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After a messy, partisan fight in the State Legislature and State Supreme Court, Wisconsin held an in-person election on April 7, 2020. At that point the state had confirmed 2,500 COVID-19 cases and lost at least 92 people to the virus, with the majority of the suffering concentrated in Milwaukee’s Black community. As a poll worker in Madison, I spent election day behind a Plexiglas window, wearing a homemade mask, checking voters’ names in the poll book. Some voters came wearing masks and gloves. Some wrapped their IDs in plastic to avoid contact.
Perhaps the most poignant image of the coronavirus pandemic captures desperate family members, with tears streaming down their faces, their noses pressed against hospital doors, barred from entry to visit their loved ones. But families are not just tragic icons at life’s end; they are often its choreographers. A large national survey that predated the pandemic found that 70 percent of Americans over age 60 who required medical decisions during the final days of their lives lacked the capacity to make them.