Announcements/resources listed by Polk County health Department:

Announcements/resources listed by Polk County health Department:

Due to the COVID19 event, to best serve you, we strongly recommend calling ahead before you come to our offices. Polk County is still conducting business. If you are not feeling well, please stay home.

Gov. Evers Extends Safer at Home Order through May 26th.

Gov. Evers Safer at Home Extended Order #28
Safer At Home Extended Order 28.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [5.9 MB]
Gov. Evers Press Release on Safer at Home Order Extension
Gov. Evers Extend WI Safer at Home Order[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [304.8 KB]
Gov. Evers Frequently Asked Questions on the Safer at Home Extension Order
Safer at Home Extension FAQ.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [224.3 KB]
Essential VS. Non-Essential Business
Essential vs Non-essential.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [84.3 KB]

Gov. Evers Directed DHS to Mandate closure of all K-12 Public and Private schools to start on March 18th after 5pm

View the closure order click HERE

Gov. Evers Declares Public Health Emergency Due to COVID-19

View the full press release HERE

The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) has published Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs for homeowners, renters, housing providers in response to COVID-19 Find it HERE

Contact the Health Department: Call at 715-485-9258 or Email us at [email protected]

WI Department of Health Services (DHS) has issued an order prohibiting mass gathering of 10 people or more.

Read the full order below.

Updated Order Concerning Mass Gatherings 3-20-2020
EO 8 Clarification_3.20.2020.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [739.9 KB]
Gov. Evers Clarification on Rules around Mass Gatherings
Mass Gathering FAQ 3.17.20.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [220.4 KB]

Restaurant, Bar, Salon, Tattoo Parlor? Find the latest information, recommendations, and guidance on the Environmental Health Page or read the FAQ's below:

Frequently Asked Questions on Gov. Evers Order to Close all Bars/Restaurants etc.
COVID-19 Enivronmental Health Specific F[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [626.0 KB]

Stay Up to date on the latest infomation from Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP): Click HERE to visit the DATCP site

Dentist or Work in a Dental Office? Find the latest information, recommendations, and guidance

Read below for more information

Densits Info. 3-20-2020.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [272.4 KB]

Economic Support Information

The Polk County Economic Development Corporation (PCEDC) is working diligently along with local business leaders and governmental officials to be able to offer economic support resources during these difficult times. The contacts in the document below have resources to assist both individuals and business owners.

PCEDC Virus Support Resources_3_23.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [161.0 KB]

DHS has released a Message Map for the Faith Community on Nurturing Spiritual Health During the Safer at Home Order.

Read the full document below.

Nurturing Spiritual Health During Safer at Home Order
Message Map for Nurturing Spiritual Heal[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [613.2 KB]

DHS has Mandated the Restriction of Child Care Settings March 18th after 5pm

Read the full order below.

Restriction of Day Care Setting - No more than 10 staff and No more than 50 Children present
Gov. Evers_DHS order_3.17.20.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [208.9 KB]
Polk County Issues Emergency Declaration Re:Coronavirus
3.16.2020.Polk County Emergency Declarat[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [210.0 KB]
Coronavirus FAQ.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [700.8 KB]
Coronavirus Talking Points.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [722.3 KB]
Mass Gathering Frequently Asked Questions from the office of Gov. Evers
Mass Gathering FAQ 3.17.20.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [220.4 KB]
Mental Health Resources and Information Related to COVID-19
Mental Health NAMI COVID-19 Resources.pd[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [236.3 KB]
Social Distancing During school closure [...]
Adobe Acrobat document [620.1 KB]
Adobe Acrobat document [507.9 KB]
To help prevent the spread of Coronavirus: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
Adobe Acrobat document [523.0 KB]

Animal Shelters and COVID-19

Animal Shelters and Coronavirus General Information
Coronavirus Animal Shelters_Final.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [154.8 KB]
Pet Owners and Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions
Pet Owners FAQ's.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [130.4 KB]

Health Professionals Speak Out Against Social Distancing Protests

In video statements recorded this morning, health professionals explain why the the Governor’s Safer at Home order is an essential measure for containing COVID-19, creating conditions to gradually and safely reopen the economy 

Statewide: This morning before scheduled State Capitol protests against Wisconsin’s most effective COVID-19 containment measure, public health professionals taped brief video interviews to discuss the situation. These dedicated caregivers hope by offering this testimony to counteract the disinformation being spread through social media and irresponsible national media outlets to mobilize opposition to social distancing. The health professionals explained why maintaining social distancing is essential for saving lives, protecting front line caregivers and other essential workers, and slowing the virus enough to safely reopen the economy. 

Elizabeth Riley: Elizabeth is a nurse who recently returned to Wisconsin after spending several weeks working in a Brooklyn, NYC Intensive Care Unit. She describes the horror of the ICU, the horrible and lonely deaths of her patients, and her dread that Wisconsin could become like New York City if the Safer At Home order were lifted.

Jeff Weber: Jeff is the President of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. He worries about Wisconsin hospitals’ capacity being overrun with a surge of COVID-19 cases resulting from these protests and premature lifting of the Safer At Home order. He states we need two weeks of sustained decline in new cases before lifting the order.

Lynn Carey: Lynn is a nurse practitioner, educator, and PhD as well as a double lung transplant recipient. Her advice for beating this virus: "stay home!”

Victoria Gutierrez: Victoria is a frontline nurse in Madison. She is concerned that the capitol protest will cause an increase in COVID-19 cases and put strain on the already short supply of personal protective gear used by nurses.

Mary Milton: Mary is a frontline nurse in Milwaukee. She monitors the protective gear used by her hospital’s workers. She says she has "never seen such suffering” as that of her COVID-19 patients.

Emily Siegrist: Emily is a nurse and nurse educator from the Milwaukee area. She is worried about the lack of support for frontline health care professionals and that protesters today will not take protective measures.

"Front line health professionals, many of whom are risking their own health treating the victims of COVID-19, are urging the people of Wisconsin to maintain social distancing as the best way to contain this deadly pandemic,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. "If we are going to pull together and meet this challenge, we need to start listening to the scientists and the front-line caregivers, not the cynical politicians and billionaires seeking to exploit the crisis for their own purposes.”

For more detail on Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s COVID-19 policy proposals, see our March news release and memo to the Governor, and a recent column.

UW-Superior SBDC offers resources and guidance
Visit the Wisconsin SBDC website for the most up to date information and resources regarding the COVID-19 pandemic:
I received my Paycheck Protection Program loan. Now what? 

What should small businesses do once they receive their Paycheck Protection Program loan? This article provides great recommendations on using the funding.
  • Set up a good audit trail
  • Watch the calendar
  • Limit spending on non-payroll costs
  • Don’t overpay wages
  • Hire back employees
  • Restore pay cuts
  • Don’t forget FICA deferrals

Statewide COVID-19 Business Impact Survey Results
Thirty-five percent of Wisconsin businesses responding to a recent statewide survey reported they will be forced to close if current conditions persist for more than three months amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The survey was conducted by Visions Northwest and the eight other regional organizations in the state along with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and UW-Oshkosh to assess COVID-19 business recovery ability and state and federal aid effort. It yielded nearly 2,550 responses from companies in 63 of the state’s 72 counties, covering the period April 1-10.

CCRS has released an interactive dashboard detailing survey responses along with advice and insights from University faculty at
Badger Bounce Back Plan
The Badger Bounce Back Plan was announced by Governor Evers on Monday, which outlines what elements need to be in place in order for businesses to reopen. Reopening will take place in phases, in close collaboration with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

Joint guide from Gov. Tony Evers and WEDC for businesses and employees (full plan)
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA) - a new program for self-employed, independent contractors, those with limited work history, and others not covered by regular UI.

Claimants should go to to learn about PUA.

To qualify, individuals must be fully or partially unemployed for one of the following COVID-19 reasons:
  1. The individual has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis.
  2. A member of the individual’s household has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  3. The individual is providing care for a family member or a member of the individual’s household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  4. A child or other person in the household for which the individual has primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and such school or facility care is required for the individual to work.
  5. The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  6. The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because the individual has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
  7. The individual was scheduled to commence employment and does not have a job or is unable to reach the job as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  8. The individual has become the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19.
  9. The individual quit their job as a direct result of COVID-19.
  10. The individual’s place of employment is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) - 100% federally funded program that provides a $600 weekly supplement to unemployment compensation.

FPUC provides an additional payment to individuals who are collecting benefits from ANY of the following programs:

More information on FPUC available at
COVID-19 Brought Wisconsin’s Parties Together. Just Not For Long
A sign is seen on the door outside a Dick's Sporting Goods location closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday April 15, in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. - Photo by Morry Gash/AP
Friday's Stay-At-Home Protest Returns State Politics To Familiar Ground
When a crowd of potentially thousands gathers Friday at the state Capitol to protest Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' stay-at-home order, it will violate public health advice but reaffirm the partisanship that's become a mainstay of Wisconsin life.
And yet, for a fleeting moment, things seemed like they might be different in the era of COVID-19. Bipartisan even.
Today, the state's business lobby is at odds with Evers overs his decision to extend his "Safer at Home" order, but a little more than a month ago, on March 18, Evers was briefing Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) members on a conference call. It was, at the very least, cordial.
"I know you're a very busy man with what's going on," said WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer. "We appreciate your tireless leadership."
Around that same time, on March 25, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester — Evers' adversary in the Legislature — was asked whether lawmakers would roll back the governor's emergency powers.
"I think we will look back and have questions about how all this went," Vos said at the time. "But this is not the appropriate time to question it."
Of course, there was an enormous fight between Wisconsin Republicans and Democrats over whether to postpone Wisconsin's April 7 election.
But lawmakers set that aside, and just last week, the Wisconsin Legislature held its first ever virtual session, passing a coronavirus relief bill 97-2 in the Assembly and 32-0 in the Senate.
"Wisconsinites have endured great sacrifice," said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau on April 15. "And the measures that we have taken and that the governor has taken so far are working."
But already, change was happening in the world of Republican politics. And Fitzgerald was about to find out firsthand.
A Swift Unraveling
It wasn't just lawmakers who supported the COVID-19 bill that Evers signed into law almost immediately. A coalition of conservative groups, including Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and the MacIver Institute, all praised its passage.
But conservative talk radio host Mark Belling of WISN-AM did not. And on the day the Senate passed the bill, he brought Fitzgerald on his show to let him know about it.
"This is, I think, one of the lower moments we have had in the state of Wisconsin," Belling told Fitzgerald. "I think we are seeing peoples' true colors under COVID-19. Conservative groups sell themselves out and I think Republicans in the state Legislature, so terrified of the media that they are, (are) making a situation worse."
Belling had issues with the new law, including the way it protects health care providers from lawsuits related to COVID-19.
But one of his biggest issues was that Republicans didn't force Evers to roll back some more stay-at-home restrictions. He thought they'd caved to the governor. In Belling's words, they were "buffaloed."
"This level of frustration that I'm trying to communicate to you is real," Belling told Fitzgerald. "And people don't know who to turn to because on the one hand they know Evers isn't going to listen to them, but it is extremely apparent to me that conservative think tanks and Republican legislators are not listening."
Eventually, Fitzgerald shot back and laid some of the blame elsewhere.
"The president of the United States is on TV every day," Fitzgerald said, "continuing with the mantra that's coming out of the East Coast which is, 'Oh my god, the world is coming to an end.' But we're sitting out here in the flyover states saying nothing is happening here."
But Belling kept at it, and kept Fitzgerald on the line for about a half-hour before letting him go.
The next day, Belling was criticizing lawmakers again. He read the names of every lawmaker who met virtually to vote on the COVID-19 bill.
"If you were too lazy to come in or you're too afraid of the coronavirus to come in — whichever one it was — furlough yourself," Belling said on April 16. "I'm dead serious about this."
Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, tweeted later that day that the decision to meet virtually in the Assembly was his.
Mixed Messages From Trump
By this time, a handful of protests against stay-at-home orders had taken place around the country.
Trump has seemingly encouraged them at times even as he's overseen the federal effort to get people to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Trump's message was dire just a few weeks ago, when he warned the public that dark days were ahead for the country.
"I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead," Trump said on March 31. "We're going to go through a very tough two weeks."
By last week — on April 16 — he was talking about lifting restrictions.
"We're opening up our country," Trump said. "And we have to do that. America wants to be open."
On April 17, Trump sent three tweets in all caps that called on people to "LIBERATE" Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia, three states with Democratic governors who had issued stay-at-home orders.
But when Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp — a Trump-endorsed Republican — moved to reopen his state, Trump said this week that it was too soon.
"Would I do that? No. I'd keep them a little longer. I want to protect people's lives," Trump said. "I'm going to let him make his decision, but I told him I totally disagree."
In Wisconsin, Evers pointed to White House guidelines when he announced another month-long stay-at-home order and a plan to very gradually reopen the state.
Wisconsin Republicans say a goal of 12,000 coronavirus tests per day called for in Evers' reopening plan is too aggressive, and the stay-at-home order too broad. They've asked the state Supreme Court to overturn it.
'We Need To Be The Rosa Parks Here'
But outside the Legislature, opponents of stay at home are not waiting for the legal battle to play out and have planned a protest of potentially thousands at the Wisconsin Capitol.
Organizers have stressed that it's not partisan, but the event has drawn interest from Republicans in high places.
Stephen Moore, a founder of the Club for Growth and a Trump economic advisor, said in a YouTube chat last week that he was helping to organize the Wisconsin protest.
"We have one big donor in Wisconsin — I’m not going to mention his name — and I told him about this," Moore said. "He said 'Steve, I promise I will pay the bail and legal fees for anyone who gets arrested.'"
Moore said it was an important time for members of the public to exercise their right of assembly, which he predicted would become more frequent as long as the government kept the economy shut down.
"This is a great time, gentlemen and ladies, for civil disobedience," Moore said. "We need to be the Rosa Parks."
While Friday's event is in direct violation of Wisconsin's public health order — and was denied a permit for that reason — Evers has said he does not expect Capitol police to be enforcing social distancing. And Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway told The New York Times that the city's officers would not force protesters to disperse.
Up to 16,000 said on Facebook that they planned to attend Friday's rally, which is a big group at a time when crowds are officially banned.
But a poll released by the Associated Press this week found that just 12 percent of Americans said stay-at-home restrictions go too far.
On Friday, the silent majority will be staying at home.
Polk ES Committee receives CAFO report
Stower Trail master plan hearing still coming
BALSAM LAKE – The Polk County Environmental Services Committee met in person on Wednesday, April 15, where among the items they discussed and later took action on included a PowerPoint presentation by county Parks, Recreation and Trails coordinator Ben Elfelt on comments, input, and emails about the Stower Seven Lakes Trail master plan draft.
Elfelt had been planning on arranging a public hearing on the plan, which was originally slated for last month at Unity High School, but the pandemic concerns delayed that until a later date, which has not been set, but will be rescheduled “once conditions improve,” he said.
s. Elfelt said the group would likely be made up of one or two stakeholders from each user group.
Elfelt also noted the progress on establishing a Polk County Trail Advisory Group, which would not just reference the Stower Trail, but for all county trails. Elfelt said the group would likely be made up of one or two stakeholders from each user group.
“The first objectives would be to establish a work plan, mission statement and strategic plan,” Elfelt said.
Zoning and land information director Jason Kjeseth officially delivered the long-awaited delivery of the study group’s so-called Large-Scale Livestock Facility Report, referencing concentrated animal feeding operations, which has been the work product of many county and state people, as well as others.
“The report is now on the home page of the Polk County website,” Kjeseth said, encouraging residents to review the document and the research.
Environmental services director Bob Kazmierski outlined his efforts on the creation of a divisional form of government, which he described as an organizational chart of division departments and staff, allowing for a more streamlined organization, which was displayed.
County forestry director Mark Gossman continued his updates on Polk County’s 15-year forestry comprehensive land-use plan, with a presentation on portions he updated, deleted, changed or made more relevant, as part of an ongoing review continuing each month on the plan, but they took no action.
The committee did enter a closed session to discuss and consider a letter they received regarding a local tourist rooming house, and apparent possible legal action, although details were not available and no action was taken when they returned to open session.
DHS: 4,845 Confirmed COVID-19 Cases In Wisconsin
Medical staff test shoppers who volunteered at a pop-up community COVID-19 testing station at a supermarket carpark in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, April 17, 2020. New Zealand is into week four of a 28-day lockdown in a bid to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. - Mark Baker/AP Photo
246 People Have Died From New Coronavirus In Wisconsin So Far
There are 4,845 positive cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, the state Department of Health Services announced Wednesday, a jump of 225 cases from the day before.
There was a significant spike in cases in Brown County. Health officials said they believe the increase is connected to the meatpacking plant JBS Packerland in Green Bay. So far, 147 cases have been linked to the facility.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Brown County had 410 positive cases of the new coronavirus. There were 317 cases Tuesday.
According to figures from DHS, 246 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19 as of Wednesday afternoon.
DHS reports 1,302 people have been hospitalized because of the virus. That means at least 27 percent of people who have tested positive for the new coronavirus in the state have been hospitalized. DHS officials have said they don't know the hospitalization history of 18 percent of cases.
Across the state, 49,502 people have tested negative for the virus so far. From Tuesday to Wednesday, the number of negative test results increased by 1,661.
With recent increases in testing capacity, health officials are loosening restrictions on who can get tested, subject to the availability of testing supplies.
Wisconsin has 36 labs performing COVID-19 tests, up from eight labs one month ago, Gov. Tony Evers said earlier this week.
There are confirmed cases in 65 of Wisconsin's 72 counties. The following counties have no confirmed cases as of Wednesday afternoon: Burnett, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Pepin, Taylor and Vernon.
West CAP continues most services during pandemic
NORTHWEST WISCONSIN - West CAP is a nonprofit community action agency providing various poverty alleviation programs and services in St. Croix, Pierce, Pepin, Chippewa, Dunn, Barron and Polk counties in west-central Wisconsin. During this ongoing COVID-19 crisis, West CAP is considered an “Essential Business” under Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” directive and is continuing to provide the following services in all of these counties: Homeless programs, continued TEFAP food and financial support for area food pantries and emergency shelters, delivery of food boxes to elderly households, emergency furnace assistance and adult education services aimed at improving access to employment.
West CAP also owns and/or manages close to 400 affordable housing units throughout this region. In addition, we manage the HUD Section 8 housing choice vouchers in Pierce, St. Croix, Polk and Dunn counties and the energy assistance program in St. Croix and Pepin counties.
We have had to suspend, for now, our non-emergency low-income home weatherization activities and JumpStart; our modest facilitated car purchase program, due to COVID-19 precautions.
Currently, WestCAP is in close communication with local, regional, and national partners and funders to quickly mobilize expanded services in order to address the immediate needs of low-income families which arise from the current epidemic. As these services become available information will be shared through press releases, social media and
For more information on local resources that may be helpful, please go to WestCAp is a 501c3 nonprofit agency and donations are tax deductible. If you wish to help out those in need, please go to and click on the “Donate Online” button. Inquiries about services or donations can also be made by calling 715-265-4271.
State updates business guidance with extended Safer At Home Order

Changes allow for more business, activities to open

WISCONSIN – With the extension of the Safer At Home order through May 26, it includes a some changes to allow for more businesses and activities to open back up, while other changes help make businesses safer for employees and customers. The changes in this new order go into effect on Friday, April 24.

Businesses and activities ramping up service and operations:

  • Public libraries: Public libraries may provide curb-side pick-up of books and other library materials.
  • Golf Courses:Golf courses may open again, with restrictions including scheduling and paying for tee times online or by phone only. Clubhouses and pro shops must remain closed.
  • Non-essential Businesses: Non-essential businesses will now be able to do more things as Minimum Basic Operations, including deliveries, mailings, and curb-side pick-up. Non-essential businesses must notify workers of whether they are necessary for the Minimum Basic Operations.
  • Arts and Crafts Stores: Arts and craft stores may offer expanded curb-side pick-up of materials necessary to make face masks or other personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Aesthetic or Optional Exterior Work: Aesthetic or optional exterior law care or construction is now allowed under the extended order, so long as it can be done by one person.

Safe Business Practices:

  • Safe Business Practices for Essential Businesses and Operations: Essential Businesses and Operations must increase cleaning and disinfection practices, ensure that only necessary workers are present, and adopt policies to prevent workers exposed to COVID-19 or symptomatic workers from coming to work.
  • Safe Business Practices for Retailers that Essential Businesses and Operations: Retail stores that remain open to the public as Essential Businesses and Operations must limit the number of people in the store at one time, must provide proper spacing for people waiting to enter, and large stores must offer at least two hours per week of dedicated shopping time for vulnerable populations.
  • SupplyChain: Essential Businesses and Operations that are essential because they supply, manufacture, or distribute goods and services to other Essential Businesses and Operations can only continue operations that are necessary to those businesses they supply. All other operations must continue as Minimum Basic Operations.

Other changes include:

  • Schools: Public and private K-12 schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
  • Local parks and open space: Local health officials may close public parks and open spaces if it becomes too difficult to ensure social distancing or the areas are being mistreated.
  • Travel: People are strongly encourage to stay close to home, not travel to second homes or cabins, and not to travel out-of-state if it is not necessary.
  • Tribal Nations: Tribal Nations are sovereign over their territory and can impose their own restrictions. Non-tribal members should be respectful of and avoid non-essential travel to Tribal territory. Local government must coordinate, collaborate, and share information with Tribal Nations.
  • Duration: The changes in this order go into effect on April 24, 2020. The order will remain in effect until 8 a.m. on May 26, 2020.

If you have questions, a Frequently Asked Questions document is available here for your review.

The public should continue to follow simple steps to avoid exposure to the virus and prevent illness including:

  • Avoiding social gatherings with people of all ages (including play dates and sleepovers, parties, large family dinners, visitors in your home, non-essential workers in your house);
  • Frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water;
  • Covering coughs and sneezes;
  • Avoiding touching one's face; and
  • Staying home.

This is a rapidly evolving situation, and we encourage you and the public to frequently monitor the DHS website.

To Stay In Touch With Students, Teachers Bypass Computers, Pick Up Phones

When schools closed in Fall Creek, Wis., because of the coronavirus, the district staff got an unusual message. Don't worry for now about assignments or quizzes, Superintendent Joe Sanfelippo told them. Instead, "I want you to call people. And I want you to ask them two questions: How are you doing? And do you need anything?"

The district had also ordered Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hot spots to help connect families in this small, rural community. But the hotspots were delayed, and many families live in areas with poor signal strength.

Plus, Sanfelippo was after a different connection: "We're not even talking about Internet connection," he says. "We're talking about connection to an adult in the building."

For Sanfelippo and many educators around the country, the biggest fear with schools shut down isn't lost learning, it's losing contact with their students. So they're going back to an old-fashioned communication tool: the telephone.

"It's kind of an analog approach to connecting with students, but it works," says Michael Magee, the CEO of Chiefs for Change, an organization that works with school superintendents across the country. "The greatest danger to both learning and the health and well-being of their communities is not having a line of sight on every single child."

Schools are often the most trusted places in communities. Families turn to them for information, resources, food and a link to other social services. "It's a teacher or a principal or someone in the school community who families are most likely to trust," says Magee, "and so they play a critical role at this moment that goes well beyond the role they play in learning and academic achievement."

Chad Gestson, superintendent of the Phoenix Union High School District, agrees. "There's magic in phone calls," he says. "Magic and personal touch."

In Arizona's capital, the digital divide is stark, despite a massive effort to get families connected to the Internet. So Gestson and his team created an initiative called Every Student, Every Day: They pledged to call every student — there are about 28,000 of them — every day.

"We certainly haven't abandoned the importance of the Internet and laptops and devices and online learning," Gestson explains. "We continue to push that. But we serve a large population of youth who don't have devices or connectivity in the house. If we want to connect to 100% of our youth, most of that will have to happen over the phone."

Every adult who works for the district — bus drivers, teachers, coaches, support staff — even the superintendent — was assigned a list of students to call.

And while they ask questions about academics and connectivity, that's not the main reason they call, Gestson says. Instead, it's: How are you doing today? How's your family doing today? Do you still live in your current residence? Are you worried about rent? Do you have food on your table and in your cupboards? Is your electricity still on? Is anyone sick in your house?

The district staff have been at this for a little more than a week. They've heard stories of successes — that students are filling out their financial aid forms for college, or they're working on projects and assignments. But they're also hearing from families who've lost their incomes and are on the brink of homelessness, who need food and other social services.

And while they estimate they've talked to most of the district's students, there are still about 5,000 they haven't reached.

"That's a scary number," says Gestson. "We're trying every day. Numbers are disconnected, and youth aren't answering phone calls. We don't know if that means they're homeless or if they've moved. We don't know if that just means they no longer have a phone or electricity."

Gestson says he and his staff aren't giving up. They're doing home visits now, too. While maintaining a safe social distance, he says, educators are out there, knocking on doors. They're letting students and families know that even though school buildings are closed, the teachers and staff are still there, with open arms.

The Covid-19 Fiscal Fall-Out for Counties
Wisconsin counties are likely to see tax revenues decline and service demands increase during the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, with particular challenges in regions that rely on commuters, visitors and tourists, according to a new report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum.
Counties are likely to face the greatest fiscal challenges among Wisconsin’s local governments. They are the only ones that receive significant sales tax revenues and, due to services they provide, are the most likely to see increased demand for services during the economic downturn brought about by the pandemic. 
"As the impact from the coronavirus roils the economy here and around the world, Wisconsin’s counties lie in its path,” the report warns.
Wisconsin counties possess some advantages, particularly relative to their counterparts in other states. For example, their overall reliance on property taxes – which the Forum has found to be problematic in normal times – gives Wisconsin counties greater protection from the immediate steep drops in revenue that an economic downturn could bring to counties in other states that rely more heavily on sales and other taxes.
But county governments can still expect significant revenue challenges ahead. Sixty-eight of the state's 72 counties collect a 0.5% sales tax, which will see diminished revenues, and potentially stunning drops in some regions with significant visitors. 
Other revenue challenges may include declines in collections from charges for services, and a likely rise in delinquent property tax payments. Meanwhile, as key providers of health and human services, counties are likely to see spending demands increase due to the health and economic ramifications of the crisis.
As we discuss in this and in our recent companion to this report, "The COVID Fiscal Fall-out for Cities and Villages” municipal and county reliance on property taxes could be advantageous for now. Property taxes comprise about 30%-60% of general revenues across Wisconsin’s 72 counties, with state aid the other top contributor. While property values are likely to fall, perhaps sharply, the loss in value must be quantified via updated property assessments and will take some time to determine -- with the impact being felt no sooner than for 2022 levies.
Another key advantage for counties, though not necessarily for taxpayers, is that if and when decreases in property values are reflected in assessments, county officials may offset any decline in overall values by raising property tax rates. However, while raising rates is legally permissible, county officials may deem it unfair to ask property owners to pay the same or higher property taxes as their property value declines. Or they may feel it is inappropriate to increase levies in light of the economic hardship experienced by many citizens.
Counties also could face near-term difficulties in collecting from property owners, and a sharp rise in unpaid property tax installments has the potential of creating immediate cash flow challenges for some counties.

 Meanwhile, sales taxes generated 8.1% of the revenue total for Wisconsin counties in 2018. With the sharp decline or outright disappearance of sales in some sectors such as food and drink service, hospitality, and brick-and-mortar retail, these revenues are certain to decline markedly. And unlike some states, Wisconsin exempts groceries from sales taxes, making revenues here potentially more vulnerable. Initial projections by Wisconsin’s two largest counties, Milwaukee and Dane, indicate potential 2020 shortfalls in sales tax collections of $17 million and $25 million, respectively. The report concludes that counties are fortunate that revenue streams most vulnerable to severe disruption comprise relatively small portions of their overall revenues. But other factors, such as the likelihood of increasing needs for some county services, will create fiscal stress. 
"That would pose a difficult dilemma even in a time of steady revenues," the report concludes, "thus making even modest crisis-induced revenue declines a formidable challenge for counties as they navigate the uncertain times ahead.” 
Go here to read "The Covid-19 Fiscal Fall-Out for Counties.”

The Wisconsin Policy Forum is the state’s leading source of nonpartisan, independent research on state and local public policy. As a nonprofit, our research is supported by members including hundreds of corporations, nonprofits, local governments, school districts, and individuals. Visit to learn more.
Gov. Tony Evers Extends Safer-At-Home Order
Order States All Public, Private K-12 Schools To Remain Closed For Remainder Of School Year
STATEWIDE - Gov. Tony Evers has directed the state Department of Health Services to extend the state's safer-at-home order several weeks.
The order, which was set to expire on April 24 will now end at 8 a.m. Tuesday, May 26.
The goal of such orders is to slow the spread of COVID-19 and lower the number of cases the state sees at its peak.
The order extending the timeframe states all public and private K-12 schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year.
During a press briefing Thursday afternoon, Evers said he knows "it's not the ideal situation" and the administration "will work with" the state Department of Public Instruction. Districts should "continue to do whatever they can to make sure that teachers are interacting with kids," Evers said.
Like under the original order, people don't need permission to leave their homes, but are only allowed to do so for specific things, like going to the grocery store or to the doctor. People are still allowed to exercise outside, but are required to keep 6 feet between themselves and others, unless they live with the person. Group sports, like basketball, soccer and ultimate frisbee, are banned. Playgrounds will also remain closed.
Essential businesses and operations, such as hospitals, grocery stores, hardware stores and pharmacies, will continue operations and don’t need any special certification to do so.
Wisconsin has been under the restrictions since March 25.
"A few weeks ago, we had a pretty grim outlook for what COVID-19 could mean for our state, but because of the efforts of all of you, Safer at Home is working. That said, we aren't out of the woods just yet," Evers said in a statement Thursday. "As I've said all along, we are going to rely on the science and public health experts to guide us through this challenge. So, as we extend Safer at Home, I need all of you to continue doing the good work you've been doing so we can keep our families, our neighbors, and our communities safe, and get through this storm together."
The new order includes minor changes allowing certain activities to start up again, now:
Public libraries can provide curbside pickup of books.
Golf courses can open with more spread out tee times.
Non-essential businesses will be allowed to do deliveries, mailings and curbside pick-up.
Arts and crafts stores can do curb-side pick-up for materials used to make masks.
Aesthetic lawn care or construction is allowed as long as it’s done by one person.
The new order also mandates essential retail stores limit the number of people present in the store at one time, provide proper social-distance spacing for those waiting to enter; and provide at least two hours of shopping per week for vulnerable populations.
The changes in the new order go into effect Friday, April 24.
In a press teleconference Thursday, DHS Secretary Andrea Palm said the state must "scale up testing capacity" and that it's a "critical" and "fundamental" part of managing the virus.
Palm said the state will continue to work to increase testing capacity, increase contact tracing and increase the amount of personal protective equipment needed by frontline workers.
Palm said Thursday the state has 29 labs that are able to conduct a total of 7,578 tests per day.
"Before we lift Safer at Home, the steps of testing and more robust public health measures must be in place," Palm said in a statement Thursday. "These steps will help us reduce the risk of a second wave of the virus. If we open up too soon, we risk overwhelming our hospitals and requiring more drastic physical distancing measures again."
Bipartisan coalition of governors will work together to reopen states
At the Thursday press conference, Evers said Wisconsin has joined a partnership with other Midwestern governors who will coordinate on ways to reopen the economy in the Midwest region.
"We can’t think about this like flipping a light switch," Evers said of reopening the economy. "It's like turning a dial."
The other governors participating in the coalition are Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Tim Walz of Minnesota, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Eric Holcomb and Indiana and Andy Beshear of Kentucky. Beshear, Evers, Pritzker, Walz and Whitmer are Democrats; DeWine and Holcomb are Republicans.
The Marquette University Law School poll on April 1 found overwhelming support for Evers' stay-home order, with 86 percent of Wisconsin voters saying it was appropriate for the governor to close schools and businesses.
But there have been signs of pressure from those who want to see restrictions lifted.
A protest is planned at the state Capitol next Friday; Evers said he supports protesters' First Amendment rights and hopes they will practice social distancing. On Wednesday, protesters gathered at the Capitols of Michigan and Ohio protesting similar restrictions.
During a Milwaukee Press Club event Thursday afternoon, state GOP Chair Andrew Hitt said there needs to be more communication about how the economy is going to open back up.
"We have a lot of people who are in a lot of trouble because the government has shut us down for so long, and that is concerning," Hitt said. "People are going to be concerned about that. They’re going to have to make decisions about do they keep their business open? Do they pay their employees? ... We need to have better communication."
Law enforcement agencies have been enforcing the order. Penalties for not complying have included citations, arrests and charges.
Weekly unemployment claims approach 600K
Last week, the state Department of Workforce Development reported total new applications for unemployment benefits reached more than 313,000 between March 15 and April 6 — with weekly claims reaching nearly 590,000. The total amount of unemployment benefits distributed by the state during this time equaled nearly $69 million.
According to NPR, the number of people filing for unemployment climbed by another 5.2 million last week.
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation CEO Missy Hughes said Thursday that Wisconsin's Safer at Home extension was necessary to ensure that consumers would feel comfortable spending when the economy began to reopen more fully.
"Now is the time to be focused on (fighting the spread of COVID-19)," Hughes said. "If we don't do that work now, we'll fall back behind the curve ... and customers won't be comfortable coming into your stores or sitting in your restaurants, and employees will feel uncomfortable working there."
The administration’s order comes as the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to rise. As of Thursday afternoon, there were 3,875 positive cases of COVID-19 statewide and 197 deaths, according to DHS.
Minnesota's stay-at-home order was extended earlier this month from Friday, April 10 to Monday, May 4. It went into effect Friday, March 27.
Michigan's stay-at-home order ends Thursday, April 30. It was extended earlier this month. It went into effect Tuesday, March 24 and was to last at least three weeks. Michigan's governor said she wanted to see a "steady decline" before lifting the order.
Illinois' stay-at-home order is set to end Thursday, April 30. It went into effect Saturday, March 21, and was originally set to end Tuesday, April 7.
As of Thursday, Iowa has not issued a formal stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order. The governor there has said restrictions she's issued during the pandemic have the same impact such orders have.
Burnett County COVID-19 Resource Page
BURNETT COUNTY - The Burnett County Tourism Coalition has created a webpage,, to keep the public informed as the state of Wisconsin continues to monitor the rapidly evolving status of covid-19. They want to provide resources to keep everyone informed on the efforts made to address the needs of our travelers and residents. “At the Burnett County Tourism Coalition, the well-being of residents and visitors is our greatest priority. It is in our nature to be wild and free. And to do so safely, it is important that we all act and adventure responsibly. During times when public health is at risk, we must ask that all travelers and locals respect the health and safety recommendations that have been implemented by staying home to ensure collective wellness. By waiting to travel, we can maintain Wisconsin as a wide-open safe haven and source of inspiration."
Over 215,000 Wisconsin Households to Receive Additional FoodShare Benefits in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

Benefits will be available April 12 and April 26

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced that more than 215,000 FoodShare households will be receiving additional benefits. These benefits will help those Wisconsin families stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The effects of the pandemic have been hard on all Wisconsinites, but especially hard on the most vulnerable people in our state," said Andrea Palm, Secretary-designee of the Department of Health Services. "The ability for eligible households to access additional FoodShare benefits during this public health emergency provides an important lifeline to one of our most basic human needs."

Under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Wisconsin is able to provide FoodShare recipients with the maximum monthly benefit amount, based on the number of people in their household, for two months.

As a result, for March and April, FoodShare households not currently receiving the maximum monthly benefit amount for their family size will receive additional benefits bringing them up to that level. The additional March benefits will be available on QUEST cards on April 12, and the additional April benefits will be available on QUEST cards on April 26. If the COVID-19 emergency extends beyond April, DHS will work with its federal partners on any future opportunities to provide additional emergency allotments.

Households will receive a letter notifying them of the additional benefits. Households already receiving the maximum amount will not receive additional benefits. The following is the maximum monthly benefit amount based on the number of people in the household:

COVID-19, Face Masks And Why More Wisconsinites Are Wearing Them

Wisconsinites are adapting to life under the cloud of COVID-19, and for a growing group that means getting into the habit of covering up with a face mask when they venture from their homes.

Indeed, face masks may be spring 2020's most en vogue apparel, though the burgeoning trend began not on a fashion runway but with a dryly worded recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC's recommendation that Americans wear non-medical "cloth face coverings" in public places such as grocery stores and pharmacies came on April 3, after weeks of growing speculation it might happen. The move came as a debate builds among health experts in the United States and around the world on the role of face masks in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Advocates for using face masks have cited the slower progression of outbreaks in places where their use in public is deeply ingrained, such as in Hong Kong and South Korea, though evidence directly linking their use in public to reduced transmission of respiratory disease is lacking. Some have also argued that wearing masks could still help slow the spread of COVID-19 by reinforcing social norms and appropriate hygiene practices that can help limit transmission, especially if individuals who don't know they are infected wear one.

And yet other public health authorities, including at the World Health Organization, have feared any new guidance encouraging the broad use of face masks, even if it explicitly emphasized preserving medical-grade masks for healthcare settings, would inevitably exacerbate acute shortages hospitals are feeling worldwide. More than a week after the CDC changed its stance on the matter, the WHO maintains its guidance that healthy people should only wear a mask if they are caring for someone with COVID-19. Many medical professionals and public health experts in the U.S., including in Wisconsin, feel the same way.

For its part, the CDC issued carefully worded language that provided individuals who wished to wear a face mask with instructions for crafting their own mask out of household materials.

Philip Ashby/PBS Wisconsin
The CDC's shifting guidance on face masks asks members of the public to preserve medical-grade masks and N95 respirators for healthcare settings. It recommends cloth masks, either purchased or made with household materials, for use in public. The CDC provides instructions on its website for crafting sewn masks and no-sew coverings made from bandanas or other apparel.

The recommendations attempted to strike a balance between concerns on each side of the mask question. As such, it amounted to somewhat of an about-face for the agency, whose prior guidance explicitly did not recommend the public use of masks of any type among healthy individuals in response to COVID-19. In Wisconsin, health officials conformed with the CDC's prior stance when WisContext first explored this issue in February.

Public health guidance aside, many people in Wisconsin and elsewhere have decided for themselves whether or not to wear a mask in public, perhaps driven in part by their increasingly ubiquitous presence in the news and on social media.

No matter how they came to their decision, many did not wait for the CDC's new stance, which came more than two months after the disease was first diagnosed on American soil. What changed over that time that would have prompted such a fierce debate among public health experts and ultimately led to the new guidance?

Shifting norms, limited evidence

In making its recommendation, the CDC acknowledged a growing body of evidence that many people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, may show little or no symptoms even while carrying a significant amount of the virus in their systems. The evidence, including the CDC's own examination of a cluster of cases in King County, Washington, has added weight to concerns that asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals may be an unwitting and significant vector of the disease.

"That may have been the tipping point for this change," said Dr. Nasia Safdar, an infectious diseases physician and chief medical officer for infection control at UW Health in Madison.

michael_swan (CC BY-ND 2.0)
N95 respirators and a medical-grade surgical mask sit on a table among other medical equipment. The CDC's new guidance on face masks maintains that medical-grade masks should be saved for healthcare workers and ill patients.

Safdar pointed out that scientific evidence that would link the widespread use of face masks to slower transmission of COVID-19 remains elusive.

"The data supporting it hasn't really changed all that much," she said.

What has changed, in Safdar’s view, besides a firmer understanding of asymptomatic infection, is Americans' attitudes toward wearing face masks in public.

"The decisions that are being made are being swayed by momentum, by public opinion and by what others have done, in Asia, for instance, where there's long been this culture of wearing masks in public," Safdar said.

Residents of Macau, a special administrative region of China, queue outside a pharmacy for face masks supplied in a government program intended to prevent hoarding.
Macau Photo Agency/Unsplash

Wisconsin's state epidemiologist of communicable diseases Dr. Ryan Westergaard shared that view.

"I think two things happened," said Westergaard. "One is that there's sort of a general public acceptance [of wearing face masks]. Initially it was sort of at odds with our cultural norms."

The other shift, according to Westergaard, is the public health view that wearing a face mask could possibly help reduce the impact of lax etiquette among people who fail to properly cover their sneezes and coughs, especially if they are carrying the virus without realizing it. To that end, wearing a face mask in public is less about personal protection and more about protecting the community.

"I don't know the degree to which the public sees that distinction," Westergaard said.

At the same time, any protective impact of wearing face masks in public could easily be negated by their improper use, which is something Safdar worries a lot about. It only takes one sneeze or cough to potentially soil a cloth mask with infectious particles, meaning even a minor mask adjustment could risk contaminating a wearer's fingers and subsequently anything they touch.

"It just seems fraught with potential for contamination," Safdar said.

Concerns over medical supplies persist

Public health officials remain worried about the potential diversion of personal protective equipment like medical-grade surgical masks and N95 respirators as more people take up wearing face masks in public. This equipment is crucial for protecting healthcare workers while they test and treat symptomatic patients, and many workers in Wisconsin, from nurses in urban hospitals to rural EMTs, remain critically short of it.

Westergaard said personal protective equipment continues to be Wisconsin's "highest need" in its response to COVID-19. The state's needs remain so acute that it has set up a donation and exchange system to facilitate the acquisition of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies.

The CDC's face mask guidance is clearly crafted to encourage the use of homemade or purchased cloth masks and explicitly calls for preserving personal protective equipment like N95 respirators and surgical masks for healthcare settings. But numerous images of voters and poll workers wearing medical-grade gear during Wisconsin's April 7 election signaled that many people may not be receptive to this message as it gets drowned out by fears over the contagion.

Both Westergaard and Safdar said they don't blame anybody for wearing medical masks at polling stations, especially if that's what election officials gave them, or if it was what they had on hand. Safdar instead reserved her judgment for state officials who allowed in-person voting to take place in the midst of a pandemic, a situation she said "wasn't a great idea."

"I think you send a mixed message to people where you're telling healthcare workers to reuse their PPE when they're taking care of actively sick patients, but yet, in the public, you're seeing this waste of PPE," Safdar said. "It's a shame."

A personal decision

Mixed messages from elected officials can make the decision to wear a face mask — and choosing which type to wear — a fraught one for Wisconsinites who are still figuring out how they can best protect themselves and their communities.

Unlike in a growing number of municipalities such as Washington D.C, Miami and Los Angeles, deciding whether to wear a mask or other face covering in public remains a personal decision in Wisconsin, and residents are choosing to use them for a variety of reasons.

Ruth King lives near Spooner in rural Washburn County, which reported its first confirmed COVID-19 infection on April 13. A stormwater specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, King questions whether there is clear scientific evidence supporting the use of face masks in public. Still, she buys groceries for her elderly mother and generally heeds advice from the CDC, King said, and she wants to do her part to minimize the chance she or members of her family could catch the highly contagious disease.

King has also noticed more people wearing masks as they shop for food and supplies at Spooner's lone grocery store since the CDC shifted its guidance.

"When a lot of people are wearing them, you feel the peer pressure to wear them yourself," King said.

Across the state in Green Bay, Carl Hujet is concerned that a recently diagnosed heart condition puts him at a higher risk for complications should he come down with COVID-19. A neighbor recently gave Hujet a hand-sewn mask, and he fashioned another with supplies from home. Hujet said the CDC's new guidance prompted him to transition from wearing a mask in public only sometimes to doing so religiously, whether he's at the grocery store, doctor's office or a gas station.

Hujet has read that wearing a mask is more about protecting others in case one is an asymptomatic carrier, but he also feels a greater sense of personal security with one on.

"I don't want to kill anybody, and I don't want to be killed," Hujet said.

Courtesy of Dena Bennett
Home-sewn cloth face masks with elastic bands are among the face coverings many Wisconsinites are now using in public.

Meanwhile, Ann Gainey of Wind Lake in exurban Milwaukee has considered it prudent to wear a face mask in public since the disease began spreading globally after the initial outbreak in China, which prominently featured imagery of Chinese citizens and leaders donning masks.

A retired nurse who spent four decades caring for nursing home residents and ICU patients, Gainey said she was frustrated with the CDC for waiting so long to shift its guidance on the use of face masks in public.

"I was an advocate of face masks from the get-go," said Gainey, who said she understood the CDC was likely worried about runs on medical personal protective equipment. Still, as its new, carefully worded guidance demonstrates, there are other face covering options for the public.

To that end, Gainey has sewn and sent more than 150 cloth masks to friends and family around the nation since the outbreak began.

"It upset me that people weren't being encouraged more to wear face masks," she said.

In Madison, Sam Million-Weaver said he also felt an urge to wear a face mask prior to the CDC's new stance, but a lack of clear guidance made him feel as though there wasn't social permission to do so.

"If no one's doing it, you don't want to be the one weird guy wearing a mask," said Million-Weaver, who is a medical writer for a medical science organization. He said that since the CDC changed its mask guidance he's noticed many more people wearing face coverings in public at places like his neighborhood grocery store. Still, Million-Weaver is concerned that the federal government's messaging on the matter remains confused.

"It would be helpful if our government could send a unified message," he said, taking issue with President Donald Trump's refusal to wear a mask.

"A lot more people would be following the good public health example if our elected leadership was setting a good public health example," he said.

Mask demand spikes

No matter the messages coming from the federal government, many Wisconsinites are taking up the use — and creation — of face masks. That's according to organizers of a statewide volunteer effort to sew and distribute cloth masks who have been inundated with requests since the CDC shifted its guidance.

The Wisconsin Face Mask Warriors is a growing network of volunteers with local chapters around the state, such as one in Green Bay. In late March, members began producing cloth face masks for frontline workers in essential sectors, including nursing homes, grocery stores and pharmacies.

The group produces masks that fall in line with the CDC's recommendations — multiple layers of washable cloth that fit tightly over the nose and mouth and have ear straps. The cotton masks can be washed repeatedly and are compatible with autoclave systems that sterilize materials under high pressure and temperature.

Volunteers across Wisconsin are sewing cloth face masks to donate to essential workers and others who request them. One of the largest groups, the Wisconsin Face Mask Warriors, has asked volunteers to adhere to a standard design that adheres to CDC recommendations.
Courtesy of Dena Bennett

The group's ranks have quickly grown to more than 4,000 volunteers around the state, according to organizers Dena Bennett of New London and Jenni Cardell of Madison. But demand for their masks has also exploded, both from facilities lacking personal protective equipment — including medical facilities — and from a growing number of individuals seeking the masks for personal use.

"We have just been bombarded with requests. It's just crazy," said Bennett.

The group does not deny personal requests, Bennett said, but prioritizes those from institutions and frontline workers.

Requests range from a handful of masks to huge shipments, noted Cardell.

"Just in the last 15 minutes we had a single request come through … from a medical facility, and they were asking for 15,000 masks," Cardell said in an interview on April 9.

Such demand speaks both to a public desire to minimize transmission and to the ongoing trouble Wisconsin's health systems face as they seek to secure protective equipment for frontline workers confronting COVID-19.

Emphasizing proven strategies

The goal of limiting the spread of COVID-19 is why public health officials like Ryan Westergaard and Nasia Safdar are underscoring the need to maintain strategies that are proven to slow transmission, chief among them proper handwashing and significant physical distancing.

Several weeks after their implementation in Wisconsin, these measures may have started to slow the rate of new infections in the state — or "flatten the curve" — by mid-April. However, state officials cautioned against declaring an early victory.

Westergaard also emphasized that wearing a face mask must not be considered a stand in for physical distancing or proper hygiene etiquette.

"We don't want people to wear face coverings at the expense of paying attention to other important infection control measures like hand washing," he said.

Safdar said the positive effects of physical distancing, including Wisconsin's stay-at-home order, are apparent at Madison's University Hospital, where she works.

"We're definitely seeing a decline in the trajectory [of new infections]," she said. "We're still seeing a few, but it's nowhere near as fast and high in volume as we expected when this started out based on what we have seen other cities dealing with. So in the health system, we are seeing an effect of social distancing being done by the public."

Safdar acknowledged the steep economic costs of the state's measures, but said she hoped they would remain in effect for some time to come, fearing a resurgence in transmission if distancing were relaxed too much too soon.

COVID-19 adds to farming woes
Michael Robin, Burnett Dairy warehouse assistant, and Jay Strasser, Ruby’s Pantry truck driver, pose near Burnett Dairy’s shipment of more than 8,500 pounds of shredded cheese headed to Ruby’s Pantry. “This is an uncharted time of need and we are happy to get cheese into the hands of those who need it most,” a BDC spokesperson said. - Photo provided
Burnett Dairy Cooperative steps up with delivery of food to nonprofits and food pantries
NORTHWEST WISCONSIN – News of milk dumping in the state due to a lack of markets created by the pandemic has brought awareness to the importance of not just dairy farmers but all farmers that diligently work every day to provide safe food that is readily available for consumers.
Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery issued a request on April 1 for its farmers to reduce the amount of milk they each ship by 7% to avoid having to dump milk due to a backlog at their plants.
Besides buyers canceling orders that would typically supply food service contracts, milk prices have also dropped 30% according to the creamery. This is like your local independent mom-and-pop store having a 30%-off sale and not being the ones to make that decision.
Ellsworth stated that if their supply continues at the current rate the farmers price would continue to fall. They have even offered member equity buyouts to encourage dairy farmers to quit farming.
Farmers’ incomes have always been dependent on a number of factors, but the coronavirus pandemic is also affecting crop and livestock prices. An economic recession is looming. According to the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri, prices could tumble and reduce farm income nationally by $20 billion in 2020. This number is taking into account lower production costs, added farm subsidies and grain held in storage.
Less corn is being used for ethanol due to stay-at-home requests and lower consumer spending was incorporated into the FAPRI estimates, but it did not consider disruptions in supply chain that could further reduce prices paid to producers.
Depending on the intensity and duration of the pandemic, the FAPRI and ag economist Dan Basse of AgResource Company say a speedy recovery could take place, but there are many variables that must line up for that to occur.
Basse explains that COVID-19 couldn’t have happened at a worse time since the weather is getting warmer and people generally eat out more, referring to the fact that more Wisconsin dairy products are sold to the food service industry versus grocery stores.
He suggests that farms focus more on efficiency rather than maximum production. Basse says to look at margins between income and expense and work on that aspect.
The bright side is that farmers can save money on fuel and feed costs. Also, the food service industry will eventually recover. Structural changes may be needed in the industry to shift between food service and retail sales more economically, Basse believes.
Kink in supply chain
Many area farmers in northern Polk and Burnett counties sell their milk to Burnett Dairy Cooperative in Grantsburg, Associated Milk Producers Inc. with a regional office in New Ulm, Minnesota, or Foremost Farms headquartered in Baraboo.
These locations don’t have any plans on dumping milk and no one wants to resort to this drastic measure. In fact, farmers have banded together at the Ellsworth Co-op to reduce their milk without the need to dump at the plant.
Dairy products have sometimes been unavailable in stores, which leads to confusion as to why there is an oversupply of product. The problem is that often products are packaged for food service versus retail. Madison-based Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin is looking to help repair this kink in the supply chain by working with companies to reroute their products to consumers.
If you see restrictions on dairy products at local stores, it is requested that you contact the DFW, who will work with that location to get milk and other dairy products on its shelves.
Say cheese, please
A group of area milk haulers have been raising funds to buy Ellsworth cheese curds to deliver to area food shelves. So far 5,000 pounds of the squeaky curds have been distributed.  
In the last week, Foremost Farms has been able to get over 45,000 pounds of cheese packed and shipped to help feed families and food pantries across Wisconsin and Illinois through The Salvation Army.
It is business as usual at Burnett Dairy Cooperative.
BDC is also giving back to the community and has been donating to food banks and a number of nonprofits in the area and throughout the Midwest. They want to continue to provide jobs, continue their operations, and not impact farmers.
The dairy has committed to donating 45,000 pounds of cheese and anticipates that number will exceed more than 100,000 pounds in the coming months.
By Monday, April 20, over 8,000 students who receive school lunches will also be receiving 2-pound bags of shredded mozzarella cheese as a donation from BDC. The 16,000 pounds of cheese will head out to 19 area schools in Burnett, Polk, Washburn, and Barron counties, along with Minnesota’s Pine and Chisago counties.
The dairy also donated 8,500 pounds of shredded cheese to Ruby’s Pantry.
Bruce Chell of Chell Trucking, Siren, is donating his time and refrigerated truck space to help safely make deliveries to the schools and others. It is the willingness to lend a hand that is appreciated during this time.
“This is uncharted territory for all of us and this is what we can do to make a difference, that’s what we can focus on to do our part in this,” said Dan Dowling, BDC’s CEO.
St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is modifying operations to implement latest health guidance
St. Croix River Visitor Center and Fairy Falls Day Use area closed ST. CROIX FALLS/STILLWATER, Minn. - St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is announcing modifications to operations to implement the latest guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and local and state authorities to promote social distancing. The St. Croix River Visitor Center, located in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, was scheduled to open on April 13 and is closed until further notice. In addition, the Fairy Falls Day Use Area, located near Stillwater, Minnesota, is closed to public use until further notice. Outdoor spaces, including river access locations, will remain open to provide healthy options for the public as long as it is possible to adhere to the latest health guidance. Groups are limited to 10 people or less. Group campsites will have a maximum capacity of 10 people. To protect public health and safety, all visitors to the Riverway are encouraged to • Avoid popular areas during peak hours. If an area is crowded, search for a location with less people. • Park only in designated areas. • Take your trash with you when you leave. • Stay in your local area. • Avoid high risk outdoor activities. • Avoid visiting the Riverway if you are sick and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms • Follow CDC guidance on personal hygiene and social distancing before and during your visit. The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers and partners at St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is our number one priority. The National Park Service is working with the federal, state and local authorities to closely monitor the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. We will notify the public when we resume full operations and provide updates at, or @StCroixNSR on Facebook.
Quinn votes for COVID-19 Bill
MADISON – In a historic moment, Representative Romaine Quinn (R-Barron) voted to pass Assembly Bill 1038, a bipartisan bill responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin. Approximately half of the Legislature, including Rep. Quinn, attended the session and cast votes remotely in order to support the social distancing provisions that have been needed to slow the spread of the virus and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.
The bill is a product of weeks of work and across-the-aisle negotiations to create certainty for individuals and industries in distress due to the pandemic. Provisions ensure that Wisconsin can tap into billions of dollars in federal funding and ensure that red tape does not delay or prevent solutions to resolving the crisis.
“People all across the district are feeling pain right now,” said Rep. Quinn. “Whether it’s small business owners struggling to keep their businesses going, workers who have been laid off, or people who are sick or have relatives who are sick, everyone needs reassurance that they are not alone. This bill says clearly that the pandemic is not a partisan issue – we are here to work with and for the people of Wisconsin and do everything in our power to help make the situation better.”
AB 1038 eliminates the one-week waiting period for unemployment claims and retroactively pays for the first week of unemployment for claims made after March 12. The bill also:
• Eases licensing requirements for health care professionals and emergency medical responders.
• Allows pharmacists to extend prescriptions.
• Expands SeniorCare to include coverage of vaccinations.
• Ensures no co-pays for COVID-19 testing.
• Prohibits health insurance coverage discrimination based on COVID-19.
• Provides the needed flexibilities to school districts to complete the school year online.
• Requires the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to develop a plan to assist the state’s main industries (tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, construction and retail).
In addition to these regulatory steps, AB 1038 sets aside $75 million to address unexpected priorities that may arise as a result of the economic or health consequences of the pandemic. The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance will oversee this money on an as-needed basis to ensure that the state can respond appropriately to issues not covered by federal programs.
Wisconsin is also expected to receive approximately $2.2 billion in federal support, which will be overseen by Governor Evers.
Sen. Baldwin to President Trump: Wisconsinites Need Personal Protective Equipment and Medical Supplies Now
Wisconsin has received only a fraction of the PPE and medical supplies requested from the federal government
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As Wisconsin anticipates continued growth in the number of COVID-19 cases, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin is urging President Donald Trump to take swift action and deliver the personal protective equipment and medical supplies the state of Wisconsin has repeatedly requested before it’s too late.
Wisconsin has received only a fraction of the supplies it has requested from the Department of Health and Human Services and from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and some outstanding orders from Wisconsin entities have been redirected. On April 10, the Green Bay Press Gazette reported that an order of 1,000 N95 masks ordered by the Brown County Sheriff’s Department and the Green Bay Police Department were instead sent to an unspecified location. In her letter to President Trump, Senator Baldwin notes that Wisconsin still has not received a single ventilator, as well as the full amount of requested PPE for essential workers, and demands the Trump administration act now to get Wisconsin the supplies they desperately need.
Baldwin writes, “Throughout this entire crisis, HHS and FEMA have failed to provide a sufficient explanation or any transparency on how decisions are made with respect to disbursement, other than to offer that these vital and limited supplies, such as PPE and ventilators, are delivered to ‘hot spots.’ It is unclear how your ever-changing response team defines ‘hot spot’ and there appears to be no strategy for delivering PPE and ventilators to areas of future need.”
She continues, “Our response to this crisis could have been bolstered by early interventions and information. According to media reports, intelligence community analysts had warned that a novel coronavirus could be a cataclysmic event as early as November and reports about the virus began appearing in the President’s Daily Brief in early January. Yet it appears you did not take action to ramp up the production of any critical supplies in preparation.”
Senator Baldwin notes that President Trump did not fully utilize his authority under the Defense Production Act, before the country reached its current shortage, to increase production of PPE and medical supplies. Baldwin introduced legislation to trigger the full authority of the Defense Production Act without delay to massively scale up production of PPE and medical supplies.
Baldwin concludes, “It is past time that you take action to demonstrate leadership and support our states. I look forward to your response and more importantly, to the action you will take to address these concerns.”
Department of Revenue moves deadlines
More existing deadlines between April 1 and July 15, have been moved to July 15
STATEWIDE - The Wisconsin Department of Revenue announced that more filing and payment deadline dates will conform with recently released IRS Notice 2020-23, which makes it easier for taxpayers to comply. This notice automatically moves deadlines for filings and payments due between April 1 and July 15 to July 15, 2020. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue has updated information to reflect this most recent deadline change. Find it at
"As we wait for the Wisconsin Legislature to act, it is helpful in the meantime to see the IRS and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue shift these additional deadlines to ease some of the burden individual and business taxpayers are feeling right now," stated Governor Tony Evers.
Summary of the new guidance
Extensions for filing returns
• Income/franchise and pass-through withholding returns due on or after April 1, 2020, and before July 15, 2020 are extended to July 15, 2020.
Extensions for return payments
• Income/franchise and pass-through withholding tax due on or after April 1, 2020, and before July 15, 2020, will not accrue interest or penalties until July 16, 2020.
Waiver of underpayment interest on estimated payments
• UPI will not apply to income/franchise and pass-through withholding returns with a tax year ending on December 31, 2019, or returns that are due on or after April 1 and before July 15.
Extensions for estimated payments of income/franchise and pass-through withholding tax
• Estimated payments due on or after April 1, 2020, and before July 15, 2020 are extended to July 15. Note: First quarter estimated payments are generally due April 15 and second quarter estimated payments are generally due June 15.
Federal economic impact payments (stimulus payments)
• Federal economic impact payments are not taxable for federal or Wisconsin income tax purposes. The IRS will not use the payment to pay federal or state tax debts but will use it to pay past-due child support payments that the states have reported to the IRS (Treasury Offset Program Bulletin 2020-8).
"It is a very good thing that the IRS has now provided certainty on this issue of estimated quarterly payments," said Department of Revenue Secretary Peter Barca. " In this time of crisis, we at the Wisconsin Department of Revenue will continue to do whatever we can to assist individuals and small businesses."
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue notes that most services are found online at
Customer service phone numbers
Individuals: 608-266‑2486
Businesses: 608-266-2776
Find the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Wisconsin:
USDA Unveils Tool to Help Rural Communities Address the COVID-19 Pandemic

USDA’s COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide Lists Federal Programs That Can Help Rural Communities, Organizations and Residents Impacted by COVID-19 

WASHINGTON, April 13, 2020 – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today unveiled a one-stop-shop of federal programs that can be used by rural communities, organizations and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide (PDF, 349 KB) is a first-of-its-kind resource for rural leaders looking for federal funding and partnership opportunities to help address this pandemic.

"Under the leadership of President Trump, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities preparing for and impacted by COVID-19,” Perdue said. "This resource guide will help our rural leaders, whether they are in agriculture, education, health care or any other leadership capacity, understand what federal assistance is available for their communities during this unprecedented time.”

USDA has taken many immediate actions to assist farmers, ranchers, producers, rural communities, and rural-based businesses and organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on these actions, visit


Gov. Evers Announces Second Alternative Care Facility at Alliant Energy Center

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers today announced an application has been submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to begin the development of a second alternative care facility (ACF) in Wisconsin to prepare for a potential surge in COVID-19 cases. The Army Corp of Engineers has partnered with states to build ACFs to support existing, local medical infrastructures in response to the spread of COVID-19.

"This second alternative care facility will be an essential backup facility to ensure our healthcare system in the south central region is not overwhelmed. FEMA and the Army Corp of Engineers have been tremendous planning partners for our state and we are thankful for their quick responsiveness,” said Gov. Evers. "Wisconsin residents are doing a good job of helping to flatten the curve in our state by following the guidelines of our Safer at Home order, but we must continue our efforts to manage the pandemic in order to protect Wisconsinites. Hopefully this second site will not be needed, but we must prepare for it now so we are ready.

"Dane County is proud to partner with Governor Evers and make our facility available to the state as a potential alternative care site to ensure our community has the medical resources it needs to fight the spread of COVID-19,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

Once approved, the Army Corp of Engineers will sign contracts with a contractor and a number of subcontractors. Additional details regarding facility operations, acuity level, and patient capacity will be shared as they become available. With the number of COVID-19 cases still on the rise, all individuals are encouraged to do the following:

  • Stay at home as much as possible. Cancel events and avoid groups, gatherings, play dates, and nonessential appointments.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other people, when possible.
  • Practice good hand hygiene. Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching face, eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and cough and sneeze into your elbow.
  • Continue to visit the Department of Health Services COVID-19 informational website, This comprehensive website has resources, updates, and answers to commonly asked questions about COVID-19.

More information regarding the state-wide COVID-19 response is also available here.

Fundraising event to support Washburn County residents
Jim LeDuc will run for 12 hours on Saturday, April 18, as a fundraiser to provide basic assistance like hygiene products and food for Washburn County residents. LeDuc is pictured running a 50k he completed on this treadmill Sunday, April 5, to prepare for the upcoming fundraising run. – Photo provided
WASHBURN COUNTY — On Saturday, April 18, one man will run 12 hours for one purpose: helping Washburn County residents during the COVID 19 health emergency. Out Run the Virus is a fundraising event supporting the Community First Washburn County mission to provide basic care packages, supplemental meal delivery and a resource hotline to those in need during this challenging time.
Community First Washburn County is a collection of community agencies, coalitions, businesses and private individuals that banded together for a common cause; serving their neighbor during the COVID 19 public health emergency.
"COVID 19 has turned our world upside down and there are people within our community who currently, or will in the near future, need assistance to make it through this pandemic,” said Jim LeDuc, Washburn County Health and Human Service director, and the runner for the Out Run the Virus event.
While LeDuc works for Washburn County government, he is running on his personal time and direction. Neither Washburn County nor Jim will benefit financially from this effort. All funds raised go directly to the Community First Washburn County mission.
CFWC has plans in place to be in local municipalities soon to hand out care packages containing hygiene, home products and activities for kids. Another identified concern is food insecurity for all ages county wide. CFW has taken on the ambitious endeavor of providing 100 meals a day, seven days a week, utilizing local restaurants. However, their efforts will require a significant amount of funding to accomplish.
The mission of CFWC is supported by a recently awarded $10,000 grant from Marshfield Clinic Health Systems, however, the organization anticipates the need in Washburn County to exceed it. To supplement the grant CFWC is raising funds locally including through the Out Run the Virus event.
"I have been training for an end of May 100k race since the middle of December and like a lot of good things it was cancelled due to COVID 19. Instead of wasting my training I decided to pitch a 12-hour run as a quirky fundraiser,” LeDuc told the Register.
For the Out Run the Virus fundraiser LeDuc will run alone for 12 hours starting at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, April 18, rain or shine on the Spooner High School Track running without music until 7:30 p.m.
"I will take occasional breaks to walk and take time off my feet, but my goal is to cover as many miles and laps as I can in 12 hours,” said LeDuc. Everyone who can is asked to consider making a donation of any denomination to the Out Run the Virus event online on the Event Facebook Page.
People can also sponsor LeDuc with pledge or donation based upon the miles ran or laps completed online through this Google Forms Document.
All of the funds raised through the event will go to filling the needs of Washburn County residents.
"We know there are others out there that are concerned about their neighbors and want to help and this is a good avenue to do their part,” said LeDuc. Check out Community First- Washburn County Facebook to learn more and Lakeland Family Resource Center Facebook to donate or pledge.
Partnering organizations of CFWC include Spooner Memorial Library, Mental Health Task Force of Washburn County, Spooner Health, Lakeland Family Resource Center, Community Alliance for Prevention, Washburn County Health and Human Services Department, UW-Extension and Spooner Cares.
Salvation Army Announces $1,000,000 Donation Match
Funds will support efforts to help families affected by Covid-19 crisis
ROSEVILLE, Minn. – Thanks to the generosity of several new donors, The Salvation Army Northern Division is extending a previously announced match opportunity with the addition of another $500,000, bringing total match dollars to $1,000,000. Donations made to your local Salvation Army at will now have twice the impact and help twice as many people—with gifts being matched up to $1 million.
“Even as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens, I find that the generosity of people never ceases to amaze,” said Lt. Colonel Lonneal Richardson, commander of The Salvation Army Northern Division. “This new $1,000,000 challenge match, as well as the new donations it will encourage, will help us put more food and resources in the hands of those who need it most. I personally want to thank everyone who has donated and volunteered to assist us during this unprecedented crisis.”
While programs involving congregate meals and group gatherings have been curtailed to help keep clients and staff safe, most Salvation Army programs directing aid to those in need remain in force. Meal programs have transitioned to serving “to-go” meals, and Salvation Army food pantries are now delivering most food distributions directly to client residences.
In addition, Salvation Army emergency shelters and transitional and permanent housing programs continue with added safety procedures in place and programs providing emergency financial assistance are continuing.
As more people are furloughed or laid off from work, The Salvation Army has responded to the escalating number of requests for hot meals, food shelf distributions, and emergency financial assistance for household expenses. Some service centers have seen food shelf distributions skyrocket as much as 800%. In one example, The Salvation Army responded this week to an emergency request from a St. Paul senior housing facility and provided boxes of groceries for 110 of their most vulnerable residents.
“One of The Salvation Army’s missions is to render aid during emergencies, and we’re committed to providing crisis assistance to everyone who asks,” Richardson said. “The demand is greater than we’ve ever seen and, though our resources continue to be stretched thin, we won’t stand down until the COVID-19 crisis has subsided.”
To have your gift matched for those struggling during the COVID-19 crisis, visit Volunteer information is available using the same link.
Interviews with Colonel Richardson are available; please contact Dan Furry at 651-746-3572 or [email protected] to schedule.
New emergency permits help truckers respond to COVID-19
STATEWIDE - At the direction of Gov. Tony Evers, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation today announced new emergency oversize and overweight permits that help truckers to meet the enormous health and economic demands brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need to maximize all essential supply lines in the fight toward recovery,” WisDOT Secretary-designee Craig Thompson said. “Truckers are working at their limits to help us get through this and we need to do everything we can to help them.”
Agricultural products, medical supplies, warehouse goods and all freight supplying any of the federally-defined 16 critical infrastructure sectors fall under the new permits, which authorize gross vehicle weights up to 90,000 pounds.
In addition to the efficiencies these permits offer, WisDOT is also supporting trucker by keeping all of the state’s 28 rest areas open and regularly sanitized.
About 60 fleets employed the emergency overweight permits announced in March to aid truckers supplying grocery stores affected by COVID-19. Those permits were automatically renewed and will be valid for the new weight limits.
More information is available at
Permit applications can be submitted by completing the information below and emailing it to [email protected], faxing it to 608-264-7751 Attn: COVID-19, or mailing it to Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Bureau of Highway Maintenance, P.O. Box 7980, Madison WI 53707-7980.
• WI Oversize permits account #:
• US DOT #:
• Company name:
• Address/City/State/Zip code:
• Phone number:
• Email address:
• Contact person:
• Number of units:
View this document online at the WisDOT Newsroom at:
Special beacon lighting this evening at Split Rock Lighthouse to be live-streamed
To show solidarity in the fight against COVID-19, the Minnesota Historical Society is offering a beacon of hope. This evening, Split Rock Lighthouse, which operates as an MNHS historic site, will light its beacon over Lake Superior from 8-11 p.m. “This is a way of saying to all Minnesotans, and to all people worldwide, that together we will weather this storm,” Kent Whitworth, director and CEO of MNHS, said. The beacon of the 1910 lighthouse is only lit a few times each year, reserved for select special occasions. The public can view a livestream on the Split Rock Lighthouse Facebook.
Archived Articles of COVID-19 News
Sample Theme Colors