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Politics & Government

Aurora Says Employee Intentionally Removed COVID Vaccine Doses From Refrigeration

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A bottle of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is seen during a press conference on December 23, 2020 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Updated Wednesday at 7:41 p.m. CST

Earlier this week, an employee of Aurora Medical Center - Grafton intentionally removed 57 vials of the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine from refrigeration, resulting in more than 500 doses needing to be discarded. This is according to a press release sent out by Advocate Aurora Health Wednesday.

Aurora originally believed the incident was due to "inadvertent human error" but futher investigation found that the vials were removed from the pharmacy refrigerator on purpose. Aurora says they have notified the appropriate authorities and that the person responsible is no longer employed by the medical center. 

Aurora says this is a violation of their core values and believes vaccination is the way out of the pandemic.

Original Post:

Gov. Tony Evers' administration plans to clarify questions on unemployment benefit applications starting this spring as it wrestles with a massive backlog of unprocessed claims resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of Workforce Development announced the revisions Monday evening. The department has tweaked initial and weekly claim applications to feature what it's calling “plain language.” Department officials say the language is intended to be clear to everyone, regardless of their education and cultural backgrounds, and should help applicants understand questions and avoid erroneous answers that could prompt investigations and delay processing.

The department is seeking public feedback on the changes. People can view a draft of the new applications on the department's website and leave comments through Jan. 8. It plans to begin reprogramming its systems with the new applications and hopes to begin posting them for use in March.

The DWD has been flooded with tens of thousands of unemployment benefit claims as businesses across the state have closed or laid off employees due to the pandemic, resulting in a massive backlog of applications. Evers has taken criticism from Republicans for months over his administration's inability to eliminate it.

Also on Monday, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, a Milwaukee Democrat, announced she has tested positive for the virus. Moore, 69, said she is in isolation but feels well.

Meanwhile, clinicians had to discard about 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton after they were left unrefrigerated for too long. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that someone removed 50 vials from a refrigerator to access other items and failed to put them back overnight Friday. Each vial contained 10 doses of vaccine.

Clinicians were still able to administer some of the vaccine from the vials within the allowable 12 hour post-refrigeration window but had to discard most of it. Once the vaccine is thawed, it cannot be refrozen.

The state Department of Health Services launched a new web page Tuesday tracking vaccinations statewide. It will be updated every Tuesday with data current as of 11:30 a.m. on the preceding Monday.

The site showed that as of Monday morning, 47,157 doses had been administered since inoculations began in Wisconsin on Dec. 14. The Pfizer vaccine accounted for 40,850 doses and Moderna 6,306. The state has been allocated 265,575 total vaccine doses, with 156,875 doses shipped so far, according to the site.

The DHS reported 2,384 newly confirmed infections Tuesday. The state has now seen 474,537 cases since the pandemic began. The virus was a factor in 72 more deaths, pushing the state's overall death toll to 4,783. The seven-day average of positive tests was 8.9%. The survival rate remained at 99%.

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, an Oshkosh Democrat, sent a letter to Republican Speaker Robin Vos on Tuesday asking him to allow lawmakers and support staff to attend committee hearings and floor periods virtually as the next two-year session gets underway in January.

He noted that when the Legislature last met in April, Vos allowed Assembly members to attend virtually or in person. The pandemic has only gotten worse since then and many legislators and staffers won't wear masks in the state Capitol, Hintz said.

“Requiring the normal in-person work of legislators during the pandemic makes the State Capitol one of the most unnecessarily risky places to work,” he said in the letter.

Vos spokeswoman Kit Beyer didn't return a message. Adam Gibb, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, also didn't return a message inquiring about whether senators will be given a virtual option.

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