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Monroe County Republicans hold 'Back the Badge' rally

SPARTA — Sparta Police Department chaplain Jeff Skinner recalled viewing the charred remains of a Minneapolis police building in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death while in police custody.

“One of the things I saw was how discouraged (police) were,” Skinner said “Everyone had turned their backs on them. Their law enforcement administration had forgotten them … the community had turned against them. It was a lonely, lonely place to be.”

Skinner spoke to a rally of roughly 100 people gathered for a “Back the Badge” rally Saturday organized by the Republican Party of Monroe County. The rally began at Recreation Park in Tomah, where vehicles adorned with American flags and flags endorsing President Donald Trump formed a caravan for the 17-mile trip to downtown Sparta.

Speakers delivered strong support for law enforcement and led chants of “back the badge.”

Skinner told the crowd that police officers across the country are “facing a lot of criticism they don’t deserve.”

“They’re moms and dads, they’re husbands and wives, and they’re just like you,” he said. “We cannot let them down. We must support them.”

Monroe County District Attorney Kevin Croninger said police officers are critical to protecting the constitutional rights of citizens.

“If we defund the police, we lose the people who are standing up for our constitutional rights on a daily basis,” Croninger said. “People don’t understand the value of law enforcement in protecting our rights.”

Croninger didn’t mention any candidates in the Nov. 3 election by name but said “when making choices at the ballot box in a few weeks, think about who is going to help support law enforcement, who is going to support the men and women in uniform and who isn’t, and vote accordingly.”

State Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point, criticized police reforms offered by Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and legislative Democrats. He described their proposals, such as banning no-knock search warrants, as “wrong, reckless and dangerous for law enforcement.”

He also condemned proposals to “defund” the police.

“If we don’t have police, who is going to protect us in our most dire time of need?” Testin asked. “We shouldn’t be having any conversations about defunding the police. We should be funding them more.”

Darrel and Vanessa Boyles of Tomah attended the rally with their two children. Darrel Boyles said he wanted “to support the members of the police force. They’re out here to serve and protect us and keep our families safe.”

He expressed support for the Trump-Pence ticket and said the upcoming election is “the most important we’ve had in the past 50 years.”

“The Democrats are talking about getting rid of police forces and taking protections away from law-abiding citizens,” he said. “It’s embarrassing to hear some of the talk that’s coming from Wisconsin.”

Boyles said mechanisms to keep law enforcement accountable already exist through citizen police commissions.

Sparta police chief Emilee Nottestad told the crowd she had never seen a rally like this during her 20-year law enforcement career. She said she appreciates the support law enforcement officers receive in Monroe County.

“We are very fortunate to work here in Monroe County,” she said. “I hope we continue to earn your trust and respect. Your support means everything to us.”

In a separate interview, Nottestad said there has been little change in how local citizens are interacting with police officers since Floyd’s death and the nationwide debate over law enforcement tactics. She oversees a department of 21 sworn officers.

“We invest a lot in the training of our officers, and we’ve been a progressive department for many years — way ahead of anything that’s required,” she said. “We have a great relationship with our community.”

Nottestad said she viewed the “back the badge” message as nonpartisan and that politics doesn’t play a role in how local police departments are run.

“It’s not our job to come down on any side of politics,” Nottestad said. “Our job is to remain neutral, gather facts and remain that neutral party.”

IN PHOTOS: Fall color in the Coulee Region

Headwinds for Trump in bid to repeat Upper Midwest victories

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is making a late reelection pitch to voters Saturday in Michigan and Wisconsin, states in the Upper Midwest that were instrumental to his 2016 victory but may now be slipping from his grasp.

He’s facing headwinds not only in national polling, which shows Democrat Joe Biden leading, but also in battleground surveys.

The Trump campaign has largely retreated from the TV advertising in the Midwest, shifting much of its money to Sun Belt states such as Florida, North Carolina, Arizona and Georgia, as well as Pennsylvania.

Trump scheduled events Saturday in Muskegon, Michigan, and Janesville, Wisconsin, and stops Sunday in Nevada and Monday in Arizona as the Nov. 3 election nears.

The president continues to be dogged by his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wisconsin broke the record for new positive coronavirus cases on Friday — the third time that’s happened in a week. The state also hit record highs for daily deaths and hospitalizations this past week.

Biden had no public events planned for Saturday. But in a memo to supporters, campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon warned about becoming complacent.

“The reality is that this race is far closer than some of the punditry we’re seeing on Twitter and on TV would suggest,” she wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. “If we learned anything from 2016, it’s that we cannot underestimate Donald Trump or his ability to claw his way back into contention in the final days of a campaign, through whatever smears or underhanded tactics he has at his disposal.”

Trump is keeping up an aggressive campaign schedule despite his own recent bout of coronavirus, which hospitalized him for several days.

The difficulty of securing a second term was apparent Friday when Trump campaigned in Georgia. No Republican presidential contender has lost the state since 1992, but polling shows Trump and Biden in a tight contest. Trump also has had to court voters in Iowa, which he carried by almost 10 percentage points four years ago.

The latest campaign fundraising figures from the Trump team suggest he’s likely the first incumbent president in the modern era to face a money disadvantage. After building a massive cash edge, his campaign spent lavishly, while Biden kept expenses low and benefited from an outpouring of donations that saw him raise nearly $1 billion over the past three months. That gives Biden a massive cash advantage with just over two weeks to go before the election.

In the hours before his rallies on Saturday, Trump focused on settling a score with a member of his own party, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

Referring to him as “Little Ben Sasse,” Trump tweeted that the senator was a “liability to the Republican Party, and an embarrassment to the Great State of Nebraska.”

The series of tweets came after Sasse told constituents during a telephone townhall on Wednesday that Trump has “flirted with white supremacists,” mocks Christian evangelicals in private and “kisses dictators’ butts.”

Sasse, who is up for reelection this year in the strongly Republican state, went on to criticize the president’s handling of the coronavirus and said Trump’s family has treated the presidency “like a business opportunity.”

Trump twitter broadside blasted Sasse as “the least effective of our 53 Republican Senators, and a person who truly doesn’t have what it takes to be great.”

Sasse’s spokesman, James Wegmann, tweeted in response that Sasse is focusing on helping Republicans retain their Senate majority — it’s now 53-47 — and “he’s not going to waste a single minute on tweets.”



West Salem quarterback Brett McConkey throws during Friday night's game against Tomah.


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Mayo infectious disease specialist breaks down potential COVID-19 therapeutics, treatments

As COVID-19 cases increase across the country, physicians and scientists are hard at work researching potential treatments for the virus, which has infected around 7.84 million U.S. residents and proven fatal for some 215,000. Worldwide, those numbers increase to 38 million and 1.08 million, respectively.

Emily Pyrek / contributed  

Dr. Raymund Razonable

Dr. Raymund Razonable, infectious disease specialist and Mayo Clinic’s principal investigator on a clinical trial involving Regeneron’s antibody study, broke down some of the treatments and therapeutics being tested during a Zoom conference, sharing what specialists have learned about the efficacy and potential of each. Patients, he says, must consent before receiving any coronavirus drug treatment.

Remdesivir

Remdesivir, which is also known by the brand name Veklury, was one of the drugs given to President Donald Trump following his coronavirus diagnosis in early October. Not currently FDA approved, the drug is only given under emergency authorization.

The intravenous drug works by halting replication of the virus and therefore viral progression in patients, Razonable says. Once reserved only for patients requiring ventilation, it is now part of a standard of care for patients sick enough to be hospitalized for COVID-19.

A study published Oct. 8 in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that, in a trial of 1,062 patients, 541 of whom received remdesivir and 521 of whom were given a placebo, those who received the drug had a median recovery time of 10 days versus 15 days for those who received the placebo. However, Razonable says, the drug has shown to have no significant impact on mortality.

Dexamethasone

A steroid generally used to treat asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers, dexamethasone, also used on Trump following coronavirus related drops in blood oxygen levels, is used on hospitalized coronavirus patients requiring oxygen or ventilation.

A study published in July in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at 2,104 patients treated with dexamethasone for up to 10 days, and compared the results with 4,321 patients receiving general care. At day 28, those who received the steroid showed better survival rates.

Individuals with mild cases of coronavirus, however, are likely to be negatively affected by the steroid, says Razonable. “If you give it those who aren’t requiring oxygen it might actually be worse,” he said.

Convalescent plasma

Following studies from the Mayo Clinic led convalescent plasma Expanded Access Program, the FDA gave emergency use authorization for the treatment, which takes plasma from recovered coronavirus patients and gives infusions of the antibody-rich blood proteins to patients with severe cases of COVID-19.

A mid-August report from the Expanded Access Program looked at 35,322 patients, 52.3% which were cared for in the ICU and 27.5% of who were receiving mechanical ventilation at the time of the plasma transfusion. Those enrolled in the study had or were at risk of severe or life-threatening acute COVID-19 respiratory syndrome.

The report noted the seven-day mortality rate was reduced for those who received transfusions of plasma with higher antibody levels within three days of being diagnosed with COVID-19, compared with those given the plasma after four or more days. Similar trends, the report says, were also seen for the one-month mortality rate.

Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody

REGN-COV2, commonly referred to by the name of its maker, pharmaceutical company Regeneron, contains two virus-neutralizing antibodies which bind to the spike protein of the virus, preventing the virus from attaching itself to and entering body cells. High doses of the drug have shown promise in helping coronavirus patients recover faster, especially those whose bodies haven’t developed high levels of their own antibodies to fight the virus.

Dr. George D. Yancopoulos, president and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron, says of early study results of the phase 1/2/3 trial, “The greatest treatment benefit was in patients who had not mounted their own effective immune response, suggesting that REGN-COV2 could provide a therapeutic substitute for the naturally-occurring immune response. These patients were less likely to clear the virus on their own, and were at greater risk for prolonged symptoms. We are highly encouraged by the robust and consistent nature of these initial data, as well as the emerging well-tolerated safety profile, and we have begun discussing our findings with regulatory authorities while continuing our ongoing trials.”

Trump, who also received REGN-COV2 as a coronavirus treatment, touted the drug a few days following the announcement of his diagnosis.

“I wasn’t feeling so hot. They gave me Regeneron,” Trump said in briefing outside the White House. “It was, like, unbelievable. I felt good immediately. I call that a cure.”

Razonable says it is far too soon to dub REGN-COV2 a miracle drug and thus raise people’s hopes about its benefits.

“There has been a lot of interest — at this time there are no promises if this is effective or not,” Razonable cautions, noting two trials are still ongoing, one inpatient and one outpatient. “We don’t have the data to support it’s actually safe and effective — we need results from placebo controlled trials. We don’t base our decision just on a single experience.”

While Trump, who received the drug for free, says he wants REGN-COV2 available to everyone at no cost, Razonable says that would be very expensive, and it is unclear who would incur the expense. The question is premature, with Razonable saying, “Before we get to that we need a trial to show that it works, and we’re still working on that.”

Hydroxychloroquine

Hydroxychloroquine has proven ineffective and was in June pulled from emergency use authorization by the FDA. A study from the New England Journal of Medicine looked at 1,561 patients undergoing hospitalization for COVID-19 and whom received the drug, and compared their outcomes to a control group of 3,155 patients. Death rates were not improved by the use of hydroxychloroquine, and the drug has caused adverse cardiac effects.

IN PHOTOS: Local community members wear face masks