Retail stores and drive-in movie theaters are open in Wisconsin after Governor Tony Evers' May 11 Interim Order to Turn the Dial.
The order to reopen some businesses comes after Wisconsin recorded a 2-week downward trajectory of positive COVID-19 tests as a percent of total tests administered.
Less than 4% of the 4,175 tests reported on Tuesday were positive. On May 1 nearly 13% of tests were positive.
The order allows retail stores with their own outside entrance to operate with a limit of 5 customers. The order does not allow the interiors of shopping malls to open.
Missy Hughes, CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, said the reopening affects 90,000 jobs.
Customers should still practice social distancing, Hughes said, and employers should be aware of high-touch areas like door knobs and chip readers.
The Stardust Drive-In Movie Theater in Chetek took immediate advantage of the order and began showing movies Tuesday night.
Drive-in theater patrons must stay in their vehicles except when purchasing food or going to the bathroom and outdoor seating will not be allowed.
Barron County remains at five active COVID-19 cases and six people recovered as of
Wisconsin has had 10,611 positive tests, and 418 people have died from COVID-19 complications.
There have been 112,748 negative tests statewide.
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said his department will no longer enforce Gov. Tony Evers' Safer at Home Order without clarifications from the state. Fitzgerald's statement is as follows:
"As Sheriff, I understand that several businesses are opening today and are asking questions regarding the position of the Sheriff's Department regarding enforcement of the Safer at Home Order going forward.
"We are taking the position that we will not be enforcing the Safer at Home Order going forward without further clarification and direction.
"It is frustrating and difficult to try to enforce an Order, that is now over 60 days old, that has become a moving target based on what the Governor decides to issue every other day without a warning to the Counties who are charged with enforcing it, and with a pending Supreme Court Decision that could and should have been issued, to clear this matter up not only for law enforcement but for everyone in the state.
"Obviously this would be absent blatant violations of safety and distancing recommendations or mass gatherings.
"I hope people continue to use common sense, as we have with this issue, and check with their insurance companies, licensing boards etc. and use all the recommendations to keep themselves, employees and customers safe until better clarification is given to us by the Supreme Court."
Residents at Dove Healthcare of Rice Lake and third-graders from St. Joseph Catholic School in Rice Lake have found a way to connect through email and video chats.
The young and young at heart are participating in an intergenerational project that is a perfect example of the Sharing Our Wisdom theme of National Skilled Nursing Care Week, May 10-16.
Recreation director Nadine Williams explained the national weeklong observance was established by the American Healthcare Assn. in 1967 to draw attention to and recognize the essential role of skilled nursing care centers in caring for America's frail, elderly and disabled.
"We know that our celebration will look different this year because of the COVD-19 pandemic, but to me, this seems like the perfect opportunity for our elders to share their wisdom and for us to learn from their experiences," Williams said. "It is also the perfect time to pay tribute to our amazing employees who are working so diligently to care for our residents and keep them safe."
The Sharing Wisdom project is taking place in spite of the pandemic restricting other forms of contact.
"The youngsters are writing questions they would like to ask our elders," the recreation director explained. "Their teacher, Barb Kinnick, will then email the questions to me, and we will visit with our residents and get answers to questions, then send the answers back to Ms. Kinnick, so she can share the information with her students. Meanwhile, we are also asking questions of our residents which will then be shared with the students."
Williams added, "While our residents and the youngsters can't actually meet, we are hoping to share some pictures as we work on the project. We will be sharing the questions/answers we have received with our elders as part of our National Skilled Nursing Home Week programming."
She added, "We are excited about this opportunity to bring youth and elders together, even amidst COVID-19."
Anyone who has connected with Rice Lake's sister cities knows that Zamberk and Miharu and their citizens share many similarities with us.
Unfortunately, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are among those similarities in the sister cities in Czech Republic and Japan.
In Zamberk's region— Usti nad Orlici District, population 138,000—there have been 25 cases, few of which have been reported in recent weeks.
In Miharu's region—Fukushima Prefecture— population 1.8 million—there have been nearly 100 cases.
Japan is still under a coronavirus state of emergency, which was extended this week until the end of May, though there have been no hard lockdowns.
"Of course, everyone is stressed about the uncertainty of it all," said Jeana Schieffer, a Rice Lake native who has taught English in Miharu since 1986.
"I run an English kindergarten in Koriyama and teach English conversation in Koriyama and Miharu. We cancelled English conversation classes from mid April just like the violin, piano, swimming, kids sports, etc.
"However, we will try to open online lessons from May 7. We are scrambling now to learn how to host online lessons and inform our students how to log in from a tablet or cell phone.
"Public schools don't really have the option of teleschool either as most Japanese homes do not have a computer or even internet. Everyone here uses their phones, and most children have never used a computer," said Schieffer.
But technological shortcomings are not the only struggle for those staying home.
"It is not practical for Japanese people to work from home, because Japanese
homes are typically very small," said Schieffer. "If the schools are closed and parents are at home, too, it would be three or four people spending all day together in a space about the size of your kitchen. Not very practical. So most companies are keeping their doors open and most adults are still headed to work."
Japan's school year typically begins in April.
"Parents are concerned about how much longer schools will be cancelled. We expect the schools to be closed til the end of May at least, but no one knows for sure," said Schieffer.
Service businesses remain open, with several precautions in place.
"Most stores and restaurants are still open. They have put up plastic sheets at registers to protect the staff, and marked floors with signs to make customers stand 6 feet apart. Tables in restaurants have been removed or the chairs removed to make people sit farther apart. Everyone here wears a mask, including children, when out in public," said Schieffer.
Schieffer said the people of Miharu are looking out for each other and staying socially connected as best they can.
"I stopped by the home of the former Mayor of Miharu, Hiroshi Itoh, recently," she said. "He and his wife, Junko, are in good health and on their sixth week of home quarantine. They are both elderly and she has longstanding health issues, so I was relieved them to see them in well spirits. He mentioned that they have received many letters and cards from friends in Rice Lake concerned about them, and they were very grateful for everyone's concern."
On Monday, Czech authorities also permitted some schools, hairdressers, malls, cinemas and other businesses to reopen. Museums and galleries opened their doors and the government gave the green light for weddings, cultural and religious events of fewer than 100 people. Professional sports teams resumed full training. Beer gardens are open, a source of much rejoicing.
New COVID-19 cases in the country have declined since March.
"The Czech government has taken quite strict precautions in the middle of March," said Monika Skodova, a news paper editor in Zamberk.
At first all schools were closed, then all services and shops except of the necessary ones," she said. Skodova added, "We are supposed to stay at home except the travels to work, to the doctor and to provide necessary shopping. We can go out only in twos (except for the families), we have to wear a mask everywhere except home. Doing outdoor sports is permitted, but also only two people in maximum. Our students have to stay at home and the teachers provide online teaching and send homework via e-mails."
Like here, the Czechs faced shortages of necessities, including baking ingredients and masks.
"Everybody with a sewing machine was producing homemade masks not only for their own use, but also for healthcare facilities and nursing homes. And that is really the positive side of this situation, that people help each other," said Skodova.
"The people have been very creative and it is fun to see a variety of masks on the streets!" said Sarka Strnadova, head of Zamberk's international friendship association.
She added, "We have not run out of toilet paper—but yeast! People who are staying home are baking cakes, rolls and homemade bread. It is impossible to buy any yeast at this time."
Parents with children under age 13 are permitted to stay home from work, and receive a government subsidy.
But Strnadova is on double-duty.
"I go to work but I have my grown up sons home, and I have to cook for them every day after work," she said.
For Czechs, who endured war and oppressive communism for much of the 20th century, staying cheerful in the face of hardship is a familiar feeling.
"We have a very good sense of humor in hard times so we send via applications like WhatsApp a lot of funny videos and pictures," said Strnadova.
Among exchange students studying in Rice Lake this year, all but one has gone home.
Despite the disappointments of a more limited visit, Emma Dzurbanova intends to stay until June.
Strnadova said Czech students are expected to return to school in September. And she is hopeful that three from Zamberk who have expressed interest in studying abroad will be able to come to Rice Lake in August.
Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation announced May 1 that the Rice Lake Area School District was among 31 public school districts in the state to receive a Fab Lab grant.
Grant funds ranged from $9,700-$25,000, with a total of $693,200. RLASD is one of 20 school districts to receive the full $25,000. The program requires matching funds from each district.
A $500 contribution was also rceived from V&S Construction Services to invest in a new 60 watt laser engraver, advanced 3D printing systems, and a desktop sized waterjet cutter for student use in the Warrior Fab Lab.
"The Fab Lab program remains one of the best ways for students to gain experience in the high-tech manufacturing jobs where Wisconsin leads," Gov. Evers said. "During the current coronavirus crisis, when we've needed quick turnaround for protective gear and other medical devices, those manufacturers have become even more important to our state."
Missy Hughes, secretary and the development corporation's CEO said, "WEDC has invested more than $2.8 million over the past 5 years to provide 77 school districts across the state with the equipment necessary to help students learn high-demand skills including technology, manufacturing and engineering.
"Fab Labs benefit not only the students themselves with important technology and career skills, but they also benefit Wisconsin employers who will be able to find workers with the right skills to allow their companies to grow and thrive."
A Fab Lab is a high-technology workshop equipped with computer-controlled manufacturing components such as 3D printers, laser engravers, computer numerical control routers and plasma cutters.
Applications were evaluated on readiness and long-range planning, curriculum, business
Land community partnerships, financial need and previous awards.
The review committee consisted of UW-Stout experts and WEDC team members. For more details, visit wedc.org/fablabs or follow #WIFabLab on Twitter.
Products from grant funds
Since the onset of the 2019-20 school-year, the Warrior Fab Lab has been located as part of a remodeled STEM wing at Rice Lake High School.
Students have an opportunity to learn how to use the digital fabrication and design equipment in engineering classes offered at the high school as well as integrated into other STEM classes in the district.
Jeremy "Pete" Peterson, the district's Fab Lab instructor, wrote the WEDC grant and many others over the last 4 years to bring the Warrior Fab Lab vision to a reality.
He stated, "I am very excited that the WEDC has chosen us as grant recipient this year! Bringing the fab lab over to the high school this has been a tremendously positive experience for our students, but increased demand for equipment has created bottlenecks in machine time that now can be remedied with additional equipment."
Peterson also said, "The focus of the Fab Lab based classes are focused on utilizing an iterative engineering design cycle to create prototypes to practical solutions aimed at solving community problems. We would like to see this integrated across STEM courses in the district, and not just engineering courses exclusively. It is meant to be a place where students come to prototype solutions rather than mass produce items. Developing the types of thinking and problem-solving skills that come from rapid iterative design I feel is one of the most important things students can learn in high school regardless of their future career or school pathways.
"I am excited to see how we can continue to help connect our students and the Warrior Fab Lab with the greater community."
One of the future goals of the Warrior Fab Lab is to engage in more community involvement with the Fab Lab.
So far, Fab Lab students have been asked to present their end of term design projects to a public audience for feedback, something the public should expect to see more of in the next year in the form of evening showcase events.
The groundwork is forming for a STEAM booster club that would help serve as an advisory council not just to the Warrior Fab Lab, but also assist in funding opportunities for more integrative STEM project opportunities for students across the district.
Community members who would like to get involved in Fab Lab projects should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
WEDC's Fab Labs Grant Program is designed to support hands-on learning in the subjects of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM).
Fab Labs have the potential to benefit individual students, school districts, the surrounding community and Wisconsin's economy as a whole.