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Pence To Visit Waukesha County Amid COVID-19 Concerns

Chuck Quirmbach
Mike Pence supporters wait for the vice president to speak Tuesday at the Ingleside Hotel in Waukesha County.

Vice President Mike Pence will make two campaign stops in Waukesha County Tuesday. It appears there could hundreds of people at one of the locations. A disease expert says at many campaign rallies this year, COVID-19 will be a concern.

Pence will begin his visit at the Waukesha STEM Academy, a public charter school. There, he and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are expected to take part in a small group discussion on taxpayer-funded school vouchers.

>>DeVos Launches 'Education Freedom' Tour At Milwaukee Voucher School

Next for the Republican vice president, a Faith in America rally inside the Ingleside Hotel in Pewaukee.

The Trump and Pence campaign has issued a disclaimer that people registering for the hotel event "understand and expressly acknowledge that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present." Also, that attendees waive the campaign and hotel from any liability. The Waukesha County GOP says wearing masks will be optional, but there will be a temperature check at the entrance.

UW-Milwaukee epidemiologist Amanda Simanek has some advice for politicians holdings rallies this year. For one thing, she says taking temperatures, is not a good way to determine who has COVID-19.

"One reason is, people may be in sort of a pre-symptomatic phase and not show a temperature yet, and still be able to transmit the infection to other people. The other is, not everybody who has some sort of symptoms of COVID-19 has a fever, not early on in their infection,” Simanek told WUWM.

Simanek strongly advises attendees to wear facial coverings. But she says masks don't capture all droplets from the mouth, especially when someone is yelling or cheering. Plus, she warns that other people may not be wearing a mask.

>>Yes, Wearing Masks Helps. Here's Why

Credit Chuck Quirmbach
Some people in Waukesha wore masks while others didn't as they took to the polls during the April election, which took place amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead of indoor rallies like the Pence campaign is holding, Simanek advises politicians to hold their events outdoors.

"We really have seen a benefit of people being outdoors. The virus can basically dissipate into the air — sort of spread out, disperse. The likelihood of encountering enough viral quantity to get infected may be lower,” Simanek said.

The Waukesha County Public Health Department declined to do an interview. In a statement, the agency says there is community transmission of COVID-19.    

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin says the Pence visit and President Donald Trump going to northeastern Wisconsin Thursday are "political vanity trips" in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Responding to the Pence education event with DeVos, Democratic spokesperson Phillip Shulman said, “Trump and DeVos’ policies have left Wisconsin children behind, giving public school dollars to unaccountable charter schools. The best thing for Wisconsin’s children and our country’s future is electing Joe Biden president of the United States.”

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