JUST THE FACTS
The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to the flu or a severe cold. If you think you have been exposed to the virus through contact with someone else who has been affected, you should call your health care provider immediately for medical advice.
Emergency warning signs and serious symptoms include
• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
• Persistent pain or pressure in the chest.
• New confusion or inability to arouse.
• Bluish lips or face. The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention states that this list is not all-inclusive and urges Americans to consult their medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.
When testing is necessary
If you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19 or you live in a community where there is ongoing spread of COVID-19 and develop symptoms of COVID-19, call your health care provider and tell them about your symptoms and your exposure. They will decide whether you need to be tested.
People who are mildly ill may be able to isolate and care for themselves
at home. Your local medical professionals will be able to consider your case and deliver sound advice.
What if you're sick?
The CDC makes the following recommendations to those feeling sick or afflicted with a mild case of COVID-19:
Stay home. People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care.
Avoid public areas. Do not go to work, school or public areas.
Avoid public transportation. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing or taxis.
Contacting your doctors
People at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 should contact their health care provider early, even if their illness is mild. This can help doctors make more informed decisions, like whether or not you should be hospitalized or if you should be tested for the virus.
The CDC reports that older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19.
If you are very sick, get medical attention immediately. If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, get medical attention immediately.
On Tuesday, the Price County Board of Supervisors passed resolutions declaring a public health emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and authorizing county administrator Nick Trimner to close the county buildings and implement staffing and policy changes as necessary.
As of Tuesday, county offices remained open, but all non-essential work-related travel outside the county has been suspended. Employees are being encouraged to make use of technology to limit the number of meetings and events attended in person, and employees have been advised to conduct as much business via email or phone as possible.
Should it be deemed necessary, Trimner — in consultation with county chairman Bob Kopisch and county health officer Michelle Edwards — has the authority to close county buildings and
If such action is taken, the full county board of supervisors is to be notified by phone or email no later than 24 hours afterward.
Trimner assured the county board Tuesday that the only policies altered or waived during this period would be those relating to the dayto-day functions.
With the Families First Coronavirus Response Act still before the U.S. Senate at press time Tuesday afternoon, the county will be waiving certain employee policies until the act is signed into law.
Employees with children affected by the school closings will be allowed to use their sick leave or vacation leave, and the six-month waiting period to request sick leave for new employees will be waived. For employees who do not have vacation or sick leave currently available, they may borrow up to 80 hours which will be paid back later.
A proposed amendment to the resolution introduced by county board member Bruce Jilka — calling for the emergency management committee to be included in the emergency decision-making process — received two other supporting votes from county board members John Vlach and Sue Bocock, but ultimately failed to pass.
The declaration of emergency resolution states that the county board has determined it is necessary to make all possible resources and means available to the county to protect the welfare of its residents from the spread of COVID-19.
The resolution authorizes Trimner to carry out the county's emergency management response, along with the emergency management coordi nator.
While declarations of emergencies are normally associated with receiving funding, Kopisch commented he is unaware of any funding available at this point.
'The state has declared an emergency, the federal government has declared an emergency, and we're part of all this,' Kopisch said at a special meeting of the county board of supervisors on Tuesday.
The resolution also allows the board the flexibility to hold public meetings electronically to limit person-to-person contact.
Both resolutions will remain in effect for 100 days.
Trimner also reported to the county board that a document has been drafted with strategies for handling a pandemic in Price County. The main objective of the 26-page document is to create a plan that the Price County Office of Administration can utilize to ensure vital operations are continued during a pandemic.
The weekly senior dining locations are now closed for communal dining, although individuals may continue to pick up meals at the front door of the sites in Phillips, Brantwood, Ogema, and Kennan. Meals delivered directly to seniors' homes will not be affected by the change.
As of early Tuesday morning, no changes had been made to the BART bus service in Price County, although manager Patrick Daoust reported the situation would continue to be monitored very closely. Should changes to the public transportation be required, Daoust said plans are in place.
County highway funding plan fails to pass
Due to the unknown economic impacts related to COVID-19, three county board members voted against passing a funding plan designed to start an extensive repair and maintenance program on the county's highways.
The proposed plan, which has been discussed at several meetings, would have authorized the county borrowing up to $1 million this year, to be paid back in 2021. The funding would have been put toward a series of repairs on several county highways and the purchase of additional highway department machinery.
If approved, the borrowing would have increased the county's tax levy by 10.65% in 2021.
Board member Bill Teeters voted against approving the plan, citing the economic and medical uncertainty related to COVID-19.
'Had we taken this vote two months ago, I believe my opinion would have been different than it is today, given where we are at with this virus and people's lives upended with employment uncertainty,' he said. 'We absolutely need to do something with the roads ... but the timing right now, for me, is really, really bad.'
Teeters also voiced uncertainty about whether the virus may affect the highway department's ability to carry out the plan regardless of the funding.
Teeters suggested the plan be brought back to the county board at the end of the year.
'I truly think this is critical, but right now I don't see it is a higher priority than the health and welfare of our citizens,' he said.
Board members Jilka and Vlach also voted against the funding plan.
Board members Larry Palacek and Jim Hintz voiced disappointment that the plan had failed to pass, with Hintz noting this will likely postpone the beginning of the highway projects by at least a year.
Kopisch recommended that highway commissioner Joe Baratka work with the highway committee to determine what might still be accomplished to start repair work on the county highways this year.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday ordered all of the state's public and private K-12 schools closed indefinitely starting March 18. Below are the plans in each of the local districts.
Chequamegon School District facilities closed to students and the public after school Tuesday, with all extracurricular activities hosted by the school canceled as well.
Teachers prepared a variety of plans for getting educational materials to their students, and at the end of the school day on Tuesday, students were sent home with educational packets, computers, or tablets, depending on their grade level.
Elementary students from 4K through fifth grade received packets for their various classes, with the older kids using a combination of Google classroom and printed materials. Emphasis will be on a combination of school work and relaxation, balancing the need for continued studies and stress relief. The encore classes, such as art, music, physical education
and Makerspace are providing materials to add some variety to the learning that is expected. The art department is sending home age-appropriate packets of ideas or actual assignments. The fourth and fifth grade are going to be doing a comic style strip showing what their life has been like under these unusual circumstances. The choir teacher at the elementary level will have music available online and on paper for the kids to practice with help from caregivers so they will be ready for the spring concert.
The elementary expectation is that learning will continue and this will alleviate boredom from having to stay home or limit outside interactions. The elementary library checked out six books per student to keep them reading. Art and Makerspace are providing opportunities to create using things they can find at home. There may be some online learning opportunities for the fourth and fifth grades, but much of the elementary learning will be hands-on.
Grades six through 12 took home chromebooks and/or packets and projects, depending on whether they have access to internet service. Older students will use a combination of printed paper assignments and Google classroom online, both of which the students are familiar with.
Teachers will be expecting frequent interactions and communications with their students. Some classes such as charter and math are used to having their learning via devices, so they are refining expectations for lack of faceto-face time, while using their students' skills of independent work to their best advantage.
The high school staff wants parents and the students to know that they may reach out to the teachers or the guidance services available. If they need extra help or they find their stress level is rising, an email or phone call to the appropriate department is available for them. They want students to be occupied, but not anxious about the situation. While learning is expected, they also do not wish to have students working constantly.
Students can expect to have contact with their teacher regularly, with feedback coming daily. The administration wants everyone to know that this is a new, unique situation — things will not be perfect and changes will be made as everyone adjusts to the new, temporary normal.
The ninth grade english classes will be journaling daily about their life for at least 10 days, then using photos for support will be writing a newspaper-style article about life during social distancing and how the pandemic has affected their life.
Nontraditional classes such as art, music, PhyEd will have expectations as well that will involve things such as journaling, daily practice at home, recording of music practices. The art department is sending home packs of art supplies as well as art prompts, and later on more assignments in google classroom.
Breakfasts and lunches will be delivered to any families that request the service from the school, beginning on Wednesday.
Butternut School District shuttered its doors at the end of the day on Tuesday, introducing alternative methods to educate their students.
High school and middle school students will use a form of virtual education through web-based platforms such as Google classroom, Google hangouts, Blue Jean, and emailed assignments.
Elementary students will predominantly be educated through a combination of electronic and printed pack ets, based on the age and abil ity of each individual child.
The Phillips School District closed its facility on Wednesday. For the duration of the school closure students have been transitioned to virtual and home-based instruction.
Middle and high school students are now receiving instruction from their teachers via the webbased video conferencing system Zoom, while those who don't have reliable access to the internet have been provided with printed packets of homework to study while at home.
Elementary students in kindergarten through second grade have received and will continue to be supplied with printed packets, books, and video messages from teachers, explaining lessons and reading projects. Those in grades three through five are using Google Classroom to continue their education.
The Special Education
Department is continuing to support their students as possible, with aids continuing to monitor and assist students in the virtual classroom environment. Since students will not have access to physical or occupational therapists during the school closure, parents will be provided information so they can continue working on goals from home. School counselors will also work to address any mental health needs that arise.
District administrator Rick Morgan noted that individual school districts are being allowed to determine the average number of instructional hours students should meet at home, which will largely depend on the age of the student.
As this educational model will place more accountability on the student and parents, teachers will remain in close contact with families to ensure educational requirements are being met.
Since immediate need has required this educational plan be crafted rapidly over the course of a few days, District administrator Rick Morgan said it is likely glitches will arise in the way it functions. The main point of contact for parents who wish to communicate a need or issue will be their student's teacher, either by email or phone calls. The district will work to mitigate any issues as they arise, according to District administrator Rick Morgann.
Students are eligible to continue receiving breakfast and lunch from the district, should their parents request the service. Meals will meet the nutritional guidelines for a meal, but will not be hot lunch items. They will be delivered daily via school bus.
Support staff will have the opportunity to continue earning a wage by assisting the district with needs that were not necessarily part of their original contract. The district will use the evening bus route to deliver pre-packaged breakfasts and lunches for the following day, allowing drivers the chance to remain employed.
For the duration of the school closure starting Thursday, teachers are encouraged to work from home.
Schools sports and all extracurricular and co-curricular activities had also been suspended. How coaching contracts will be handled should the entire spring sports season be cancelled has not yet been determined by the district
Prentice Schools closed their doors at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, with students now receiving education online until the school reopens.
Teachers in the district have created educational plans so that students can study from home. Before students were sent home on Tuesday, those who required a technological device to communicate with teachers were provided one to borrow.
The school will offer free meals to all children age 18 and under on weekdays, regardless of whether or not they are students at Prentice Schools. Starting March 19 from noon through 1 p.m., meals can be picked up at the Prentice or Ogema school building, or parents can request delivery by bus. Sign up online by visiting the school's website at www.prentice.k12.wi.us or by calling the district office at 715-428-2811.
The City of Park Falls is taking the new coronavirus restrictions very seriously.
On Monday the city announced it would shutter City Hall and its public library after business hours on Wednesday. The facilities are scheduled to reopen as of 5 a.m. on April 6.
On Tuesday, members of the Common Council met, and, ob-
Park Falls Police Chief Jerry Ernst reported his department hit the streets Monday to inform local gathering places they are prohibited to gather 50 people or more by Gov. Tony Evers mass gathering order issued that day. But by Tuesday afternoon, a new order was issued, prohibiting gatherings more than 10 people, which included limiting restaurants and bars to take-out or delivery only. Ernst said his officers would have to go back out and deliver the news, adding it was 'really going to hurt' some businesses.
At this time, Ernst said police are simply working to inform everyone of the changes. The order does contain a long list of exceptions and rules to follow. Under state law, violators could face up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine up to to $500.
'We are taking this seriously because it is very serious,' Bablick said at Tuesday's meeting. 'As a local government, we need to model good behavior and trying to stay lockstep with the state and the federal government is part of that.'
For now, all city staff will remain working, though under lock and key. Should employees miss work due to illness, they will be instructed to use sick leave, and if that runs out, Bablick said there would be a discussion on what to do in that scenario.
City officials have also set dates and times to accept absentee voting at city hall, which begins next week. At the following times, the west side door by the council room will be open:
March 26 from 10-11 a.m.
April 1 from 9-10 a.m. and 3-4 p.m.
April 3 from 11 a.m. to noon and 2-3 p.m.
On April 3, residents may cast an absentee ballot until 5 p.m., but most have an appointment scheduled ahead of time.
As of Tuesday, the April 7 election is still scheduled.
The Price County Review is making all-new coronavirus stories free to the public. We've created a dedicated location on our website that will be updated daily as this rapidly developing health crisis continues to change. The rate at which news is changing on this issue, it's possible some information in this print edition is already outdated.
With Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers declaring a public health emergency in response to the growing number of novel coronavirus cases confirmed in the state March 12, special precautions are being undertaken in local communities to help safeguard the health of residents, particularly the most vulnerable among them.
The new respiratory virus, known as COVID-19, was first detected in China in late 2019 and has since spread to points across the world, including Wisconsin, where 72 cases had been confirmed as of Tuesday.
There were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Price County as of Tuesday.
COVID-19 prevention recommendations
Health officials recommend that people take some of the same steps that they would to contain the spread of any other respiratory infection.
These include: frequent and thorough hand-washing with soap and water for a full 20 seconds, especially before eating and after public contact, sneezing or coughing, and using the restroom; using hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol when washing facilities aren't available; staying home when
While excessive stockpiling is not recommended, health officials say it's a good idea to keep a twoweek supply of food and other necessities on hand and make a family plan in the event that a 14-day self quarantine is necessary for the household due to confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection. Special protective masks should be reserved for medical professionals and those who are ill or experiencing other special circumstances, for example, caretakers to a sick family member, according to info from the CDC.
Medical and dental offices across the state have also been asking patients with symptoms of respiratory illness and anyone who's recently been in an area with community spread of COVID-19 or come in contact with someone testing positive for the illness to postpone routine appointments.
Some health care systems, including Marshfield Clinic, are also reminding patients of options for virtual visits as a way of addressing certain health conditions while lowering the risk of transmitting COVID-19 and other infections.
In addition, Ascension, Aspirus and Marshfield Clinic have joined health care systems nationwide in implementing temporary visitor restrictions at their hospital locations in response to the spread of COVID-19.
Anyone who thinks they're experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, which commonly include a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath, should call their doctor's office before heading in for a visit. This way, clinicians can help the patient figure out their risk level for COVID-19 exposure and whether a test for the illness is warranted, according to Price County Public Health Officer Michelle Edwards. They can also let the patient know any special precautions that may be needed to protect other patients from exposure should a trip to a medical facility be necessary.
The majority of people who catch this are going to come out of the illness just fine, said Edwards; however, individuals age 60 and over and those with a compromised immune system or such chronic conditions as heart or lung disease and diabetes are at a higher risk of experiencing such potentially life-threatening complications as pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome, according info from the World Health Organization.
The goal of public health at this time is to prevent transmission of the illness and keep any case figures that might arise manageable for available healthcare resources to handle, as explained by Edwards and Price County Public Health Nurse Chelsea Onchuck.
Onchuck said that in a pandemic state, it'd be naive to not plan for the illness' eventual arrival in local communities.
'It's going to be up to the community to help slow this down,' Edwards said. 'Everybody is going to have to do their part.'
Closures and cancellations
Along with his March 12 emergency declaration aimed at opening up resources to limit the virus' spread, Evers signed an executive order that directs the state DHS to 'take all necessary and appropriate measures to prevent and respond to instances of COVID-19.'
One of the recommendations outlined in a DHS memo at that time called for cancellation of events with the potential to draw more than 250 attendees. When it came to deciding whether to go ahead with smaller events, organizers were asked to consider the gathering's potential to bring in a lot of medically vulnerable people or visitors from across a great geographic range along with the setting of the event and level of sustained contact it would offer.
By Sunday, the CDC was recommending that events drawing 50 or more attendees be canceled. This recommended limit grew still smaller, and by Tuesday, under the direction of Evers, DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm issued an order establishing a statewide ban on both public and private gatherings of 10 or more people in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Exemptions were made for such essential establishments as transportation, educational institutions, child care, hotels, military, law enforcement, food pantries, hospitals, long-term care facilities, grocery stores and convenience stores, utility facilities, job centers, and courts. Restaurants and bars may only offer take-out or delivery options to customers.
'By implementing limitations on mass gatherings DHS is intending to slow the spread of this epidemic to a level such that the healthcare system is able to maintain quality care for patients. Mass gatherings during an outbreak of a particularly infectious disease such as COVID-19 have the potential to result in large numbers of ill people that can quickly overwhelm local hospitals and clinics,' read a DHS memo released with those earlier recommendations on crowd sizes.
While the virus causing the illness may also infect people via contact with contaminated surfaces, it's thought to mainly spread through respiratory droplets that can travel up to six feet from a sick individual once airborne, according to info from the CDC. This makes giving people a little over six-foot buffer advisable whenever possible in public spaces, even outside of organized events.
Statewide, DHS recommendations prompted first a moratorium on fans and then an outright cancellation of remaining WIAA boys and girls basketball tournament games late in the week of March 9.
Closer to home, it led Flambeau Hospital and 98Q Country to call off their annual Home, Sport and Health Expo, scheduled to take place in Park Falls on March 14.
The Park Falls Area Chamber of Commerce put out a news release March 13 noting that its remaining events for the month of March would be canceled and that they may also be canceling April events if necessary to help health care workers get ahead of the pandemic.
'The Northwoods is a special place and we have great things to offer residents and visitors alike. Our businesses rely heavily on the tourism industry. The effect that this may have could be difficult for many all across our area,' said Edward Kane, executive director of the Park Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, adding that the Chamber would make information on any assistance opportunities that the organization received available to those impacted in the community.
Reflecting the fastchanging nature of the situation, Evers ordered closure of all public and private K-12 schools from 5 p.m. March 18 until at least April 5, giving them leeway to close earlier depending on local circumstances.
A mix of public and private colleges across the state have also moved to suspend in-person instruction, shifting to virtual classes for periods of time varying by institution. Closer to home, Northcentral Technical College announced that spring break would be extended by one week at all of its campuses, including the one in Phillips, with all activities to be canceled during that time period, running from 5 p.m. Friday, March 20 to Monday, April 6. All large events scheduled to take place at NTC campuses in the next 30 days have also been canceled.