A crowd estimated at more than 150 North Woods constituents filled the Boulder Junction Community Center for an hour-long town hall listening session convened by U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). Johnson fielded questions from attendees on a variety of topics, including those around COVID-19 vaccines and related federal mandates. —Staff Photos By ERIC JOHNSON
A crowd estimated at more than 150 North Woods constituents filled the Boulder Junction Community Center for an hour-long town hall listening session convened by U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). Johnson fielded questions from attendees on a variety of topics, including those around COVID-19 vaccines and related federal mandates. —Staff Photos By ERIC JOHNSON
Nearly 19 months into “two weeks to flatten the curve” of COVID-19, the lingering pandemic continues to impact nearly every aspect of day-to-day life in the United States and around the world.

Not surprisingly, talk of COVID-19 dominated the conversation as U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) convened a town hall Oct. 8 at the Boulder Junction Community Center. 

A crowd of more than 150 constituents was in attendance, a predominantly like-minded crowd that gave Johnson’s remarks applause multiple times throughout the 65-minute listening session.

While COVID was the headlining topic, questions and concerns were raised on a variety of subjects ranging from post-census redistricting, the “New Green Deal,” climate change, government spending and budget deficits, to election integrity, security issues on the U.S.-Mexico border, and his thoughts on big tech, including social media.

Johnson tried to strike what he called an uplifting tone as he returned to Wisconsin from the partisan politics roiling the nation’s capitol in Washington, D.C., a situation he called “an unsustainable state of affairs,” saying the nation needs unification and healing, rather than deepening divisions.

“I come from a business background,” said Johnson, former CEO of Oshkosh-based plastics manufacturer Pacur LLC. “You don’t succeed in business by concentrating on areas of disagreement, you succeed by concentrating on areas of agreement. From the standpoint of successful marriages, that’s the same thing — concentrate on areas of agreement.?The way you do that, from my standpoint, is you concentrate on the goals I think we all share — safety, security, peace, opportunity, prosperity.”



COVID-19 

Concerns were expressed about the impact of federal vaccine mandates, including the looming prospect of President Joe Biden’s proposed mandate that would see the Occupational Safety and Health Administration require private-sector businesses with 100-plus employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or require unvaccinated workers to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work, a proposed mandate that would affect an estimated 100 million Americans. 

Johnson called the federal COVID vaccination mandates divisive and corrosive.

“The reason I’m speaking out on this, the reason I’m willing to be attacked, draw the fire on this, is hopefully to draw attention to the insanity of going down this path enforcing these mandates,” Johnson said. “There has been way too much loss of freedom, way too much self-inflicted harm to our society, to people. What’s the purpose of the vaccine mandates if you can still get infected, if you can still transmit? Why are we dividing our society with these incredibly corrosive and freedom-robbing mandates? It makes no sense, and that’s my problem with the way we’ve treated COVID. So much of the way we’ve handled COVID makes no sense whatsoever.”

Johnson referenced the large numbers of healthcare workers and others with natural immunity who are willing to give up their livelihoods rather than get the federally-mandated COVID vaccination.

“You have to ask yourself a question when you’ve got doctors and nurses — who love what they do, they’ve dedicated their lives to saving other people’s lives — willing to walk away from their profession, they’re willing to be terminated,”?Johnson said. “Not only is that a harm to them and their personal freedom — they shouldn’t have to give up the practice of medicine — but all of us will be harmed. We already have severe nursing and healthcare worker shortages. Think of the years of experience of these health-care professionals that we are going to lose. It’s going to be a disaster.”

Johnson praised the nation’s front line healthcare workers, “the heroes who really exposed themselves to COVID,” including those who took the initial brunt of the pandemic last year, saying they learned invaluable lessons about the virus, including those around natural immunity. 

“They were exposed, they got COVID,” Johnson said. “Some tragically died, most survived. Those who got COVID have natural immunity. They’re medical professionals. They’re reading the journals, they’re seeing that natural immunity is really good. They have the natural immunity and there’s no way they’re going to get the vaccination. Natural immunity is showing to be far more effective. It makes sense. Natural immunity recognizes the entire virus. The vaccine only recognizes the spike protein.”

The federal vaccine mandates, he said, will also affect military readiness, citing the many soldiers who have already had COVID-19 who “are not going to ‘get the jab.’ ” 

“We will lose not only the experience, but the millions of dollars of training,”?Johnson said. “This is madness.”

Presque Isle resident Jim Stober, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, shared the plight of his son, an Air Force medical doctor and “man of deep faith” opposed to taking or administering the COVID vaccines under the federal mandate.

“He’s being threatened right now with dishonorable discharge, pulling his medical license,” Stober said. “They are threatening to ruin him if he does not comply. Here’s my question to you, yes or no: Will you help him if they do that?’

“Yes,” Johnson said, receiving widespread applause. “I have been trying to preemptively help people like your son, providing information to arm them. I’ve been on top of this. I’ve been pushing back hard on the mandates in general, using every piece of information I have.”

Johnson expressed concern about the potential for widespread damage from the federal vaccine mandates and the looming prospect of the mass termination of U.S. workers unwilling to get vaccinated, saying the vaccines are “unfortunately not as safe, not as effective, as we all hoped and prayed they would be.” 

“As you can tell by my passion, I’m completely opposed to these mandates and the coerciveness, the corrosion these mandates represent,” he said. “I hope people understand the damage that this will do to our military, our health-care system, to all kinds of industries. But even more important, I hope that people understand the damage that’s being done to our cohesiveness as a society, to the civility of our society, to our freedoms. President Biden said this isn’t about freedom. This is exactly about freedom and personal choice.”

With the vaccinated contracting and transmitting COVID-19, Johnson questioned the need for federal vaccine mandates.

“What’s the purpose of these very divisive, life-altering mandates?” he asked. “They make no sense whatsoever. I hope people start waking up to the fact that they really will do no good — they’ll do a great deal of harm.”

A hidden issue, Johnson said, are the COVID vaccine injuries being seen by front line medical workers. 

“They’re seeing what the CDC is not admitting to, what the press won’t admit to, and that’s the vaccine injuries,” Johnson said. “It’s true there have been hundreds of millions of doses administered, a vast majority without severe reaction, but it’s also true on VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) that they’re showing 750,000 adverse events, over 16,000 deaths, and we’re just not acknowledging that.”

Johnson said one criticism of VAERS is that it doesn’t prove causation, but he also added, “If you die the day you get the vaccine and you’re otherwise healthy, you kind of start suspecting.”

Johnson spent a great deal of time talking about his long-standing emphasis on early treatment of COVID-19.

“I’ve been banging my head against the wall on early treatment since March of 2020,” noted Johnson, a self-described proponent of right to try, saying, “There’s literally a cornucopia of early treatment drugs available,” including hydroxychloroquine, corticosteroids and Ivermectin, among others. “Nineteen months into this and we’re finally looking at early treatment? This has been a travesty. You look at 700,000 deaths and have to ask, ‘Did any of this work?’ Are we going to keep trusting the people that managed this process? I don’t have a whole lot of faith in them. We are going to need early treatment. This isn’t going away.” 

Johnson said his 70-year-old sister, despite co-morbidity, had an amazing recovery from COVID-19 a few weeks earlier, crediting early treatment with Ivermectin. 

“If we would have been doing that (early treatment), how many lives could have been saved?” Johnson asked. “These are safe drugs. Why weren’t we able to give them a shot?”

Johnson, who said he’s connected to a global network of eminently qualified doctors and medical researchers, took on the various criticisms that have been leveled at him. 

“I’m not anti-vax,” he said. “Anti-vax now is a pejorative. It’s hurled at people falsely all the time. It’s like the worst thing you can possibly be. I’ve had probably every vaccine. I’m fully vaccinated against everything else. I’ve chosen not to get the COVID vaccine because I had COVID.”

Johnson noted he was a big supporter of Operation Warp Speed, a Trump administration initiative coordinating public-private partnership efforts to accelerate development, acquisition and distribution of COVID-19 medical countermeasures.

“I’m supportive of that,” Johnson said. “But I’m also the champion of right to try. A corollary of right to try is right to refuse. Health autonomy is important.”

Johnson said part of his focus is disseminating information not widely available to the public.

“What I’ve been attacked for, and what I’m relentlessly doing, is just providing the public with information that they’re not getting, through the censorship of the political process, from our health-care agencies. Americans are smart. We ought to respect their intelligence, we ought to respect their health autonomy, we ought to respect their freedom, and we ought to respect the fact we all are forced to make some very difficult choices with imperfect information. This isn’t easy.”

Johnson reflected on the past 19 months of government response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Obviously we mourn every tragic death, but looking back, were all these shutdowns, the human toll, the economic devastation, really worth it?”?Johnson asked. “Did any of this stuff work? I’m just asking questions, but unfortunately, by asking questions, you get attacked. Apparently you can’t be inquisitive now. It’s not allowed to ask questions of the narrative coming down from our health agencies, the media and social media. Because it’s coming down from the COVID gods, do not question it or you need to be censored, you need to be attacked.”  



Border issues

A man in attendance expressed concerns about the nation’s southern border with Mexico, particularly in light of the ongoing pandemic.

“Who’s protecting us from this super-spreader event?” he asked. 

“It’s not the Biden administration,”?Johnson replied, calling the nation’s southern border a long-term national security problem, adding that the Biden administration has yet to call the situation at the border a crisis. 



Urged to run

Johnson was queried regarding whether he plans to seek re-election to a third Senate term in November 2022, as his seat is shaping up as a possible battleground race that could very well shape political control in Washington, D.C., with Johnson’s seat widely expected to be targeted by Democrats for a potential flip. 

Johnson has yet to declare his intentions regarding a possible third six-year term and left Boulder Junction with no new announcement.

“I’m imploring you to please run again,” one woman said, spurring widespread applause. “I hope you’ll consider running again.”

Johnson offered no timeline regarding a decision on his future plans.

“I’ve got plenty of time,” he said. 



Election integrity

A Conover resident and 10-year poll worker, raising concerns about election integrity, expressed strong opposition to Democrat proposals to federalize elections through the “For the People Act” (HR 1).

“The federal government is trying to take over elections in the United States,” she said. “I am appalled at what they’re trying to do.”

Johnson said he was “absolutely opposed to what Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are trying to do in terms of national takeover of our election system.”

“I’m the only guy in Washington, D.C., who held a hearing to examine irregularities in the 2020 election — and there were irregularities,”?Johnson said. “We can’t scornfully dismiss the concerns of tens of millions of Americans. The No. 1 goal is to restore the confidence in the election system on all sides and the way to do that is to install more controls. It’s not onerous. It’s just common-sense stuff. These are things that make sense in the private sector but we just don’t do it in government.”



National debt

Questioned on the topic of the spiraling national debt, pegged at $28.9 trillion according to usdebtclock.org, approximately $228,999 per taxpayer, Johnson called the situation of continually rising national debt unsustainable.

“We’re going to have a debt bomb go off and it’s going to be pretty ugly,”?Johnson said. “We’re already seeing the effects of all the deficit spending in terms of inflation, wiping out the wage gains. There’s some real consequences. It’s retirees on a fixed income, low-income individuals, who pay the biggest price for this.”