For this Wisconsin mother, new school year means complicated risk-benefit calculations — 8/31/20

A roundup of top news and information about Wisconsin’s response to the coronavirus

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Today we highlight the latest installment of our Outbreak Wisconsin collaboration with WPR. Reporter Bram Sable-Smith checks in with Jessica Barrera, a single mother in Eau Claire, as she weighs the risks and benefits of sending her son Niko back to school during the pandemic — or keeping him learning from home.

“Barrera’s blood condition, polycythemia vera, worsens her risk for developing serious complications from COVID-19. That adds to her desire to limit Niko’s exposure to the virus, even though children appear less likely than adults to face serious health consequences,” Sable-Smith reports. “Still, the decision to keep Niko isolated was not easy. He is on the autism spectrum and must now work on his social skills — through an individualized education plan — over a school-issued iPad.”

Top Stories


Dustin Ludke, a building supervisor with University Housing at UW-Madison, uses an electrostatic cleaning machine to sanitize bins used by students moving into their rooms at Dejope Residence Hall.Dustin Ludke, a building supervisor with University Housing at UW-Madison, uses an electrostatic cleaning machine to sanitize bins used by students moving into their rooms at Dejope Residence Hall.

Pizza lunches and iPads: A single mom speaks to her son about returning to school  — Wisconsin Watch/WPR 

Report: Wisconsin students feeling ‘anxiety, stress and uncertainty’ about start of school year  — WPR 

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court raised doubts about local health officers’ power to enforce orders. Some counties are trying to change that.  — Sheboygan Press 

UW-Madison move-in during COVID-19 era: Masks, rules and crossed fingers  — Wisconsin State Journal 

UW seeks 2,000 people for Phase III clinical trial of potential COVID-19 vaccine  — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

‘Deleterious’ public service cuts likely without federal aid, new research predicts  — Cap Times

States confront new Covid-19 challenge: Getting flu shots to apathetic Americans

Pandemic fuels increase in Rock County BadgerCare Plus enrollments  — Janesville Gazette 

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“If we can create positive outcomes from this — I don’t want to get tearful — then we would have memorialized in a positive way all the people who’ve died.”

— Anne Lusk, a nutrition researcher at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, speaking to POLITICO about new public health insights gained during the pandemic

Data to note

Wisconsin is among 16 states that “allow voters to apply for mail ballots so close to Election Day that their votes could be at risk of being too late if they are sent and returned through the Postal Service,” according to a New York Times analysis that comes ahead of a presidential election that is expected to see a surge of mail-in ballots due to the pandemic. 

See more details about Wisconsin’s legal and recommended deadlines for requesting and submitting mail-in ballots here

Here are the latest visualizations of COVID-19 cases and deaths from our partners at WisContext.

Resilient Wisconsin

People helping others and showing resilience during this time of anxiety. Send suggestions by tagging us on social media — @wisconsinwatch — or emailing us:

Madison nurses start company to provide online COVID-19 screening — Wisconsin State Journal 

Red Caboose Child Care Center adapts to COVID-19 pandemic with eye on future new home — Wisconsin State Journal

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