92 New COVID Deaths In Wisconsin, Evers Unveils Bill & Vos Talks Priorities
Updated Wednesday at 9:20 a.m. CST
Gov. Tony Evers released a package of proposals to tackle the surging pandemic Tuesday as Wisconsin announced a daily record 92 deaths from the coronavirus and health officials cautioned that even when a vaccine becomes available it will be months before most people receive it.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos also outlined Republican priorities, but did not release specific proposals, while pledging to find common ground with Evers. Republicans have fought Evers nearly every step of the way over his virus response, including suing him over his safer-at-home order this spring and the statewide mask mandate.
Evers’ proposals, and the Vos response, came as the state reported 7,090 more positive COVID-19 cases and an additional 92 deaths. That crushed the previous high of 66 set just last week. There have been 2,741 deaths from COVID-19 to date in Wisconsin and nearly 324,000 cases.
State hospitals hit new highs for patients this week too, with many at or near capacity.
The bills put forward by Evers would prohibit evictions and foreclosures through 2021; continue the suspension of a one-week waiting period before people can collect unemployment; allow workers, including in health care, to claim worker’s compensation benefits related to COVID-19 if they contract the illness from their occupation; and waive student tests and school report card requirements for the current year.
Other bills Evers made public Tuesday require insurers to cover telehealth services that would be covered if in person and ensure that health plans provide coverage for testing, diagnosis, treatment, prescriptions and vaccines related to COVID-19.
Vos said Tuesday he was open to coming into session next month to vote on virus-related legislation, but didn’t say specifically what. Republicans said in court filings in April that they were working on proposals to combat the virus but they have yet to release any specific bills. Vos said Republicans don't have any legislation drafted.
Republicans want to prioritize doubling the number of contact tracers, increasing access to rapid testing, extending the National Guard testing help, and providing more resources to health care providers, Vos said. He also mentioned assisting those receiving unemployment benefits and struggling small businesses.
Vos also said he thought Republicans could find agreement with Evers on some ideas, but raised concerns about relying on state funding rather than federal money. He said Republicans want to actually talk with Gov. Evers about where they can find common ground.
"We think that some of [Evers] ideas are certainly workable, some are not. But I think that's the point of negotiations that we put out our best ideas, he puts out things that he supports and we see where common ground can be found to hopefully get a bill proposed and passes as quickly as we can," Vos said.
Throughout the pandemic, Evers and Republican legislative leaders have been unable to work together on a virus response. Republicans have also fought Evers in court over his efforts to curtail the virus spread through a safer-at-home order, mask mandate and limits on how many people can gather indoors at bars, restaurants and other places.
At a press conference Tuesday, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow called on state lawmakers and Gov. Evers to get together and work on a unified message on what Wisconsin can do about COVID-19.
In conservative Waukesha County, officials are urging residents to be more careful. The county added nearly 6,000 cases of COVID-19 last month and is on pace to double that number this month. Farrow said he hopes people don't have large gatherings on Thanksgiving.
"I understand there's a strong desire for people to get together with friends and family over the holidays. But, I'm asking you to rethink your plans and make sure you are acting safely," he said. Farrow added that includes physical distancing from other people and wearing a mask inside public buildings.
Waukesha County has gone from having eight contact tracers to reach out to confirmed patients to try find information that will limit the spread of the disease to about 250. Farrow said help in keeping them on the payroll is the main thing he'd like from state and federal politicians.
"[Contact tracers] costs us $220,000 a week. That is money we got from the state through the CARES Act funding. If that funding, which is set to expire in December, isn't renewed, we are working on sustainability plans to keep some of the contact tracers in place. But we won't be able to keep them all there," he said.
Also on Tuesday, Dane County banned indoor gatherings of any size and limited outdoor gatherings to no more than 10 people. The order, scheduled to run until Dec. 16, doesn't apply to people from the same household. It does cover in-person games, sports, competitions, group exercise classes, meetings, trainings, movies, events and conferences.
Coronavirus cases are also surging in the state's prisons.
The state Department of Corrections reported 808 new COVID-19 cases among inmates Monday, bringing the number of active cases to 2,063.