The most-read PBS Wisconsin news stories of 2021

During a busy and challenging year, online audiences gravitated toward stories covering the consequences of varying COVID-19 vaccination rates, government responses to the pandemic, a high-priced home building boom, the state's political geography, Afghan refugees and a worrisome worm.

By Kristian Knutsen

December 29, 2021

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An illustration shows blue and cream letters spelling Here and Now with 2021 stories in white type.

(Credit: PBS Wisconsin)

PBS Wisconsin journalists reported on numerous issues over the course of 2021, working to shed more light on changing circumstances of life around the state. Here’s a look back at the 10 stories that attracted the largest online audiences through the year, presented in chronological order.

March 12: What the American Rescue Plan means for Wisconsin
As President Joe Biden signed the first major piece of legislation in the form of a $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package, Americans are awaiting their third stimulus checks.

April 1: Jumping worms are eating — and altering — Wisconsin’s forest and garden soils
Scientists are studying how a subsurface invasive species is changing local ecosystems and are reaching out to gardeners to share methods for stopping their spread.

April 7: Map: A closer look at Wisconsin’s 2021 state superintendent election results
The vote for Jill Underly over Deborah Kerr in the election to lead the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction reflected the partisan nature of the race to some degree, but there were also several divergences from typical geographic patterns.

April 14: FoodShare expansion will continue in Wisconsin despite end to emergency order
FoodShare recipients in Wisconsin will continue to receive expanded pandemic benefits under an agreement reached between state officials and the federal government.

May 6: What’s pushing record lumber prices and who in Wisconsin is benefiting?
The coronavirus pandemic has fueled a home construction boom around the nation, but loggers and builders want to know where the profits are flowing as demand for wood products spikes.

May 28: How much higher are COVID-19 rates among unvaccinated Wisconsinites?
Examining new cases and vaccination levels in all 72 counties around the state reveals how the coronavirus continues to circulate and infect residents who haven’t gotten a shot.

June 29: Johnson’s vaccine side effects event prompts a new round of condemnations
Continuing a pattern of questioning the safety of coronavirus vaccinations, Wisconsin’s Republican U.S. Senator shared several stories about adverse reactions, while doctors warn his message undermines efforts to curb the pandemic.

Aug. 9: What’s next for Wisconsin’s most vaccinated locales as Delta variant spreads
Health officials in Dane and Door counties are trying to push local vaccinations even higher as employers are left to set their own vaccine and mask rules in the face of another highly contagious coronavirus wave.

Aug. 31: The resettlement story for Afghan refugees in Wisconsin is just beginning
Thousands of Afghans seeking to make a new home in the United States are being temporarily housed at Fort McCoy, which played a similar role four decades earlier.

Oct. 12: Why Wisconsin’s covid breakthrough numbers show the power of vaccination
When the state health department compiles figures about people vaccinated for COVID-19 who become infected with the virus, the role of age is paramount in understanding differing impacts across the state’s entire population.

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