Evers one-on-one: Governor discusses state and federal response to COVID-19
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Governor Tony Evers is optimistic and confident about the state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 outbreak, though he admits that the situation will get worse before it gets better.
In order for the situation to get better, it will require a two-pronged approach from the state and federal levels. In a one-on-one remote interview with CBS 58, Evers discussed calls he has participated in involving the White House and other governors.
“I think for the most part people understand that different levels of government will have different opinions on how to accomplish certain things,” Evers said of the ongoing relationship between state and federal governments in working together to combat the virus.
Evers added that he’s encouraged to see President Trump adhering more to the advice of health experts.
“If we have a consistent message there, I think that helps us all,” Evers said.
But Wisconsin’s governor believes the beginning of the nation’s response was not handled in the most ideal manner, leading to a process that leaves states and the federal government bidding on the same, vital equipment – like personal protective equipment and ventilators – needed for those on the frontlines against the outbreak.
“There’s a shortage of materials,” Evers told CBS 58. “If I had had a magic wand, I would’ve had the federal government in charge of finding, you know, getting [medical supplies], instead of having states competing against other states.”
Action needed from Legislature
While Evers has exercised his executive powers extensively to respond to the crisis, he acknowledges that there is action needed from the Republican-controlled Legislature and he has been working to share what priorities are needed, such as access and purchasing of medical equipment, relaxing regulations for the Department of Health Services and helping people who are now unemployed as a result of the shutting down of businesses.
“Is it going to be my plan or [the Republican leadership] plan, frankly I don’t care,” Evers said. “We just need to make sure our state government is in the best position to serve the people of Wisconsin.”
In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzerald (R – Juneau) said he is, “still having discussions with Speaker Vos, caucus members, the governor’s staff, and the leadership of the minority party.” He added, “We’re hopeful we can hit the floor with a bill that can address policy concerns in the next couple weeks through a virtual session of the Senate.”
But Evers recognizes that there is an urgency to responding to the crisis, and while he hopes the Legislature will act quickly, he is not ruling out calling a Special Session to move up the timeline.
“I’ll do that if I have to,” Evers said. “I just think this is something that transcends politics and I’m hopeful that having these ongoing discussions will get us to a point where we can have a session, deal with the most important issues at hand and I think the people of Wisconsin will be happy to have a bipartisan solution.
Path forward for K-12 education
The current stay-at-home orders essentially keeps students out of schools until the end of April at the earliest, upending education for thousands of children across the state.
“It’s a tragedy that the impact of several months of schooling is going to be wasted, unfortunately,” Evers said.
The governor is also the former state superintendent and encourages parents at home with their children to keep their minds and bodies active for what appears to be an indefinite pause from traditional schooling.
“It’d be great if we’d have part of the school year left, but that is an unknown,” Evers said.
‘We are going to get through this’
Overall, Evers is encouraging Wisconsinites to adhere to health guidelines and to be patient.
“The people of Wisconsin are resilient,” Evers said. “They have to be rest assured, that at every level of government, from the municipalities to the cities to the state and the federal government, everyone is working 24/7, no one is slacking off on this thing,” Evers added.
“I know it’s difficult times but we are Badgers and we are going to get through this.”