Jan. 18, Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm was nominated to become Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Palm has been the top health official in the state for two years, leading responses to the pandemic.
Under her leadership, despite the challenging situation, Wisconsin has seen a drop in hospitalizations.
In an interview at the beginning of the pandemic, Palm said all Wisconsin residents should take precautions to protect older adults and those with underlying conditions. Under her leadership, she and Gov. Tony Evers successfully expanded Medicaid and affordable healthcare coverage by investing over $1.5 billion.
In a statement on Palm’s departure, Evers commended Palm’s leadership and work with the DHS. Evers then nominated Karen Timberlake as Palm’s replacement in the Wisconsin Department of Health Services in the same statement.
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Timberlake has said fair vaccine distribution will be her top priority as she takes over the position, and she aims to ensure Wisconsin gets its fair share of vaccines from the federal government, considering the current lag from Washington.
But, the timing of Timberlake’s appointment could prove a double-edged sword. While Timberlake plans to continue Palm’s good work, many Republicans in the state Senate have refused to acknowledge the pandemic’s danger, and plan to vote on canceling the statewide mask mandate. Without a doubt, this will do more harm than good.
Therefore, to some degree, Palm’s departure has left Evers’ plan vulnerable to the Wisconsin Republican legislators’ attack. The vote on canceling the mask mandate signals to the public that the pandemic is not dangerous, contrary to scientific evidence. Despite decreasing case numbers in most counties, there’s still one positive case for every eight to 15 people.
Wisconsinites now have three primary concerns, the first one being the pandemic itself, the second being the ignorance of Republican legislators and the third being vaccine distribution.
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As Timberlake pointed out in her statement, federal vaccine distribution to Wisconsin has lagged, potentially leaving a vaccine shortage for the foreseeable future. On top of that, not everyone can receive the vaccine right away, with healthcare workers, seniors and those with underlying conditions priorities. Without the vaccine, the only way to avoid the virus is to wear a mask, practice social distancing and stay at home.
Until Wisconsin receives a steady supply of vaccines, Republicans have endangered public safety. While Palm and Timberlake work hard to end quarantine and protect the public, Wisconsin Republican legislators have relentlessly sabotaged their efforts and let down their constituents.
Ken Wang ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science.