreak havoc on citizens and the economy.

 

Given Evers’ background as an educrat, it is not surprising that his bill begins with the absolution of the government education establishment from the strictures of accountability. Under his bill, government schools would not be required to administer pupil assessments and the State Department of Public Instruction would not be required to publish the annual school and school district accountability report for the 2020-2021 school year. Evers seeks to remove any evidence of just how much government education failed the children of Wisconsin this school year.

 

Ominously, Evers seeks to allow any state entity to waive in-person requirements until June 30, 2021, “if enforcing the requirement would increase the public health risk.” You will take note of the fact that no objective standard is given for what constitutes an increase to the public health risk. While this may impact things like court proceedings, Evers’ likely target it to waive in-person requirements to obtain official state photo identification and the spring elections. With this provision in law, Evers could provide a massive gateway for illegal aliens to obtain official photo identification and force the upcoming elections to be conducted 100% by mail.

 

The bill also seeks to funnel unemployment insurance payments into the hands of people who do not need it. It would permanently allow people who are receiving federal Social Security disability payments to also receive unemployment payments. Under current law, someone who is receiving money because they cannot work due to a disability is not eligible for unemployment payments because they are already being compensated for not working. The bill would also completely waive the requirement to seek work in order to receive unemployment payments until July 3, 2021. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is at 5% and employers are again struggling to find workers. Anyone who is able and willing to work can find a job. Evers should focus his attention on fixing the unemployment payment backlog that his administration has allowed to languish for the previous nine months.

 

Evers is also sure to take care of the state bureaucracy. His “COVID relief” bill would allow state government employees to take their annual leave even if they have not completed the required six-month probationary period. Evers would lavish additional funding on the Department of Health Services and the Department of Administration while expanding their powers. The DOA would be given arbitrary discretion to shift money around to fund unemployment payments and DHS would be given a grand mandate to operate COVID testing and treatment facilities in perpetuity. The Department of Revenue gets a nod too with the arbitrary discretion to distribute grants to small businesses. The arbitrary discretion of any government official is an invitation for corruption.

 

Most shockingly, Evers would completely prohibit any foreclosures or evictions until July 1, 2021. He would do so without providing any relief for the thousands of property owners, big and small, who would be forced to completely pay for the housing for people unable, or unwilling, to pay their mortgage or rent. Should this provision go into effect, it will force a wave of bankruptcies for small- and medium property owners and force the prices up for people who do pay their bills. While one might be willing to grant Governor Evers credit for trying to stick up for struggling families, this measure is so breathtakingly stupid and destructive that no such credit can be issued.

 

Governor Evers’ bill is a mishmash of bad ideas interspersed with measures clearly designed to unshackle the state bureaucracy. Its only redeeming quality is that it will never pass. True to his character, Governor Evers announced this bill after a series of insincere discussions with the legislative leadership designed to give him the cover of having negotiated something. He did so while giving the Legislature a ridiculous deadline of less than two weeks during the holiday season to pass it. Thankfully, the legislative leadership has signaled that they will not be bullied by a duplicitous governor offering nothing but a list of destructive decrees.

 

The fact that Governor Evers is devoid of good ideas does not release the legislative Republicans from their duty to convene and pass meaningful legislation to help Wisconsinites who continue to feel the impact of COVID-19 and our government overreaction to it. They should start with universal school choice to allow families to escape government schools that failed so badly during this time, liability protections for employers, and prohibit state taxpayers from paying to bail out local governments that enforced more restrictive COVID-19 measures that crippled their own local economies.

States Prioritize Vaccine Rollout

Interesting

FloridaTexas and Ohio are among the Republican-led states forgoing federal vaccination guidelines to prioritize the elderly ahead of frontline workers.

 

While medical workers and residents and staffers of long term care facilities are being prioritized for vaccines in virtually every state, local leaders are split on who gets the vaccine next.

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines say under the second tier of vaccinations grocery store employees, transit workers, and other frontline staffers should receive the shot at the same time as those who are 75 and older.

 

But in Florida, Texas, and Ohio shots are being offered to the elderly first and frontline workers are asked to wait.

 

‘We are not going to put young, healthy workers ahead of our elderly, vulnerable population,’ Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday, allowing people 65 years and older to jump ahead of essential workers.

I can see both sides. On the one hand, prioritizing the higher risk groups first makes the most sense to reduce the death count as quickly as possible. On the other hand, prioritizing frontline workers first gets those industries back to work faster. Given those considerations, I’d prioritize the most vulnerable first.

Evers fights for more government with COVID-19 bill

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. I dig into Evers’ COVID bill a little. Here’s a part:

Gov. Tony Evers is urging the Republican leadership of the Legislature to pass his self-styled “compromise” bill addressing the ongoing health concern precipitated by COVID-19. Setting aside, for a moment, that Evers’ bill is not a compromise (hint: compromise bills are rarely announced by only one side) and that Evers has actually taken the Legislature to court over the legality of bills passed in a socalled “lame duck” session, let us examine the priorities of the governor during the ongoing health concern.

 

Evers’ bill consists of 17 provisions. Seven of the provisions are designed to expand government and/or reduce the government’s accountability to the people. Eight of them would make waste, corruption, and graft easier with taxpayer money. And two of them are regulatory overreaches that will wreak havoc on citizens and the economy.

COVID Surge?

Do you believe this?

An alarming new red wave map shows that the vast majority of the United States is currently one huge COVID-19 hotspot – as the country recorded its second deadliest day of the COVID-19 pandemic with 3,400 deaths and President-elect Joe Biden warned the ‘darkest days’ are still ahead.

The map data, which is included in the latest community report from the White House COVID-19 Task Force, tracks areas of concern on a county level across the country based on recent cases and testing history.

It shows that every state currently has counties that fall into the ‘sustained hotspot’ category, which means the task force classifies them as communities that have a high number of cases and may be at an even higher risk of overwhelming their local hospitals.

Increasingly, I don’t. With the clear lax behavior of people supposedly “in the know” and personal observation, I just don’t buy the hype. Then you get stories like this:

According to the video, Jensen and Franson looked at 2,800 “death certificate data points” and found that 800 of them did not have COVID-19 listed as the underlying cause of death, but were still counted as COVID-19 deaths. That means, Jensen said, that those 800 people may have died with COVID-19, but not of COVID-19.

“That would mean that we’ve had the number inflated by 40%,” said Jensen, who explained that the “key diagnosis on a death certificate is the UCOD,” which stands for underlying cause of death.

In one case, a person who was ejected from a vehicle and died was “counted as a COVID death” because the virus was in his system, Franson claimed.

“I have other examples where COVID isn’t the underlying cause of death. We have a fall. Another example we have a fresh water drowning. We have dementia. We have a stroke and multi-organ failure,” she said.

The two lawmakers concluded their video, which has been viewed more than 200,000 times on Facebook, by expressing support for an audit of the data.

We are in a pandemic of an aggressive virus, but the numbers being put out are massively misleading. We have also failed as a society to put those numbers into perspective. Everything in life is about weighing the consequences and making compromises. We have failed to do that with our response to COVID-19.

Wisconsin COVID19 Cases Are Down 50% Since Recent Peak

Huh… no Thanksgiving spike? Just like no election spike… no Independence Day spike… no Labor Day spike… it’s almost as if the virus doesn’t really give a crap what we do.

New daily COVID-19 cases are down 50% from their peak a month ago in Wisconsin, according to state Department of Health Services data.

And contact tracers can again handle their daily caseloads after being overwhelmed in October and November, DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said in a news conference.

Side Effects from the Vaccine

The news feed is starting to fill up with examples of people having adverse effects from the Coronavirus vaccines and some are using it as a reason to eschew getting it.

Last week, two health-care workers in the United Kingdom who were among the first batch of people to get the vaccine after it was authorized developed anaphylaxis, a severe allergic response.

Both were known to have a history of severe allergic reactions, and both were treated and recovered. A third person reportedly suffered a rapid heartbeat. British authorities issued new guidance saying people with a history of anaphylaxis should consult with their doctor before taking the vaccine. Researchers do not know what substance in the vaccine formula triggered the severe allergic response.

“When you make a decision to launch a vaccine like this, it’s not because you know everything,” said Paul Offit, a pediatrician and vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and member of a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel that endorsed the vaccine Thursday. But, he added, “I think we know enough.”

Of course there will be side effects. And of course they will be different for different people. Humans are complex organisms and the injection or ingestion of any substance will have varying effects.

Demands of 100% safety are not reasonable? That various vaccines will likely help a lot of people avoid getting COVID-19. It will also likely hurt and kill a few people. There are risks. There are also risks if you don’t get the vaccine, and those risks are also different for different people. It is up to each of us to weigh the risks and make the best decision we can.

As for me, I’ve already had it, so I don’t need the vaccine. I’ve been naturally inoculated. Some of y’all might want to think about getting the vaccine when it is available. Some of y’all might be young and healthy and decide that it is not worth the risk because there is a 99.9% survival rate from COVID-19 for your demographic.

Make good choices!

WHO: Lockdowns Make “Poor People and Awful Lot Poorer”

Some of us have been saying this for going on eight months now.

The World Health Organisation has backflipped on its original COVID-19 stance after calling for world leaders to stop locking down their countries and economies.

Dr. David Nabarro from the WHO appealed to world leaders yesterday, telling them to stop “using lockdowns as your primary control method” of the coronavirus.

He also claimed that the only thing lockdowns achieved was poverty – with no mention of the potential lives saved.

“Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer,” he said.

“We in the World Health Organisation do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” Dr Nabarro told The Spectator.

“The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganise, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it.”

Talks for New COVID Rescue Bill Fails

Fantastic.

US President Donald Trump has said he is ending negotiations over a Covid-19 relief bill, and will only resume talks after the election.

“Immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans,” he tweeted one day after leaving hospital.

Budget talks between Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been underway.

We don’t need another massive spending bill. We might need a few targeted infusions or policy adjustments, but not an omnibus monster. But Pelosi and Schumer never had any intention of passing anything before the election. They are just moving the goal posts to keep it in the news cycle. Trump was smart to drop it. And I hope it stays dropped after the election.

Evers wants to extend illegal mask mandate

My column for the Washington County Daily News in online and in print. When it comes to the mask mandate, Governor Evers is wrong on the law and wrong on the science.

Governor Tony Evers’ illegal order that all Wisconsinites wear face masks is set to expire on September 28 and he covets an extension of his despotic rule. Any extension of the order would not only be the third intentionally illegal power grab by the governor through emergency declarations, but it would be an admission that his actions are not rooted in science or data. Evers’ emergency orders are about power — not people.

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If you think that a governor creating a permanent state of emergency where he issues arbitrary orders at his sole discretion is an acceptable way to govern, then the governor should at least be able to explain why the order is necessary and will work. The evidence is clear that the current mask mandate has not had any impact on the spread of coronavirus.

Evers Threatens to Extend Illegal Order

Typical.

Evers issued the statewide mask mandate on July 30, using a power in state law that lets governors declare public health emergencies for up to 60 days. Evers used the same law to issue another 60-day emergency in March during the early days of the pandemic.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) filed a lawsuit over the mandate in late August, arguing that it was unlawful for Evers to declare multiple emergencies for the same event. That lawsuit is ongoing.

“We will fight we will fight every step of the way to make sure that this one small thing that everybody can do remains in place until we’re told that the numbers are down,” Evers said in a discussion that was broadcast by the Wisconsin Eye public affairs network.

Evers’ current order is set to expire on Sept. 28 unless it’s rescinded before then by the governor, the Legislature or a court order. But Evers gave no indication that he would rescind the masking order himself, and he didn’t rule out extending it.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there whether we extend it or not,” Evers said.

Once again, the issue is not whether mandating masks is the correct course of action or not. The issue is whether we are going to allow a single man to utterly ignore our system of representative government and issue arbitrary orders from his mansion in Madison. If he can order a mask, he could also order that we all wear hats, or be clean shaven so that the masks fit, or carry guns because there are riots, or whatever. The issue is whether or not we should live under the arbitrary rule of a single man or return to a republican form of government.

As for the effectiveness of a mask mandate, help me reconcile this.

Since the order, cases have gone up:

But deaths and hospitalizations are steady:

 

So since Evers ordered that everyone wear masks, cases are spiking, but deaths and hospitalizations remain flat. If the purpose of masks are to stop the spread of the Rona, shouldn’t we see the positive impact in the number of cases? We are not. We are seeing the opposite.

The reason is that the rise in cases is being driven completely by people aged 18-24.

This is because of all of the college kids who went back to school. Not only are they spreading it around a bit, but they are being tested like crazy. The more you test, the more you will find. But clearly, many of the kids have few, if any symptoms, and they are recovering fine without hospital intervention. Also bear in mind that almost all state colleges are rigorously enforcing the mask mandate.

If there is absolutely no evidence that the mask mandate is actually mitigating the spread of disease, why would the governor consider extending it? Aren’t we supposed to follow the science? Is is this not really about the science or fighting the pandemic?

Let the school year begin — and continue

Here is my full column that ran this week in the Washington County Daily News.

After a truncated school year and a summer that has been robbed of the normal cultural milestones, it is almost difficult to believe that the new school year is upon us. Yet upon us it is and school districts all over the state are releasing their plans to open.

The science and public opinion overwhelmingly support opening schools with in-person instruction with reasonable precautions to mitigate the spread of disease. The Centers for Disease Control said, “The unique and critical role that schools play makes them a priority for opening and remaining open, enabling students to receive both academic instruction and support as well as critical services.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school. The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020.”

The vast majority of people agree. According to a recent AP-NORC poll, 68% of Americans think that schools should have in-person instruction with some changes to lessen the chance for spreading diseases. The myriad surveys that local school districts conducted came back with even stronger preferences with as much as 88% (West Bend) wanting some form of in-person school instruction.

To their credit, every public and private school and school district in Washington County responded accordingly and is opening with a plan that includes in-person instruction. Some plans are better than others. The West Bend School District is offering in-person, virtual, or hybrid models so that each family can choose what best fits their situation and risk tolerance. The Germantown School District is offering an in-person or virtual model, but the in-person model for high schoolers is a goofy alternating schedule that wreaks havoc on family schedules.

Still, the schools in Washington County will be open for education and that is to be commended. It demonstrates that education truly is a priority when so many other schools across the state and country are choosing to eschew their duty to educate the adults of tomorrow. Opening our schools is not only vitally important for the education of our kids, it is also imperative for their social and emotional well-being.

But we must gird ourselves for the inevitable outbreak of COVID-19 when our schools open. Every parent knows that some sniffle or cough will ravage their household within a couple weeks of school opening every year. It is the unavoidable outcome of the commingling of hundreds of humans with questionable hygiene. The implementation of social distancing, thorough sanitation, masks, shields, and limited or coordinated movement will surely reduce the spread of disease, but nature has a way of finding holes in any defense. There will be outbreaks of various contagious diseases and, undoubtedly, one of those will be COVID-19.

Davy Crockett was fond of saying, “Be always sure you are right, then go ahead.” That is the attitude we will need from our school leaders and parents when outbreaks happen. The science is sound. Our kids need to be in school and they cannot afford to miss any more. The risk of kids suffering severe harm from COVID-19 or spreading it is low. The short- and long-term educational, emotional, and social harm our kids will suffer if they miss more school is immense.

When the outbreaks come, and they will, we must not panic. We must act, but we must not panic. And when we act to isolate the infected and mitigate the spread, we must do so with the overarching goal of keeping our schools open.

The schools must open. They must stay open. We are sure we are right. We must go ahead.

 

Coronavirus Spending Bill Hits Impasse

Good. May it never see the President’s signature. Let the economy open and we won’t need another flood of borrowed money.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Sunday he was not optimistic on reaching agreement soon on a deal for the next round of legislation to provide relief to Americans hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m not optimistic that there will be a solution in the very near term,” Meadows said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” as staff members from both sides were meeting to try to iron out differences over the bill.

Democrats were standing in the way of a separate agreement to extend some federal unemployment benefits in the short-term while negotiations continue on an overall relief package, he said.

“We continue to see really a stonewalling of any piecemeal type of legislation that happens on Capitol Hill,” Meadows said. “Hopefully that will change in the coming days.”

Government ponders response as cases rise

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.

Wisconsin is seeing an uptick in daily reported COVID-19 cases as the summer warms up. The statistic that we are supposed to be scared about continues to shift as the scare-mongers and power-grabbers grasp around for the most alarming statistic, but Wisconsin has been seeing an increase in daily reported cases for about a month. Should our state government do anything about it? Mark Twain once wittily classified statistics as one of the three kinds of lies. If we remember back to when the coronavirus crisis came to a head in March, the two statistics that were being trumpeted were deaths and hospitalizations. Deaths were being tracked because the models predicted 2.2 million deaths in the United States. Those models have now been proven woefully incorrect, but we believed them at the time.

We tracked the number of hospitalizations because of the great fear that we would overwhelm the capacity of our health care system and cause a lethally cascading event. This was the whole logic behind “flatten the curve” and “15 days to slow the spread.” The logic was sound in the face of models projecting a doomsday pandemic, so we implemented striking infringements of our civil rights to flatten the curve.

Thankfully, as it turns out, we never came close to overwhelming our health care system and the overflow hospitals that were built were left unused. After the Supreme Court struck down Governor Tony Evers’ unconstitutional dictatorial power grab on May 13, the number of hospitalizations remained manageable and eventually declined. The death rate also continued to decline.

Now, two months after the state reopened, we are seeing an increase in daily reported cases and we are told by the media and our government that the state must act to lock down the state, require masks, or some other reactive measure to keep everyone panicked and docile.

Let us return to the statistics that we were originally concerned about. As of this weekend, there were 264 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 out of 7,305 active cases. That is a hospitalization rate of 3.6%. Wisconsin has 11,390 hospital beds of various uses – not including the overflow beds built by the state. At the peak of this crisis, 446 people were hospitalized. Wisconsin’s health care system still has ample capacity to handle the ongoing spread of the disease.

There seem to be two main reasons why Wisconsin is adding more cases every day but the hospitalization and death rate continue to be flat or decline. First, Wisconsin is testing more than ever. With a capacity of over 24,000 tests per day, testing has become easy and routine. Early during the pandemic, only people who were sick or suspected of being sick were tested. As such, the percentage of positive results was high. Now we are routinely testing entire workplaces or facilities and finding more people who have, or had, the virus without ever actually being sick.

Second, many of the cases being discovered are people who are younger, healthier, and fight off the virus as easily as a cold. The age group of 20-29 now comprises a full 25% of reported cases and growing, but only has a hospitalization rate of 3%. Whether the virus is spreading through the younger portion of the population or we are merely noticing it now that we are testing more is subject of speculation. In either case, it is a good thing. The virus is working though the least vulnerable portion of our population and building a natural community immunity. This is the surest way to protect the most vulnerable parts of our population.

The goal of our public policy was never to stop the virus completely, nor should it be. Such a goal is impossible and has the fetor of a hubris only a politician could entertain. Our government’s response should be to do exactly what this column said months ago. Our government should pool resources to respond to outbreaks, provide the latest recommendations, and provide the legal protection to allow Wisconsinites to continue to work. Other than that, our government should stay out of the way and let Wisconsinites manage their own lives.

 

Government ponders response as cases rise

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. I’ll get to the point:

The goal of our public policy was never to stop the virus completely, nor should it be. Such a goal is impossible and has the fetor of a hubris only a politician could entertain. Our government’s response should be to do exactly what this column said months ago. Our government should pool resources to respond to outbreaks, provide the latest recommendations, and provide the legal protection to allow Wisconsinites to continue to work. Other than that, our government should stay out of the way and let Wisconsinites manage their own lives.

 

Back to School

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. We must open the schools:

School Districts throughout the state should get back to the business of educating kids on a full-time basis. There will need to be some reasonable changes to mitigate the spread of disease, whether it is COVID-19 or something else. Rigorous sanitation, routine hand washing, masks where appropriate, and quickly sending sick kids and staff members home should become the norm, but so should rigorous and routine education.

Also, accommodations must be made for kids and staff members who are at a higher risk by providing real distance learning alternatives. This does not mean broadcasting a class that is usually delivered in the classroom and sending some worksheets. This means designing education specifically to be delivered remotely. There are already several online public and private schools in Wisconsin that do a phenomenal job educating kids who learn better outside of the classroom. Wisconsin must learn from these schools, amplify their success, and waive restrictions to allow kids to transfer into those schools immediately.

Wisconsinites invest a tremendous amount of money, time, and effort into our K-12 education system precisely because we believe in the necessity and promise of education. It is past time for them to get back to doing the work our kids deserve.

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