Barron County health officials are now recommending that gatherings be limited to 25 people or less indoors and 50 people or less outdoors.
The new guidelines were released Tuesday and cut the previous gathering recommendations by half.
"From July 10-14, we saw our largest spike in cases yet," said Barron County Health Officer Laura Sauve. "Eleven new positives have come in over the past 4 days. With the rapid increase in cases in Barron County, our neighboring counties, the state and the nation, Barron County felt it necessary to take this step for the health of our communities."
Barron County has 16 active cases of COVID-19, all of whom are isolating at home, according to Public Health.
The county has had 34 people recover from the disease and one person die. Nearly 4,200 negative tests have been administered.
Wisconsin set a record for daily positive cases on Tuesday while administering its second highest number of daily tests. The Department of Health Services reported that 964 out of 14,680 tests were positive.
That puts the statewide percentage of positive tests recorded on Tuesday at 6.6%.
Seven-day averages for the percent of positive cases are:
July 814: 7.19%.
July 17: 6.93%.
June 2430: 5.3%.
June 1723: 3.36%.
Statewide, there have been 37,906 recorded cases of coronavirus and 826 people have died due to the disease.
Barron County Public Health stated that people who are vulnerable and at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 should continue to stay home whenever possible. People considered to be at higher risk include individuals over the age of 65, anyone living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities, and people with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems.
"The virus is still present in our community," Sauve said. "Community members need to continue to follow physical distancing guidelines and wear masks when out in public. It's important to remember that any gathering of any size comes with a risk."
The request by a Rice Lake resident, backed by 4,000 county petitioners, asking that a resolution be passed declaring Barron County as a "Second Amendment Sanctuary County" will be brought before the Barron County Board of Supervisors at its 7 p.m. meeting on Monday, July 20 in the auditorium of the Barron County Government Center.
Signed by Ronnie VanErp, it said, "We are a growing group of concerned citizens; we are parents, grandparents, friends, family and neighbors. We are proud Americans and citizens of Barron County, Wisconsin, who would like to do what we can to preserve the freedoms fought for so long ago by our Founding Fathers."
VanErp continued, "In light of legislative action in the State of Virginia threatening Second Amendment rights, as well as the views supported by the current Wisconsin governor, we feel that passing a resolution proclaiming Barron County as a Second Amendment sanctuary is both appropriate and timely. We would like to work toward ensuring that our freedoms are protected and we are asking for your support."
The Barron County Board's Executive Committee has discussed the request at its last two
At its June 3 meeting, when several of the backers of the Second Amendment resolution were present, County Board chair Louie Okey said it was a national issue, not a county issue, and his concern was it would lead to residents wanting county backing of other controversial national issues.
At that meeting, Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald advised the committee to be cautious and reminded those in attendance that he takes his orders from the U.S. Constitution, not from the County Board.
If the county was to adopt a resolution, Fitzgerald said he liked the one passed in Marquette County that addressed all the constitutional protections—"freedom of religion, speech, the press and assembly, the right to petition the government and to bear and keep arms, among other rights and protection from unreasonable search and seizure, criminal prosecution and punishment without due process, and guarantee a speedy jury trial by ones peers, among other protections."
A resolution passed in Polk County in May relates only to the Second Amendment. Similar resolutions have been approved in Rusk, Washburn, Monroe, Vilas, Oneida, Langlade and Florence counties. Sawyer County's Public Safety Committee has recommended approval of a gun rights resolution by its County Board.
Supervisor/vice chair Don Horstman of Cumberland said a lot has happened in the last few months that Americans thought never could happen. He said if they cared enough about their gun rights to go to this extent, he would be agreeable with it.
Supervisor/second vice chair Burnell Hanson of Rice Lake, said, "I agree with supporting the Constitution. I just don't know if we need to handle federal things. People chip away at Constitutional things all the time. If we endorse, what does that mean?"
Supervisor Stan Buchanan of Rice Lake wondered if Barron County would be an isolated county if all other counties supported Second Amendment resolutions.
Supervisor Marv Thompson of Rice Lake remarked, "If we wanted to abolish the Second Amendment, that would be the time for people to come to us. That isn't going on. It's premature now."
Between the June and July committee meetings, a "Declaring Barron County to be a Constitutional County" resolution was drafted for consideration, crafted by legal council, sheriff and administration.
The proposed resolution states, "The Barron County Board of Supervisors does hereby declare Barron County to be a Constitutional County and hereby states its opposition to the enactment of any legislation, state or federal, that would in any way infringe upon any right or protection provided to the people of Barron County by the Constitution of the United States of America."
Okey reiterated remarks he made at the June committee meeting. "As I stated, I'm not against gun rights, but we support the Constitution and Bill of Rights in our oath. I don't like to bring up national issues. ... We could go on and on. Are we going to address and reaffirm every one of them?"
The committee chair then read an email that Daniel Agne of Rice Lake sent to all of the Executive Committee members at 3:53 a.m., just about 4 hours before the 8 a.m. meeting began.
It said, "I am writing in opposition to the proposed Constitutional County resolution being considered at today's Barron County Executive Committee.
"This resolution is moot on its face and should be tabled/abandoned. Each of you already swore an oath to uphold the Constitution when you took office. How does it help the people of Barron County to re-state this in a resolution? Come to think of it, you also swore an oath to uphold the Wisconsin Constitution. Why is this not mentioned in the resolution? And why place so much emphasis on just the Bill of Rights? We all have some very important rights granted by the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th Amendments too. Why not spell all of these out while we're at it?"
Agne continued, "The only practical effect this resolution could have is giving a wink and a nod to right-wing radicals like 'sovereign citizens' and the Bundy family who infamously engaged in lengthy armed standoffs with law enforcement in Nevada and Oregon, based on their grade-school level understanding and very selective 'me-first' reading of the Constitution. These are folks who think they have a Second Amendment right to bear any weapon at all (including sawedoff shotguns, bombs, true machine guns, chemical weapons, etc.) I'm sure some of your constituents already hold some of these ridiculous views, but do we really want to encourage them (or recruit more of them?) Please just stop this silliness and move on to more important stuff that actually helps Barron County residents."
Hanson said whether they pass the resolution or not won't change the way things have been for the past 100 years.
Supervisor Bob Rogers, who is not on the Executive Committee but was allowed to speak, said, he took an oath to uphold the Constitution as a lawyer and all of them had taken that same oath as County Board members.
Rogers remarked, "Being told I can't be trusted to follow the Constitution, that I need this sledgehammer over my head, I'm a little offended by the whole thing."
He said while the Constitution provides the framework on how to operate, the Right to Bear Arms is fundamental but not absolute. He went on to share examples of laws that limit the rights of the Second Amendment, such as being found guilty as a felon or suffering from mental disease or defect.
Supervisor Bartlett said, "As I commented at the last meeting, I think it is up to the County Board— all 29—not just us. I'm in favor of passing it on."
She made a motion to that effect, seconded by Supervisor Horstman. It passed 6-3 with Supervisors Okey, Hanson and Russell Rindsig voting no.
The Barron County Highway Department met Monday to discuss plans for the new highway facility being designed by civil engineering and architecture firm CBS Squared.
CBS Squared's Bob Sworski told County representatives that decisions on the new highway facility's look need to be made by the end of August. It was decided that county representatives will tour highway facilities in Polk, Burnett and St. Croix counties near the end of July.
The tour groups will evaluate facility designs, take photos and ask questions, including, suggested Highway Committee Chair Donald Horstman, asking what those counties would have done differently.
The new facility will be built where the current facility on Hwy. 25 is located. CBS Squared is currently preparing the west side of Hwy. 25 for construction.
The current facility was built in the 1940s.
Highway Commissioner Mark Servi told County Supervisors in August 2019 that the current building was in bad need of repair, including needing a new roof, and that it does not accommodate the county's machines. The ideal building, he said, would provide a roof for all 13 dump trucks and 27 snow plows the department operates. The department's administration building may be moved and repurposed.
Chronotype sports and outdoors editor Dave Greschner is retiring, effective July 15, after more than 45 years with the newspaper.
Greschner began an internship with The Chronotype in the summer of 1975, and after graduating from UW-Eau Claire in December of that same year, was hired as a reporter.
He was promoted to Sports Editor in August of 1978 and has held that post until his retirement.
Greschner has won 20 Wisconsin Newspaper Assn. first-place awards, along with dozens of seconds, thirds and honorable mentions in all aspects of newspaper work from design to photography to writing.
"Dave has shown the utmost dedication for everything he does, from dartball standings to outdoor journals to covering big games," said Ryan Urban, The Chronotype managing editor. "Dave is a consummate pro, and we are glad that he will continue writing for us as a freelancer in his semi-retirement."
In his retirement, Greschner looks forward to more camping with his wife, Cathy, and pursuing outdoor activities, including hunting, fishing, trail running and snowshoeing.
Greschner said, "It's been a pleasure to cover the games and events of this area over the years, and to meet so many wonderful people and tell their stories, whether in sports, outdoors or whatever their interests were."
At its July 13 virtual meeting, the Rice Lake Board of Education heard of district plans to juggle three forms of learning for the 2020-2021 school year.
The Warrior Reopening Plan will include in-person, distance learning and blended, which is a combination of the two. The plan will be finalized at its July 27 meeting after which parents will be asked which format they prefer for their students.
Needing time to prepare for all three, the district will stick with the original school start date of Tuesday, Sept. 1.
District administrator Randy Drost said top priorities are health and safety, academics and technology.
"There are risks inherit with any plan," Drost said, acknowledging the need for flexibility and the ability to switch from one form of learning to another at a moment's notice.
He said if backed by parents, the blended learning model would have students attend in-person Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday, with Wednesday a virtual day for all. That way only half of in-person students would be attending at one time making social distancing more attainable.
Asked by board member Gary Spear if Wednesday would be for cleaning all the buildings, Drost said all of the buildings would be deep cleaned every night, but additional custodial help will be needed to accomplish it.
Buildings and Grounds Director Pat Blackaller said, "We've got the misting equipment to get more space done in a shorter period of time."
Drost said there are many logistical parts of the new and safer school day yet to be determined. Parts still needing to be scheduled and finalized include before and after school, recess and bathroom use.
"We need to flesh out how to make in-person as safe as possible," he said.
Sports and transportation are also being reassessed. Drost said one proposal out there is to move fall sports to spring and spring sports to summer. As for transportation, he said in the past students living in "walk zones" would still be picked up by a bus in their area if they wanted to ride. He said that has not been strictly enforced in the past but may have to be enforced this year.
Permanent subs for each school building are also being sought, in case a teacher has to quarantine for 14 days, or longer. Spear was supportive, noting that most subs in the
past have been retired teachers who are at highrisk for catching COVID. Drost said all who have subbed in the past will be contacted about becoming a permanent sub. He also encouraged any individuals still seeking a teaching job to contact the district.
Board reacts to plan
The district administrator asked the board members for their thoughts and suggestions.
Board president Keven Jenson said, "We are going to need to be fluid. None of us can predict what will happen in the future."
Still he supports in-person education. "Based on data I've received, kids in general learn better in the classroom, so we need to plan for face-to-face with as many safety measures in place as possible with the flexibility to change. I think we owe it to our parents and families to at least try to get back to the classroom, if possible."
Based on her own experience of reopening her business for kids needing therapy, board member Deanna Aubart remarked, "It will be a tough rollout; it's going to be a wild ride."
Drost agreed and said he's lost a lot of sleep over it already. "It's tough," he said. "None of us have a crystal ball. We may be told what to do at some point."
Board member Abbey Fischer said, "I'd like to see us apply the guidelines of the AAP [American Association of Pediatrics] and CDC [Center for Disease Control].
She added, "I'm in favor of not having everyone all at once—to protect students and staff."
Spear said he agreed with the others and added, "We need to consider all the what-ifs. It's not an easy task, but we've got to be prepared."
Board member Josh Estreen remarked, "It's a hard decision, to look at getting back to school full-time. From a community perspective, it says a lot that we are wiling to take the extra steps to get back, for families and kids."
Board member Lorrie Parkman shared, "If I had an elementary kid, I'd probably want to teach at home. It's hard for kids to stay apart, wear a mask, wash hands. They're kids. They want to play."
Aubart asked if students would be able to pop onto distance learning for 14 days and then go back to the classroom. Estreen added, "Good question, how will they go back and forth, when dealing with different teachers?"
Middle School principal Josh Tomesh replied that they have to change the way they design the curriculum ahead of time.
Elementary principal Joann Walker said they will need to look at essential learning standards to make transitions fairly smooth.
Spear suggested that maybe subs could be virtual learning coordinators.
Board member Doug Kucko asked if students were highly-encouraged to mask up, would the district supply them? Drost replied that the district will be given 4,500 cloth masks—enough for two per student—but it will still need to purchase some paper ones.
As a trial run for the school year, summer school sessions will take place the last week of July and first week of August. Drost said 275 students have signed up for each session, which is about half as many who normally attend.
Also at the virtual meeting, employment resignations were submitted by Pat Bjelland, 4K teacher at Haugen Elementary; Mary Byrns, gifted and talented coordinator; Lydia Ekenstedt, Montessori teacher; Alissa Klasi, playground aide; and Bob Lehman, shuttle driver. All were accepted.
The board also hired the following: Katherine Muschinske, mental health practitioner; Annisa Luginbill, fourthgrade teacher at Tainter Elementary; and Jackie Beise, volleyball coach at Rice Lake Middle School.
In other business, the board:
• Awarded July's Staff Excellence Award to school counselor Erika Spear, presented by Pupil Services director Sue Strouf.
• Approved Academic Standards for 2020-2021 as set by the Department of Public Instruction.
• Approved the Rice Lake Middle School student handbook.
• After closed session, approved adding a week of pay for high school counselors and allowing two employees to cash out 1 week of vacation on a one-time basis.
• The board also heard more feedback about the fourth term's plunge into Distance Learning. More structure and a consistent schedule at all levels is needed if the district is required to go that route again. Also apparent is the need to teach technology-related skills to middle-schoolers, even some parents, such as how to get into Google Classroom and Skyward.