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Our Views: Masks should not be a political issue

Masks should not be a political issue, and Wisconsin will look stupid and backward if Gov. Tony Evers’ mask order issued Thursday ends up being a fight in the Legislature or state Supreme Court.

Before the governor’s announcement Thursday, we were preparing to use this space to encourage him to grow a backbone and issue an order. In our minds, it only makes sense to require masking to help fight the spread of the coronavirus, which as of Thursday was being blamed for 919 Wisconsin deaths among 52,000 confirmed cases.

Evers declared a public health emergency and ordered the wearing of masks for anyone age 5 and older starting Saturday for all enclosed spaces except a person’s home. The new order also applies to outdoor bars and restaurants except when people are eating or drinking.

“This virus doesn’t care about any town, city, or county boundary, and we need a statewide approach to get Wisconsin back on track,” Evers said.

We believe he’s right. The alternative is a confusing patchwork of orders imposed by counties and municipalities.

But somehow the government issuing an order for the public health has become a white-hot political issue.

We are stunned by the results of our unscientific online poll asking if Wisconsin should have a mask mandate. More than 5,000 people responded—4,009 opposed to a mandate and 1,118 in favor as of late Thursday afternoon. That’s about 10 times the number of responses we ever gotten on any other poll.

And the associated Facebook comments are unsettling.

Here is a sample:

“A government mandate on masks, punishable with jail or fines, is the definition of Fascism.”

“This is no worse than the FLU!!!”

“It’s an infringement on my rights. It does more harm than good.”

Government already mandates the wearing of seat belts in cars and clothes in public, and we suspect most people think those are pretty good requirements.

And masks are being required for the good of all.

CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield put it this way: “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus—particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families and their communities.”

But when The Gazette surveyed area legislators, their positions on a mask mandate broke cleanly along party lines—Democrats Don Vruwink, Deb Kolste, Mark Spreitzer and Janis Ringhand were in favor, and Republicans Amy Loudenbeck, Tyler August and Steve Nass were opposed.

After Evers issued his order Thursday, Nass issued a statement urging the Legislature to convene and end the governor’s emergency declaration.

“Governor Evers actions today are nothing more than a political stunt to create a partisan fight with the Legislature,” Nass wrote. “This is not about improving public health.”

Evers responded that Republicans saying they don’t believe in science is risky political business and risky health business.

We don’t want to see Wisconsin taking either risk.

Letters to the editor for July 31, 2020

Republican legislators have abandoned us

Being elderly and having a wife devoid of an immune system to combat COVID-19, I contacted my state legislators for help.

Neither Rep. Amy Loudenbeck nor Sen. Steve Nass shared my concerns. They saw no need for legislative cautionary directives nor for them individually to raise the COVID issue with their constituents.

Nass said fear mongering and media sensationalism were exaggerating the COVID issue. Nass stated: “The reliance by elected officials on terribly flawed COVID-19 modeling and the deference to unqualified public health bureaucrats in taking control of our society will go down as one of the most monumental failures of government in American history.”

Wisconsin is approaching 1,000 deaths from an apparent combination of fear mongering and media sensationalism.

Sen. Nass is wrong.

The COVID crisis ravaging our state is a cause far higher than this being solely an issue of individual and personal freedom. Individuals have a responsibility to the entire community, not just themselves. Sometimes we must sacrifice for the common good to gain a ticket to more freedom.

No Republican legislative voice has spoken in support of even the most basic precautionary practices of masking, social distancing and extensive hand hygiene. This is a medical issue, not a political issue as Republican legislators are wont to believe. It requires they end their silence and take steps to protect us from the long lasting, if not deadly, consequences of this highly contagious disease.



Trump has made good on campaign promises

It’s hard to believe there are less than 100 days until the election! It seems like the past three-and-a-half years flew by.

I have never seen a president accomplish as much as President Trump has during his first term.

For me personally, I am most grateful for our safety and security, whether it is at our border or in our communities. I want a president who believes in law and order and holds the American people’s safety as a top priority.

Every morning and every night, I take a moment to remind myself how thankful I am to have a president that genuinely loves this country and its people.

President Trump has followed through on his campaign motto “Promises made, promises kept.” In just under 100 days we can show our gratitude and appreciation for all he has accomplished and vote for four more years.



Milam: School year raises questions for parents, educators

Amid a sea of uncertainty, area school districts are making plans to begin the 2020-21 school year.

District officials and school boards are offered suggestions ranging from not opening in the fall to bringing everyone back into the classrooms. Most districts are trying to offer choices such as online learning or a hybrid of some days in person and other days online.

One thing is certain. No plan during a pandemic will offer every student a safe and excellent education.

For some students, a safe education means online, but not all those students will perform their best without direct, in-person, instruction. The hybrid approach is a vast departure from “normal”, and the lack of a consistent school day will not be the best for every student.

Overlooked in many plans are the direct and individual recommendations from staff, including teachers, food service workers and environmental specialists often referred to as maintenance and custodial district employees.

If districts plan in-person instruction with a 6-foot distance requirement, how will classrooms be arranged? Will each classroom be cleaned and disinfected every day? Will the room be cleaned and disinfected several times a day if several sections of students rotate in and out of the rooms every day? Will more environmental specialists be needed if cleaning and disinfecting is required on an accelerated level?

One solution to food service problems is to simply close down the cafeterias. What effect will that have on students’ basic nutritional needs? Teachers have told me they are convinced many students rely on school meals for basic, daily nutrition.

As districts grapple with multiple challenges heading into the new school year, the purpose of the districts is at stake. Every school district should strive to provide every student the best education possible. The pandemic might render that core purpose unattainable.

The challenges are not confined to school districts. Parents are often faced with seemingly no-win choices. Do you opt for online instruction to keep your child safe knowing that it’s not the best form of instruction for your child? Or do you risk your child’s health to provide the best plan for a great education?

Is there some middle ground? Can you minimize the risk and still get the best instruction for district students?

At first blush, online instruction seems to be a reasonable compromise if safety and beneficial instruction can be combined. Even if online learning is not the best form of instruction for some students, it’s better than no instruction or being forced to risk a student’s safety to get the best form of instruction.

But that balance is not always possible. In Janesville, for example, online education is provided by a district charter school, the ARISE Virtual Academy, and it is definitely not for every student.

The academy principal, Dave Parr, explained on my WCLO talk show that there are two critical factors in deciding if online learning in the Janesville district is best for a student. He said it takes a certain mindset to benefit from online learning and the ARISE program is just as rigorous as in-person instruction.

The mindset Parr referred to includes a motivated student who is disciplined and organized. While ARISE students are provided with mentors, they are required to work independently at times and are independently responsible for meeting class requirements. Some students do not fit in well in that environment and do better in a traditional, in-person setting.

Credit should be given to school districts and their school boards for attempting to give parents and students options and choices. The goal remains to provide every student with the best education possible.

The fact remains, however, that no plan is perfect for every student. Difficult choices must be made and, hopefully, those choices do not detract from the best education possible and do not unduly add to risks that the pandemic poses.

Your Views: Hello, incivility, the 'new normal'

At age 3, I was run over by a truck and suffered five fractures of the pelvis. Doctors told my parents that I might never walk again.

Luckily, I have been walking for 71 years since the accident, but back spasms and sciatic nerve pain are part of my life.

Thanks to the pandemic, a coffee shop I've patronized for decades now has limited seating with chairs that irritate this old injury.

There are “more comfortable” chairs in the place, but they're stacked on tables with signs reading “DO NOT MOVE THE CHAIRS”

For weeks I've been taking a “forbidden” chair, sitting and having my coffee, then returning it as I leave.

Lately, a young female employee castigated me about not following the rules.

Efforts to explain my behavior were squelched and interrupted. Ageism?

If I have trouble with my debit card in a busy checkout line, I can handle a young cashier shooting me a glance that says, “OK, boomer. Do the whole world a favor. Wander into the wilderness and die.”

However, a searing verbal reprimand from an adolescent waitress goes beyond ageism let alone good customer relations.

Hello, incivility, the “new normal.” Sorry, but we're not “all going through this together.”

It's the mask tribe against the no-mask tribe, white lives against black lives, the financial tycoons against all of us, and now my favorite coffee shop has gone toxic.