Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) in full-body personal protective equipment during the April 7 election. Vos' chief of staff is among half a dozen Capitol staffers to test positive for COVID-19. (Photo via Robin Vos' Office)
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) in full-body personal protective equipment during the April 7 election. Vos' chief of staff is among half a dozen Capitol staffers to test positive for COVID-19. (Photo via Robin Vos' Office)

Report: Coronavirus cases follow a series of in-person events, including a retirement party.

Republican members of the Wisconsin Legislature and their aides have had an outbreak of COVID-19 in recent weeks after attending a series of in-person events, including a retirement party for a longtime Capitol staffer. 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported on Friday that at least six people have contracted the virus, including Speaker Robin Vos’ chief of staff, Jenny Toftness. 

“Jenny was exposed at the gathering,” Vos spokeswoman Kit Beyer said. “As soon as she found out she was exposed she went into quarantine and is now fully recovered.”

Republican leaders would not disclose how many or which lawmakers have contracted COVID-19, nor would they answer questions about contact tracing efforts — including whether anyone worked at the state Capitol after they were exposed to the virus.

GOP Veteran Lawmaker: ‘We Don’t Need to Come In’ –  After months of accusing Gov. Tony Evers of overreach and arguing that he needs to work with the Legislature’s Republican leadership to curb the pandemic, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Sen. Alberta Darling said in a WisconsinEye interview that lawmakers had done enough to fight the pandemic and there was nothing more they could do. 

Earlier this month, Speaker Robin Vos criticized Evers’ emergency order limiting public gatherings by calling it a, “go-it-along, grab-bag approach,” then called on Department of Health Services Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm to submit the emergency order to the Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules, “as required by law.”

More News from Around Wisconsin

No Utility Disconnections This Winter – State regulators have extended a ban on all utility disconnections until after the upcoming winter, according to a report from Wisconsin Public Radio. The 2-1 vote by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission means utilities cannot shut off electricity, water, or heat until at least April 15. A PSC ban on disconnecting utility service was first declared on March 24 by an emergency order from Gov. Tony Evers as the pandemic began claiming victims and costing a historic level of job loss.

Misinformation Fueling Pandemic Politics – When the coronavirus started spreading around Wisconsin in the spring of 2020, Dr. Chad Tamez hosted Facebook Live sessions to help patients understand what was initially a mysterious new pathogen. A family physician who co-owns a private practice in West Bend, Tamez seized on the power of social media to discuss new medical findings about the coronavirus. 

But, in a story reported by Wiscontext he explains why, after a few weeks, he stopped hosting the sessions as the pandemic was becoming a political issue.

As the number of COVID-19 deaths in Wisconsin topped 1,700 this week, Wisconsinites have grown weary of the pandemic, relaxing their behaviors and ignoring public health guidance and restrictions to slow the spread of a deadly disease. The result is a public health nightmare: Officials must simultaneously wage war on a pandemic and a parallel “infodemic” of false, misleading and dangerous claims that downplay the seriousness of the disease.

Voters Can’t Be Forced to Wear Masks – Amid in-person absentee voting and a growing number of COVID-19 cases across the state, the Wisconsin Elections Commission decided that local election officials cannot require voters to wear masks to the polls, though they can require poll workers and election watchers to do so.

Wisconsin Public Radio reports that Elections Commission head Meagan Wolfe told local election officials they can’t require voters to wear masks in polling places because such a requirement would constitute setting a new “qualification” for voting. Under the state constitution, only the state Legislature can set voting qualifications. 

Last month, a La Crosse poll worker sued Gov. Tony Evers and La Crosse City Clerk Teri Lehrke, claiming he was not allowed to work at a polling place for August’s partisan primary election because he wouldn’t wear a mask, citing a medical condition. The case is ongoing. 

First Potential 2022 Candidate – Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson (D-Kaukauna) has become the first potential candidate to express interest in the US Senate seat currently held by Ron Johnson when it comes up for election in two years. 

Nelson filed a form with the Federal Elections Commission that does not establish a campaign committee but does allow him to raise and spend money while exploring whether to formally run.

After being elected a state Assembly representative in 2004, Nelson ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor as Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s running mate in 2010. He has been county executive since 2011, and lost to Mike Gallagher (R-Green Bay) in an election for the 8th District congressional seat in 2016.

C’mon, People… It’s Chicken! – Green Bay police have had to issue an request asking drivers to stay away from a certain neighborhood, not because of any criminal activity but because of a chicken sandwich. 

Police asked that people avoid the intersection of Mason and Taylor streets because of a long line for the grand opening of a Popeye’s Chicken restaurant.

“This highly anticipated restaurant opening has created a large traffic problem in the area,” Green Bay Police said, according to a report from WBAY-TV. “Currently, the drive-thru line of cars is extending onto W. Mason St., causing a significant traffic problem in the area.”

For more than a year there have been sporadic incidents of conflict and violence around the country associated with the demand for a deep fried chicken breast on a brioche bun.