In a matter of days, life in Hayward — not to mention nationally and around the world — has changed.
Schools, libraries and senior centers have closed. Businesses have reduced hours or changed their business practices to limit contact between employees and customers.
Certain hygiene essentials — hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol and toilet paper —are difficult or impossible to find, for the time being.
Restaurants and bars, by order of Governor Tony Evers, can only offer carry-out and delivery until further notice. Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited in most instances.
Student athletes have stopped practicing and competing, something especially painful for this year's high school seniors.
Churches are finding ways to reach the community without bringing people too closely together.
While caution is urged for everyone with the goal of slowing the spread of the COVID-19 CoronaVirus, those at highest risk —people with underlying health conditions and those over 70 — are encouraged to take special care to avoid exposure.
This is all in response to the growing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic that started in Wuhan, China and now has spread worldwide with 72 confirmed cases in Wisconsin. There have been none documented in Sawyer County, however, as of Monday, March 16.
The Sawyer County Record will do its best to keep the public informed during this difficult time.
This week and in weeks to come, the Sawyer County Record will work to bring you stories on how the pandemic is playing out here at home, and give you information to make living through this difficult and unprecedented period safer and more bearable.
Although our website is subscriber-based, all stories about the COVID-19 pandemic are free for all to read.
We at the Record urge our readers to do their best to stay as healthy as possible.
Due to concerns over the COVID-19 virus, the Hayward Community Schools will be closed from Wednesday, March 18, through Monday, April 13, and are planning to reopen on Tuesday, April 14, according to an announcement from Supt. Craig Olson on the school district's website.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has ordered all public and private schools in the state to close as of March 18 and to remain closed at least through April 5.
The Hayward Schools closure includes all after-school activities and access to the school grounds, including playgrounds, athletic fields and the track.
"As the (COVID-19) continues to spread, we want to reassure our community that the health and safety of our students, staff and community is our top priority. Due to the fact that this is a rapidly changing situation, we continue to monitor the COVID-19 on an almost hourly basis and will continue to do so for the coming weeks," Supt. Olson stated. "We are addressing the epidemic in a very systemic manner with local, state and federal health agencies."
The school district will continue to inform the community of the latest changes and updates in this situation, through its website at www.hayward.k12.wi.us. There also will be individual emails, phone calls and information on social media outlets for a variety of resources to assist people during this process.
The Hayward Community School District will provide free breakfast and lunch to all students in all households that have students attending the Hayward Community Schools who are 18 years of age and younger.
"We feel food service is a very important element of our process during this epidemic," Olson said. "This program will start on Thursday, March 19 and will continue through April 3 (Monday-Friday). Options to participate in our food service program include either picking up your food from the Hayward High School drive-thru location or daily bus delivery to your bus stop. Times for both drivethru pick-up and bus delivery will be between the hours of 11 a.m-1 p.m."
Parents are asked to complete the online survey so the district can provide meals.
If they do not have internet access and would like to participate in the off-school food service program, they are asked to call the building level assistants and they will get the information logged
into our system.
Parents and guardians are encouraged to pick up their child's prescription medication from school between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 17. Medications will not be released to the students at any time.
"The Hayward Community School District's priority is to provide a top-notch education for all of our students, while protecting their health and well-being and we will continue to follow the guidance of public health professionals," Olson stated. "As the priority across the world at this time is health and safety, not academics, the Hayward Community School District is committed to providing each of our student's enrichment activities for the coming weeks. Please look for work from your students when they get home on Tuesday afternoon. We will also be providing online resources on our social media outlets. Please take the time to research some of these resources and utilize them as you best feel the need.
"There are many questions that have yet to be answered, including required instructional hours, state testing, and graduation dates. We are in uncharted waters and it is a stressful time for everyone. Information is rapidly changing and we will do our best to keep our community informed and continue to work in partnership with you to do what is best for our students, staff and community of the Hayward School District.
"I appreciate your flexibility and understanding in this matter. My hope is that everyone continues to embrace this adversity and we will be a stronger community moving forward from this event. If you have any questions or concerns, please free to call me or stop by and I will be happy to assist."
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers today directed Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to issue an agency order prohibiting mass gatherings of 10 people or more to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The order makes exceptions for transportation, educational institutions, child care, hotels, military, law enforcement, food pantries, hospitals, long-term care facilities, restaurants and bars can only offer take-out or delivery, grocery stores and convenience stores, utility facilities, job centers, and courts. Additionally, schools will be closed for the duration of the public health emergency.
"Our top priority at this time is to keep Wisconsinites safe and healthy by reducing the spread of COVID-19, especially for those who are con-
sidered high-risk," said Evers. "With limited tests available nationwide and continued community spread, we have to take every precaution to protect ourselves, our families, and our neighbors. I know what this means for our small business owners and the struggles they and their workers will face in the coming weeks, but we are committed to working with our federal partners, state officials and stakeholders to ensure we are doing everything we can to assist during these uncertain times."
The DHS said the state is seeing community spread of COVID-19, meaning there are people who have tested positive who have no exposures to a known case nor did they travel to a location where there is known community spread.
Cases in Milwaukee, Dane and Kenosha counties indicate that there is community spread happening in Wisconsin.
Social distancing is encouraged to help individuals and family and the community from increased risk of exposure.
DHS and Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene to move to tiered COVID-19 testing to manage capacity
Despite The Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene (WSLH) significantly increasing their capacity for COVID-19 testing, the number of testing specimens being received far exceeds their daily capacity. In order to conserve supplies for testing, WSLH and DHS are now prioritizing two tiers of cases for testing:
Tier One (Individuals who):
• Are critically ill and receiving ICU level care with unexplained viral pneumonia or respiratory failure.
• Are hospitalized (non-ICU) with fever or signs and symptoms of lower respiratory tract illness (cough, shortness of breath) and either known exposure to a laboratoryconfirmed COVID-19 patient or travel to an area with sustained community transmission.
Tier Two (Individuals who):
• Are hospitalized (non-ICU) with unexplained fever and signs/symptoms of lower respiratory tract illness.
• Are health care workers with unexplained fever and signs/symptoms of a lower-respiratory illness, regardless of hospitalization.
Test requests that do not meet these criteria will be sent to other labs in the state and country for testing, resulting in longer wait times.
Information for healthcare providers on the testing tiers is available at dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/index.htm.
Patients without symptoms and patients with mild upper respiratory symptoms who are not health care workers should not be tested in order to ensure that there is capacity to test ill people.
People should follow simple steps to prevent illness and avoid exposure to this virus including:
• Avoid social gatherings with people of all ages (including play dates and sleepovers, parties, large family dinners, visitors in your home, nonessential workers in your house).
• Frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water.
• Covering coughs and sneezes.
• Avoiding touching your face.
• Staying home when sick.
Emergency order, details
Effective 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, all public and private mass gatherings are prohibited in the state that will bring 10 or more people together in a single room or confined or enclosed space.
Those gatherings of nine or less must preserve social distancing of 6 feet between people and follow all public health recommendations issues by DHS and Centers for Disease Control.
Effective 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, all bars and restaurants shall close but can offer take out or delivery service but no seating provided and no food consumed at the restaurant.
The full emergency order prohibiting mass gatherings of 10 people or more will be available online at www.haywardwi.com.
The citizens of Wisconsin, like much of the nation in the grips of a growing COVID-19 pandemic emergency, are being asked to limit contact with others as a way to curb the spread of the highly communicable disease.
The new phrase in everyone's conversation is "social distancing."
This new emphasis is meant to mitigate the acceleration of new cases so critical medical facilities and personnel are not being overwhelmed.
Over the weekend, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was on a number of national TV shows explaining that models predicted the pandemic to expand but mitigation, especially social distancing (less exposure to others), could prevent that growth curve becoming a "peak," rising too rapidly and beyond medical capacities, but with mitigation there is a better chance the growth is more like a "hump," with sufficient medical resources to address those who need services such as intensive care units (ICU) and respirators.
On Monday, March 16, at a daily briefing with Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), Gov. Tony Evers announced that he had directed DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to issue an order prohibiting mass gatherings of 50 or more people statewide.
However, the next day, March 17 Evers reduced that number even further to less than 10.
Just three days before, on Friday, March 13, Gov. Evers had directed Palm to issue another order that all public and private schools would close on Wednesday, March 18. In an order on March 18, Evers directed that schools would be closed for the duration of the crisis. DHS orders are intended to "mitigate" or "contain the spread of COVID-19."
Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer from the Bureau of Communicable Diseases, said at the March 16 briefing the concern is being driven by the number of new cases of those who have not traveled outside the state.
"This means the virus is spreading in Wisconsin communities," said Westergaard.
The number of positive cases rose to 47 by March 16 and then 72 on March 17; just a week ago on March 10 there were only three.
The majority of the positive cases are in Dane, Fond du Lac and Milwaukee counties. Eight other counties have experienced between one to three: Kenosha, Outagamie, Peirce, Racine, Sheboygan, Waukesha, Winnebago and Wood.
So far, there have been no reported cases in Sawyer County.
The Record asked DHS if the new directive on Monday was based entirely on what's happening in Wisconsin or if the state trying to learn the lessons from other countries, like Italy, which decided late in its
struggle to go into nationwide lockdown.
"The new directive is based on the substantial increases of cases and, as Dr. Westergaard pointed out on the call, we now have evidence of community spread, so social isolation is imperative to help limit the spread of COVID-19," read the DHS response.
On Tuesday, March 17 besides reducing the number that can be in a gathering to less than 10, the governor also put detailed further restrictions and restaurants and bars to just take out and delivery.
At the Monday briefing, Evers first addressed the school closure.
"We know it stings but we are very sorry it had to happen," he said, and added to the students who, he said, had their lives uprooted. "There is a lesson here that you wouldn't necessarily get in a classroom and that is life is unpredictable. Please understand that your health and safety is our top priority."
Then he talked of his newest directive.
"Folks, it is on every one of us to practice social distancing and take every step possible to mitigate the spread of COVID-19."
He said his directive to limit mass gatherings would go into effect at midnight Monday, and exempted are critical infrastructure, including grocery stores, food pantries, childcare centers, pharmacies and hospitals.
"This isn't a decision I made lightly and I understand it will have an impact on Wisconsin workers, families, businesses and communities," Evers said. "Keeping folks safe and healthy has to be our highest priority."
He added, "This situation requires more than an all-government response. This situation requires the support of all in Wisconsin. Some folks can help best by going in to work and going into work to support critical health care and public safety efforts, as well as supporting key community services. Some folks can help best by volunteering and donating blood and items such as non-perishable foods, diapers, wipes, formulas and paper products to local nonprofits."
And, he said, some could help best by following guidance on social distancing and staying home.
"These measures are our part of our ongoing efforts to mitigate spread," said Palm and added, "In the coming days and weeks there are going to be more disruptions in your lives. We are going to continue to ask you to do more social distancing. I know this is difficult but this is how we are going to prevent more people from becoming exposed and infected with COVID-19."
Palm said with every new case, public health officials are conducting interviews on where the person has been and who might have been exposed to COVID-19.
She emphasized that the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are the most vulnerable.
She encouraged those with a fever or cough or shortness of breath to stay home, call their health provider and limit exposure to others.
She also continued to encourage good personal practices to limit the spread, such as coughing into a sleeve and cleaning surfaces, and continued to encourage people to have a two-week stock of food and medication for people and pets for those who self-quarantine.
Westergaard said social distancing would help reduce the number of new cases because many who are positive have mild or no symptoms but are still able to transfer the virus to others
"In a pandemic situation, the real risk is the number of critically ill patients will grow too large, too quickly, and we may not be able to save everyone who needs critical care," he said.
Westergaard said the two state labs are able to do approximately 400 tests a day, seven days a week with a one-or twoday turn around on results, but with two other private medical labs in Milwaukee the number of daily tests rises to between 400-600.
"But at the present moment there is not enough capacity to test every person or even every person with respiratory symptoms," he said.
He added there is no need to test those without symptoms, but testing is encouraged for those with flu-like symp toms of fever and lower respiratory conditions, coughing and shortness of breath.
Palm said there is a shortage of testing ability nationwide due to supply challenges.
"We are very anxious for other hospitals and private labs to come online and support the increased capacity that we need here in the state of Wisconsin and all other states need around the country," she said.
But Westergaard added there is not a simple test kit available for any hospital lab to use and thought it would be months before the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approves one.
Impact on business and workers
"Yes, small businesses might be hurt by this," said Evers, "but everyone is taking it on the chin here, whether that is kids in school or small or large businesses, or restaurants, you name it. What we are doing is trying to ensure the virus does not spread as quickly as it could and to minimize and mitigate those things from happening."
He said all state agencies are looking at ideas of what can be done to help those who have been impacted.
Concerning the impact to workers, Evers said, he hoped the U.S. Senate would pass legislation the House had previously passed, offering paid sick time compensation for those who don't have that benefit, which will encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
There are exceptions to the ban, including transportation, childcare, hotels, military, law enforcement, food pantries, hospitals, longterm care facilities, grocery and convenience stores, job centers, courts and utility facilities. Restaurants and bars can only offer takeout or delivery.
Asked about whether the April 7 election would be canceled, on Monday Evers said there has been no discussion over rescheduling the election and encouraged absentee and early voting as ways to avoid crowds.