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Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, left, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald speak to reporters in Madison about the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer) Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, left, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald speak to reporters in Madison about the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, left, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald speak to reporters in Madison about the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)

By D.L. Davis May 4, 2020

Given the massive impact of the coronavirus, and efforts by elected officials to fight the global pandemic, it should come as little surprise that virus-related items took four of the five top spots on PolitiFact Wisconsin’s list of most-clicked items for April 2020.

Here is a look at our monthly "High Five."

1. State Republican Legislative leaders say Wisconsin is "clearly seeing a decline in COVID infections." 

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued a "Safer at Home" order March 24, 2020, that restricted movement and business activity throughout the state through April 24. On April 16 that order was extended to May 26, 2020, this time signed by Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald made their case for an injunction blocking Palm in a joint statement released the same day as the lawsuit. After referencing "public outcry" and condemning Evers for "unprecedented administrative overreach," the three-paragraph statement ends with this:

"The constant stream of executive orders … are eroding both the economy and their liberty even as the state is clearly seeing a decline in COVID infections."

There are a lot of ways to slice the coronavirus data, but this is an exaggeration.

New cases and deaths in the week before this claim were roughly in line with both the preceding week and the averages for the month of April. Hospitalizations had dropped somewhat from the week prior, but were holding steady for the five preceding days.

We rated this claim Mostly False.

2. A Facebook post claimed GOP Sen. Ron Johnson said Americans should go back to work, because "death is an unavoidable part of life." 

Johnson wrote a guest column in USA TODAY that drew plenty of attention online and across social media, including an article published March 31, 2020, that has been shared widely on Facebook.

That article summarized Johnson’s column with this headline: "Ron Johnson: Americans Should Go Back To Work, Because ‘Death Is An Unavoidable Part Of Life.’"

The headline implies Johnson is calling for a widespread — or even comprehensive — return to work.

The Johnson piece in USA Today, published March 29, 2020, makes clear at the start he is not calling for any such immediate return to normalcy. 

Johnson did use the line about death being unavoidable, but the headline exaggerates his position, implying he thinks all or most people should go back to work. He explicitly says he supports social distancing and keeping some businesses closed at this point.

We rated this Half True.

3. A Facebook post said Joe Biden stuck a gun in an elderly woman’s mouth at a Wisconsin rally.

 A manipulated photo that dates back more than a decade found new life amid the coronavirus quarantine.

An image of Democrat Joe Biden shared more than 2,000 times purports to show Biden sticking a gun in an elderly woman’s mouth. The accompanying text claims it happened at a 2019 rally in Wisconsin.

It was posted March 23, 2020, but began circulating heavily in early April. The comments showed many Facebook users taking it seriously, calling Biden "evil" and asserting this as further reason to support Bernie Sanders.

But the image is fabricated. It’s actually an altered photo from a 2008 event in Florida, with a gun digitally added. It’s been circulating online for at least eight years.

And Biden wasn’t even here in 2019.

This is a ridiculous fabrication and a malicious lie. We rated the post Pants on Fire.

4. President Donald Trump said Wisconsin is "run by Democrats right now," so they should address election social distancing concerns. 

President Donald Trump was asked how the Wisconsin election — which he encouraged voters to turn out for — lined up with social distancing recommendations from his administration to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The question came up at his daily briefing on Election Day.

"Well, there you have to ask the people that," Trump said. "You have a Democrat in Wisconsin as governor. Ask him. That's his problem. Okay? He should be doing it. Again, some governors fail, and I won't let them fail, because when they fail, I'll help. But that's run by Democrats right now. Okay? It's run by Democrats."

We’ll start with this: Wisconsin hasn’t been run by Democrats since 2010. That’s the last time Democrats held the governor’s office and both houses of the Legislature.

Republicans established their own trifecta in 2011, and maintained it until 2019, when Democratic Gov. Tony Evers was sworn in after defeating Republican incumbent Scott Walker.

Since then, Wisconsin government has been defined by this split power, with Evers and the Legislature warring over matters big and small.

Trump is right that a Democrat, Evers, holds the state’s highest office. But Republicans control the other two branches.

And the pre-election battles illustrated exactly how divided Wisconsin is, as Republicans thwarted two different attempts to alter or delay in-person voting. That makes Trump’s central point — that Democrats are to blame for any social distancing violations — all the more off base.

So we are left with a statement that contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. That’s our definition of Mostly False.

5. A Facebook post said "Conservative Supreme Court Justices vote remotely to deny Wisconsin voters their right to vote remotely." 

The court vote involved did take place remotely.

But the latter half of this claim overreaches. The traditional "right" to vote remotely involves submitting an absentee ballot by Election Day. That right was not taken away. The high court simply did not extend that right to days past the election as Democrats requested.

For a statement that is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context, our rating is Half True.

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PolitiFact Wisconsin's 'High Five' for April 2020