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Activists set up 1,500 chairs to mark WI coronavirus deaths ahead of Trump visit

JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- Ahead of the President's arrival in Janesville Saturday, activists prepared what they called a "welcome for the president."

They set up 1,500 empty chairs to signify the more than 1,500 deaths to COVID-19 in Wisconsin.

"This is just a very powerful reminder of the loss that Wisconsin had suffered," Dr. Rachel Hughes, an ER physician affiliated with the event, said.

In all, 1,574 people had died of coronavirus in Wisconsin as of Friday.

"While he's here in town I think it's really important that there's some sort of reminder, here on the ground, of the real consequences of what his administration's approach has been," Reba Krueger, with Opportunity Wisconsin, said.

Opportunity Wisconsin and COVID Survivors for Change organized the memorial in Janesville instead of doing a large protest to the president's arrival.

"I think this is much better than having a large protest," Patrick McDonald, who stopped by to see the memorial, said. "I just think it's a remarkable response to his careless disregard of the health and safety of the people of this area."

Event organizers weren't expecting many attendees to this memorial.

Instead, they intended to let these 1,500 chairs sit in silence, as a solemn reminder of the effect this virus has had on the state.

"None of those 1,500 people can speak anymore, so I think it was very appropriate," McDonald said.

Along with the message the empty chairs sent out, Dr. Hughes called on people to not relent in their healthy habits.

"This is something that we as individuals can make decisions to decrease the spread of coronavirus," she said. "Even though these are not mandated restrictions on our behavior, they're important guidelines for us to abide by in order to protect our communities."

Victoria Saha

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