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“My name is Ani Weaver. I’m a registered nurse and I work for a local healthcare facility, which I’m not naming because my views do not reflect the views of my place of employment. Instead, I am here speaking out on behalf of healthcare workers across Wisconsin. I am here today with a message for our elected leaders, especially President Trump and Vice President Pence. I am here to tell you we can do better.”
That’s Ani Weaver, a registered nurse and healthcare worker, speaking about the conditions in Wisconsin hospitals. She says that many hospitals lack the resources and funding to properly protect and pay their workers.
Today Vice President Mike Pence visited Wisconsin to tour a GE Healthcare factory that is manufacturing ventilators. But while Pence is using his visit to highlight Wisconsin’s efforts to fight the pandemic, Weaver says that hospitals are struggling. They had to scale back operations to account for lost revenue, and haven’t been able to acquire enough face masks.
“N95 masks are the number one need right now,” said Weaver. “As you can see, I don’t have an N95 mask on; I don’t need one right now. But for those that are in situations where they require N95 masks, they’re being asked to re-use them over, over, and over, and over, and over again. Those masks were intended to be one-time use masks, and by re-using them, it’s obviously putting healthcare workers in a really precarious position, and it’s putting them at risk for contracting COVID-19.”
This comes as UW Health announced today would start sterilizing used respirators for re-use in case their inventory runs low. UW Health also announced it would be cutting pay for administration and adjusting hours for hourly employees to compensate for fiscal shortfalls.
Weaver’s comments come as Republican lawmakers are pushing to reopen Wisconsin’s economy at the beginning of May. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald announced they would be seeking a legal challenge to an extension of Governor Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order. The sheriffs of Dodge and Racine County have also said they will not enforce Evers’ extended order. Weaver says she understands the desire to go back to normal operating procedure as fast as possible, but she warns it could make the situation worse.
“We can’t risk throwing away all the headway we have made by reopening Wisconsin prematurely,” said Weaver. “I support the approach Governor Evers outlined Monday: A coordinated and science-based reopening of the economy as soon as we have sufficient testing infrastructure in place to ensure we can keep our communities healthy and safe. We need more testing supplies now. I think everyone can agree that we want to be able to reopen our economy. This just needs to be done safely and in a way that protects those of us on the front line who are already at risk. People are suffering, the pain is real, and that’s why we need our leaders to act.”
Governor Evers’ stay-at-home order expires on May 24. At time of writing, there are over 4,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, and 388 in Dane County.