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COVID cautions urged as cases rise

Barron County has reported 117 new cases of COVID-19 in the week since Oct. 7. That is nearly 20% of the counties total case count of 645.

As of Tuesday, there were 98 active cases, with six people hospitalized. There have been six deaths in the county but also 9,849 negative tests.

"We need everyone's help to slow the spread of this virus, said Health Officer Laura Sauve. "We are seeing cases go out to bars and restaurants while sick or awaiting test results. People are ignoring the recommendations and its starting to take a toll on the communities and healthcare systems across the state. We need people to stay home and get tested when they feel sick, even if they think it's just a cold or allergies. We need everyone to be following the guidelines and recommendations."

Recommendations include:

• Avoid all gatherings. If you must gather, limit gatherings to follow current recommendations

• Wear a mask at all times when in public AND anywhere that social distancing of at least 6 feet is not possible.

• Stop all unnecessary travel.

• Limit your contacts to those who live in your home.

• Work from home if possible.

• Stop unnecessary trips to stores.

• Stop eating in restaurants and going to bars; try takeout food instead.

If you must do these activities, choose places practicing strict social distancing and following the Wisconsin Economic Development recommendations.

People with underlying health conditions and older residents should consider having friends or family do their shopping and limit interactions with others.

Wash your hands often; cover your cough.

Get tested at any signs of illness. Signs of COVID 19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, body aches, headaches, chills, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some people have no signs of illness and still carry and spread the disease.

"We need the community to work together to protect those most vulnerable, our schools, business and healthcare systems, Sauve continued. "Only 18% of hospital beds in the State of Wisconsin are currently available. People get sick and hurt outside of COVID, we need to make sure our healthcare systems are available when our community needs them. We urge everyone to follow recommendations and help slow the spread."

If you have questions about COVID-19, dial 2-1-1. You can also text COVID-19 to 211-211.

For the latest information, follow Barron County Public Health on Facebook or visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website.

Rice Lake apartments damaged in Sunday fire

Rice Lake firefighters extinguished a blaze at an apartment complex early Sunday. One occupant was taken by ambulance to the hospital for a medical emergency, according to a press release from the department.

The department was dispatched for a report of a structure fire at 101 Camelot Lane in the City of Rice Lake on Oct. 11 at approximately 12:54 a.m.

Heavy smoke and fire was visible from the front of the structure, a two-story apartment complex.

Firefighters used water and foam, opened up the ceilings and successfully extinguished the fire. The apartments were checked further utilizing a thermal imaging camera.

Four apartments in the complex sustained heavy smoke, water, and fire damage and estimated at $150,000. The property is owned by Dan Lawler.

On scene were 15 firefighters, 1 engine, 1 aerial, 1 utility, and 1 command vehicle. At approximately 3:50 a.m. RLFD cleared the scene and returned to the station.

Disaster volunteers from the American Red Cross are helping 22 people (including 8 children) displaced from 10 units of the apartment building. The Red Cross is providing aid for temporary lodging at a nearby hotel and immediate needs such as food, as well as access to basic health/mental health resources.

So she's worked on slice shots, drop shots, being strong at the net, just a way to vary up her game, so she can force opponents also to vary their game versus just staying on the line."

Diercks and Berger hadn't played as doubles partners before this season, but with Berger finishing strong in her freshman year at No. 2 doubles, it made sense to pair the two, Oyarbide-Sanchez said. It took awhile for them to develop the on-court chemistry but once they grew comfortable with each other's games they found their footing.

"The very first couple of matches they looked good but they looked very green, just kind of needing to feel out what it is like to get used to your teammate,

Oyarbide-Sanchez said of the doubles team. "I think especially Paige — being a senior — she's got a great leadership role, she's really good about analyzing the two of them and offering advice, and she offers advice in such a supportive, constructive way. Then Lexi, she wants to learn and she wants to do whatever she can.

"All of these girls spend so many hours on the court and so this doubles team specifically just that growth as a team, feeling more confident with each others strengths and weaknesses and being there for their partner (was key)."

Matches at the state tennis tournament are no easy task. Oyarbide-Sanchez said Rice Lake tennis has yet to advance a team past the first round in its history. For the two flights, it's about putting their best foot forward. All three players agreed the goal is play at the top of their games and take the outcome that occurs. For seniors Robarge and Diercks it means getting one more chance to represent Rice Lake tennis.

"What I'm most excited for is just playing," Diercks said. "I love the game, I love competing against other teams, and we got that extra chance to compete at a higher level than what we've been competing at all year. It's just exciting for us to take that next step."

While this season began with plenty of uncertainty, the Rice Lake tennis team made sure it made the most of it. That mindset throughout the duration of the season led the success needed to gain a special qualifier status. This year has provided plenty of challenges both on and off the court, but playing at the state championships is the perfect way to end the season, Robarge said.

"It was a really hard season to go into not really knowing what was going on with everything," she said, "but it's really nice to see all the hard work from beginning of the summer until now has paid off and we get to go to state and experience what it's like to be among some harder competitors and hopefully we'll do our best and win some matches."

Cutting ties with Embrace
Advocacy group gets backlash over antiracism statement

A domestic abuse and sexual assault support organization is receiving backlash funding cuts from local governments and law enforcement over a statement it made condemning violence and racism.

After closed session at the conclusion of the Oct. 7 Barron County Executive Committee meeting, members voted to stop its $25,000 funding to Embrace and for HHS director Stacey Frolik to resign from the Embrace board and not to adjust the 2021 HHS budget.

Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said, "No victim services have been interrupted by the changes. We have just withdrawn our support, as well as law enforcement in all four counties they serve, over social issues they are taking up that are very antilaw enforcement. I believe that the environment they are creating may not be welcoming to all victims."

In an email to The Chronotype, Embrace executive director Katie Bement said, "Saying racism exists in our communities and police violence is wrong are not attacks against our local law enforcement departments; we are not criticizing them nor are we anti-law enforcement. Embrace does not support or advocate violence against anyone. We are only making efforts to ensure our services are safe and accessible for all, including the disproportionate number of Black Indigenous People of Color we serve."

Embrace's statement, posted on its website, mentions police or law enforcement twice. Those sentences are as follows:

"Racism, police violence, sexual violence, and domestic violence all have the same root causes, and they interact and compound on each other both in society and within the survivors we serve."

"We urge more community members, colleagues, and agency partners who work in all systems – judicial, law enforcement, education, health care, housing, social services – throughout our community to acknowledge the recurrent problem of racial biases, reimagine their roles, explore community-led solutions, and commit to being anti-racist through their actions and words."

The statement was issued after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery as well as the shooting of Jacob Blake. The statement condemns violence and white supremacy and supports the Black Lives and Indigenous Lives movements. Embrace also states that Communities of Color have disproportionately higher incidences of violence in part because of a history of racism in society.

Bement said, "Embrace's mission has always been focused on ending all forms of violence and oppression in our communities. Law enforcement and Embrace should be able to disagree without dismantling and defunding joint services survivors depend on."

She said Embrace received no notice or explanation from Barron County on its decision to cut funding.

Bement said, "The decisions of some of our law enforcement partners to not refer and withhold information from victims will create extra barriers for victims trying to access local safety services and advocacy support. Law enforcement is effectively setting themselves up to create violations of Wisconsin Statute Chapter 950, the Victim Rights Bill, and the new Marsy's Law."

She also said, "No opportunity to consult with us was provided, and no reasons for this decision were included in the minutes. The secrecy of their closed session is concerning, and we will be requesting the Executive Committee communicate with us and afford us due process to better understand what their issues are."

Before voting to cut funding, the committee went into closed session on "Embrace Contract Review – Continuation, Termination or Modification" pursuant to Section 19.85(1)(e) "for the purpose of deliberating or negotiating purchase of public properties, investing public funds, or other specific business, or whenever competitive or bargaining reasons require a closed session."

All committee members voted by roll call to end funding. They include: "Louie Okey, Karolyn Bartlett, Dale Heinecke, Jerry McRoberts, Russell Rindsig, Burnell Hanson, Marv Thompson and Gary Nelson.

The executive committee's motion was made by Supervisor Dale Heinecke and seconded by Supervisor Karolyn Bartlett. The Executive Board's decision could be taken up by the full County Board at an upcoming meeting.

Fitzgerald said survivors of domestic and sexual violence will continue to be referred to Embrace for the time being.

Frolik, Fitzgerald and Barron County's third representative, Karla Potts-Schufelt, have all left the Embrace board.

Since 1980, Embrace, formerly the TimeOut Shelter, has been providing safe shelter and services to survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault in the four county service area of Rusk, Washburn, Barron, and Price counties.

Bement concluded her email, "Embrace welcomes and respects all people regardless of race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Our mission, vision, and services have not changed. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or sexual violence, you are not alone! You can contact Embrace 24/7 for free, confidential support at 1-800-924-0556 or text 715-532-6976."

Assembly candidates state their views

John Ellenson

David Armstrong

Candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot for Wisconsin's 75th District Assembly seat are Republican Dave Armstrong and Democrat John Ellenson.

Each candidate was asked to respond to five questions compiled by Chronotype editor Ryan Urban, with a combined word limit to be split among all five questions. Their responses are printed as follows without editing.

1. In terms of public health, how can Wisconsin best get through the COVID-19 pandemic?

Armstrong: "First, I think we can all do our part by using best practices – washing our hands, social distancing, and wearing a mask when appropriate. Doing those things can go a long way and can get us on a path to getting back to normal. Further, local health departments across the state are doing their part by enforcing local ordinances that make sense for their communities. What works for Milwaukee County does not work for Barron County, therefore a statewide approach is not right for Wisconsin. Over the past few months, testing has increased and improved across the state, which has a significant impact in slowing the spread of the virus. Continuing robust testing will allow people to get the care they need and work toward eliminating COVID-19's presence in Wisconsin. We will get through the pandemic together and be better than ever."

Ellenson: "We must all do our part by following the CDC and county health guidelines, working together and looking out for each other. We have only three defenses: masks, social distancing, and sanitizing. Is it fun to wear a mask? No. But I see kindergarteners do it every day! We're raising great, resilient, strong kids in our community. We need to do this for them. We're strong enough to work together and get through this!

"We would be in much better shape now if political leadership in Madison had worked in a bi-partisan way to give guidelines and enforce regulations. We can blame it on a political year, with the presidential election coming this November. Confusion at the top with one side trying to stymie any efforts from the other side has put us in a terrible mess. I don't think there is a better case for a moderate in the legislature than what we have seen this year with all the partisan fighting."

2. What can be done to bolster the state economy during and after the pandemic?

Ellenson: "COVID is the economy, and the main effort for most rural Wisconsin small businesses right now is to simply hang on. Wisconsin small businesses, especially retail, restaurant and hospitality, need a "bailout," just like big banks and automakers got in the last recession. Not a few years ago the legislature thought it was smart to massively subsidize Foxconn in the Racine area, to the tune of $230,000/job. That hasn't worked out so well, as we know, but it made the point that the State continues to focus on urban growth. It's our turn now in rural Wisconsin to expect support.

"It's an important fact that the COVID economy is very uneven. Large manufacturers, some ag business, food production and large box retail stores seem to be doing OK. Yet there is 8% unemployment around here, mostly in those small businesses. State support needs to be targeted. We need an investment into us, we need to support our friends and neighbors, and fund growth here in our communities."

Armstrong: "This summer, Wisconsin has already seen a quick comeback in many sectors of the economy. We went from a high of 15.8% unemployment down to almost 4%. It's still not to the level it was pre-COVID but vastly improved from its worst this spring. In Barron County, our tax revenues are actually up from where they were at this point in 2019, but we are certainly not out of the woods yet. Businesses are still on the verge of closing, and our unemployment numbers are not where they should be, but we are climbing out slowly but surely. At this point, the only thing we need to "bolster" our economy is for the government to get out of the way and let the free market bring Wisconsin back to the way we were pre-COVID.

"In the beginning of 2020, Wisconsin's economy was the best it had ever been and there is no reason it can't rebound back to that exact point. Businesses will find a way to survive in a pandemic if the state government gets out of their way and allows them to do what they do best. Bars and restaurants cannot survive by only allowing 25% capacity, just like everyday citizens could not survive on 25% of their income. Business owners know they need to use best practices to keep their customers safe. If their customers feel safe, they will return. Businesses know how to keep their employees and customers safe from COVID-19. If we let them, they will survive and keep Wisconsin's economy going strong."

John Ellenson

Ellenson is a Democrat from Shell Lake. Ellenson holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he was a scholar athlete and captain of the basketball team. He has a Master of Science in Education in School Counseling from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He was the Disabilities Support Service Advisor at UW-Superior prior to becoming a public school counselor for the past 15 year. Ellenson has also served on the Barron County Transition Council, Safe and Stable Families of Barron County Board Member, Polk County Transition Council and was Co-chair for the Family Resource Center of Barron County.

David Armstrong

Armstrong is a Republican from Rice Lake. He has been Director of the Barron County Economic Development Corporation since 2013. Armstrong previously started two different companies in the medical field which he later sold. Armstrong also served two terms on the Rice Lake City Council. He's currently President of the Rice Lake Cable Commission, a member of the Rice Lake Utility Commission and Rice Lake Tourism Commission, Rice Lake Chamber of Commerce board member, past President and current member of the Law Enforcement Foundation of Barron County and volunteer mentor at Rice Lake High school.

3. For many, substance abuse and mental health issues have worsened during the pandemic. What can be done to address these issues?

Armstrong: "Over the past few sessions, the legislature has worked hard on this issue and made some great progress. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is causing addiction and mental health issues to surge again. The most obvious answer is to get Wisconsin's economy back on track so that people can get back to work. One of the biggest reasons people turn to drugs and alcohol is a sense of hopelessness, which is a result of losing a job/income.

"Getting people back to work and being productive again will help this issue immensely. When people are employed and providing for their families, there is less of a desire to turn to selfmedication. However, that may not be the only answer. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the legislature when I am elected to continue to tackle this problem. I am happy to work with anyone on legislation that could help people dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues."

Ellenson: "Getting this pandemic behind us is the first thing, of course, but however long or short it takes, it will be difficult, and for some more so than for others. It doesn't help that so many have lost jobs and health insurance. The COVID crisis highlights the need for a public option to let people buy into BadgerCare. It would be a competitive offering for self-employed folks, and in that way can support the small business owner. But even people insured through their employer are seeing very high rates and incredible deductibles. A public option would be a reasonable cost insurance for those folks as well.

"The other insurance issue is expanding Medicaid insurance coverage. Taking that Federal money and increasing the family income limit for Medicaid was something Wisconsin should have done when times were good. Now the need is even more obvious as people try to return to work and find their hours, paychecks and benefits are limited.

"And there is another problem, a severe shortage of mental health workers in our part of the state. There should be an incentive program for those professionals to come work in rural Wisconsin, a program similar to the one meant to incentivize teachers. It would need to be adequately funded and could be tied to helping payoff student debt.

"The pandemic is a time for people to watch out for each other. Isolation and loneliness are often triggers for substance abuse and mental health problems. This is a good opportunity to check on friends, family and neighbors. It could be as simple as a phone call or a socially distanced, mask wearing visit. Knowing someone cares is vital to one's mental health."

4. What other issues would you prioritize as representative?

Ellenson: "It is time to prioritize workers and families. We need to appreciate work that is done by people who with very good reasons did not finish college or high school. We've put way too much emphasis on valuing colleges to the point of devaluing other life experience and education. People appreciated manual labor much more only a few decades ago when unions assured that people got a family supporting paycheck at the end of the week. Those days are gone now, for most people, yet the need for family supporting incomes, affordable health care, and especially affordable child care are even more important now."

Armstrong; "In my job as Barron County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Director, I have helped entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground and business owners grow their already successful companies. I have also worked a great deal on increasing the stock of workforce (affordable) housing in our area. Working with people who are enthusiastic about creating their own future and working for themselves is rewarding. I look forward to working on legislation that incentivizes people to start their own businesses and for existing businesses to move to Wisconsin. Our economy is dependent on small businesses employing Wisconsinites and contributing to our tax base.

"Affordable housing is something that is needed desperately, not just in Barron County, but across the state for a variety of reasons and industries. In our area, we have manufacturing and food processing plants that rely on thousands of workers in need of somewhere affordable to live and the availability is lacking. I have spent countless hours and days trying to fix this issue and I believe that I can get some meaningful reform passed at the state level to help curb this vital need."

5. Give a closing statement. Why should the people of the 75th District vote for you?

Armstrong: "I have made my career about fixing problems. I have owned businesses and worked with entrepreneurs to create new ones. Over the years, I have learned how to work to solve complex issues when there is seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel. In doing that, I have never asked my coworkers, employees, or clients who they voted for or if they are a Republican or a Democrat. A good idea is a good idea and it shouldn't matter what side of the aisle it comes from. That is the kind of approach I will take when elected to the State Assembly. The people of Northwestern Wisconsin expect their representative to work for them, without worrying about petty politics. This can all be done while never compromising my core conservative principles of small government, lower taxes, and personal freedom. I will always fight for the 75th Assembly District and our way of life in Northwestern Wisconsin and never let you down, whether you voted for me or my opponent. I can't wait to serve you in the State Legislature and work to move Wisconsin Forward.

Ellenson: "Teamwork. We invest in ourselves, we build and strengthen our infrastructure, our health system, our communities, our families and ourselves. We bring competition back and level the playing field, bringing opportunity for everyone to have their shot. I know what it takes to be successful and with leadership, enthusiasm, determination, a belief in team-building, and hope for a brighter future we will strengthen our communities together. I have a strong moral compass which will guide me to do what is right in my continuous fight for the families and communities of the 75th.

"It is time to stop finger pointing and playing the blame game--that gets us nowhere. We can't change the past; it is time to create our future by building our future together as Americans and putting party politics aside. I truly believe that together we can do tremendous things and continue to build the strong communities that make us proud to live in Northern Wisconsin. A vote for me is a vote for hope for a brighter future, hope for the generations that follow and a belief that we will team up and do this together."

The 75th Assembly District includes all of Barron County, southern Washburn County, and townships in Burnett, Polk, St Croix, and Dunn counties. Current Representative Romaine Robert Quinn, a Republican, did not seek re-election.

See the Oct. 21 issue or www.chronotype.com for a Q&A with U.S. 7th District congressional candidates Tom Tiffany and Tricia Zunker

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