A third person has died in Barron County from complications caused by COVID-19. Total cases also spiked considerably early this week.
Barron County Public Health announced the death on July 27. The individual was in their 70s with underlying health conditions, according to Public Health.
"This is a sad day for Barron County but also an important reminder to our community to work together to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent further deaths," said Health Officer Laura Sauve.
On July 24, county-wide cases totaled 96. Cases totaled 133 as of July 28, an increase of 37, with 60 of those being active.
Specifics on sources of 34 cases reported over the weekend are as follows:
• 23 close contacts of positive cases.
• One related to travel.
• Four related to attending gatherings where a sick person attended.
• Six do not know how they got sick.
Public Health announced that six active cases are hospitalized, and two of those patients are in critical condition. All six patients are aged 59 to 81 with underlying health conditions.
Seven-day averages for the percent of positive cases are:
July 22-28: 6.8%.
July 15-21: 7.83%.
July 8-14: 7.19%.
July 1-7: 6.93%.
June 24-30: 5.3%.
June 17-23: 3.36%.
Barron County Public Health urges community members to help to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Stay home if you are experiencing any symptoms, wear a cloth mask when in public and wash your hands often. Avoid any unnecessary travel and do not gather with those who do not live in your home. Businesses are strongly encouraged to follow guidance from the Wisconsin Economic Development Cooperation.
Testing for COVID-19 is available at all local clinics. If you get sick, stay home and call your doctor before going in.
Symptoms of COVID-19 are:
> Fever or chills
> Cough > Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
> Muscle or body aches
> New loss of taste or smell
> Sore throat
> Congestion or runny nose
> Nausea or vomiting
Anyone with questions about COVID-19 can dial 2-1-1, text COVID-19 to 211-211. On the Internet, visit www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19.
Sheryl Miller of Rice Lake has been hemming seams up and down, taking stitches in and out, for nearly 20 years at The Tailor Shop in the Cedar Mall.
The skillful seamstress had a notion that this would be the pattern for her life, but darn it, health problems have gathered that have put her in a bind.
"I once thought I could keep this up for the rest of my life, but arthritis in my back and hands and deteriorating vision are making it very difficult to continue," Miller said.
She added, "I really hate to quit 'cause tailoring has become both necessary and obsolete. People need to have clothes tailored to fit them 'cause clothes are designed to fit a rare few, but there doesn't seem to be much interest in sewing among young people these days."
That wasn't the case when she started at the shop. Let's back stitch a bit. In 2001, Miller wove her way into the shop when she started working for Bev Zieroth at what was then Bev's Tailor Shop. The original shop owner was someone who went by the nickname Ziggy, and Zieroth started working for him when he opened the shop at the mall in 1987.
Miller relates, "Bev bought it from Ziggy soon after and ran the business for nearly 20 years. She fought against health problems to continue, but when her husband passed away suddenly in 2007, she offered to let me buy the business from her, so I did."
Her daughter Katie joined her at the shop in 2005, the year she graduated from high school, and continued to work at the shop whenever she was home from college.
Miller may be biased, but said her daughter's talents are multi-layered.
"Katie graduated from North Central University with a music major and a theology minor and came home to help me at The Tailor Shop but diversified her work experience by teaching voice and piano, working retail first at Hallmark and then at Office Max," the mom said. "She volunteered at church, helping with the youth group and music ministries, got her license and became the youth pastor at the Rice Lake Assembly of God."
Some may have thought the daughter would seamlessly take over the business from her mother, but those notches are not aligning. The fabric of her life includes plans to move out of the area after being yoked to a young pastor at a fall wedding.
So the shop tucked away down a hallway near the mall office, is for sale. Any interested in keeping the machines humming can call 715-234-3411 for details.
"It's a niche; it's a specialized business; it's needed," said mall manager Marie Nett. "I just hope someone takes
advantage of that business. It's well-established."
Back at The Tailor Shop, the mother and daughter are reminiscing about the variety of items they and three other employees—Nancy Erwin, Diana Litwiller and Sue Bender— have tailored.
"Over the years, we've taken the squeakers out of dog toys, altered a bridesmaid dress on the day of the wedding, taken in and let out leather coats and vests and altered countless formal dresses for weddings, proms, fall formals, pageants," Miller said.
She added, "We've had as many as four people working at the shop at once. We just had to take turns using some of the equipment or we would team up on multiple orders like hemming jeans when one person would cut them to length and another would hem."
She has noticed that people get more attached to a beloved pair of jeans than any other clothing article. "Our team has mended legions of jeans," she said.
"One customer had us mend his jeans so many times they were three layers thick in some places," she said. "He was wearing them in Las Vegas and got offered $100 for them by someone in a band, but he didn't sell them because they were his favorite."
Their skills must have shined like satin or silk because business was steady year-round.
"It used to be we could count on a couple of dead times a year," the tailor said. "We could clean and do inventory and stuff like that. Not any more. We go right from coats to formals and shortening pants. It's a year-round thing, and repairs are endless."
Like a hook and eye, the retiring tailor is hoping this story catches the attention of someone with nimble fingers. She'd like to knit together the tale of those tailors who have come before with her story and pass it on to her successor.
The 2020-2021 school year plan, which was recommended by district administrator Randy Drost, was approved by the Rice Lake Board of Eduction at its July 27 virtual meeting on a 8-1 vote.
The plan offers parents two options—5 days of in-person schooling with masks required or 5 days of distance education.
A third option of a hybrid/blend of the two other options, that was previously proposed, was deemed too complicated to implement at this time. School board member Abbey Fischer, who voted against the plan, was disappointed that this option was not pursued.
Board member Gary Spear asked if students could change from one option to the other midstream. Drost said yes, but it would be easier to do at the elementary level; middle and high school students might have to wait until the end of a term.
"I think we need to require masks for the 2020-2021 school year," Drost told the board. "At this point, we're trying to keep everyone safe."
He said that would include wearing them on the buses, both to and from school. Asked about enforcement, Drost said parents have a lot of influence on their children and the district will need that cooperation from all.
Drost said staff and students may not like wearing masks, admitting even he doesn't like them, but by not doing it they are raising the risk of the need to quarantine.
"We're trying to keep everything as safe as possible," he said, while acknowledging Rice Lake would be the only school district in Barron County with a mask requirement.
Asked about mask usage during summer school that is now in progress, Tainter Elementary principal Joann Walker said, "While not required, 50% are wearing them. The kids are doing well with masks."
She added that even some students who did not wear masks at the start of summer school are beginning to wear them.
Board member Doug Kucko said he concurred with the use of masks and making it a requirement. He said if families object, they have the virtual option.
Spear also supported requiring masks, knowing that it reduces risks.
Board member Steve
Bowman suggested and modeled a type of mask worn around the neck that can be pulled up or down easily, but other board members thought kids could too easily pull them down each time a teacher's back is turned.
Board member Bert Richard asked if the masks were already ordered. Drost said the district has received 4,500 white, cloth masks.
Board member Josh Estreen asked about face shields for risk mitigation. Drost replied that they would be appropriate in some situations. The district has 250 face shields available.
Board president Keven Jensen was fine with either option. "Something is better than nothing," he said.
Cleaning, spacing and other concerns were also addressed.
Estreen said parents have had a lot of questions about the chemical solution being used in the misting devices that the district is using for sanitization.
"This is something that's been out there for a longtime," Estreen said. "It's safe and has been used in wrestling for years."
Drost agreed, noting it is an ionization process; tablets are dissolved in water. He said it is safer than a lot of products used in the past.
"It's worked well," Drost said of the mist that is left to sit for at least 10 minutes before being wiped off. "I know of other organizations that have used it and liked it."
He asked Fischer, the chemistry professor, to respond to which she said the chemical used in the mister is used in drinking water is some countries, so yes, it is safe.
Buildings and Grounds administrator Pat Blackaller said that was his understanding as well.
Blackaller also said upgraded filters in the district's HVAC system have been ordered to maximize ventilation.
Fischer asked what spacing in the classrooms will look like. Drost said realistically groups of two can be spread out, but in the upper grades there will be two students next to each other, with or without barriers.
He said summer school students have been spaced out in the classroom, but socially distancing in the hallways and bathrooms is difficult.
"I can't guarantee they will be physically distanced throughout the entire day," Drost said.
They also discussed open versus closed campus during lunch time at the high school. "I would hope you keep it open," Bowman said. "There's a lot of kids that go home."
In-school lunch rooms will change pay procedures so student are not using the same keypad. Tables will be reconfigured, even spread out into gyms if necessary, for adequate spacing.
With approval of the school year plan, the board amended its 2020-2021 staffing report to include the addition of 12 full-time, substitute teaching positions, three custodial positions and four health aide positions.