Provisions Made Around County in Wake of Social Distancing

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By: 
Matt Geiger
Panic set in after officials asked people to be prepared to isolate themselves for 14 days. Selves holding toilet paper like the one above, were bare in spite of stores around the county limiting purchases to two packages.

DANE COUNTY–Matt Raboin had tears in his eyes when he put up a temporary “closed” sign on the business he and his wife run in Mount Horeb last week. 

Like most places where people gather in the community, Brix Cider’s strength had suddenly become a potential weakness. Schools. Churches. Sporting events. Even a maple syrup event at Donald Park. It seemed nothing was safe from the global impact of COVID-19, the pandemic that world health experts warn could kill as many as a million people if drastic measures aren’t taken. 

While the virus originated in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, according to the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC), it spread exponentially and had arrived in Wisconsin two weeks ago. 

Experts say no one will know how many people in Wisconsin have been infected for weeks or even months. But in the meantime, the Raboins know the virus has already made an indelible impact on the community. 

“It hurts to close the business that we love,” said Matt. “We have also been walking a fine line in terms of cash flow since we opened, so it’s very scary financially to shut off our main source of income for an undetermined period of time.  It’s scary, but it’s the right thing to do. Hopefully we’ll be proved wrong, but I would rather not take chances when people’s lives are at stake.”

While most healthy young people who catch COVID-19 will experience few, if any symptoms, the mortality rate for certain populations is much higher than more common diseases. According to the CDC, the death rate for people ages 70-79 with COVID-19 is eight percent. The death rate for those over 80 is close to 15 percent. 

Public health officials are still working to determine just how dangerous the virus is for the general population, but current estimates show it kills anywhere from one to four percent of the people who get it. 

While children are not immune to the virus, they rarely get sick from it, leaving doctors scratching their heads as they work to better understand the new disease that many know simply as “coronavirus.” (There are actually many coronaviruses, but the COVID-19 disease is newer and more dangerous than most associated with them.)

Perhaps the most disruptive impact so far is the closure of schools here and across the country. 

Just a week ago, local superintendents sent out messages saying they were monitoring the spread of the illness. Then, at the end of last week, news broke that school would be cancelled in the middle of this week. By Sunday, following several emergency meetings, most schools closed their doors effective immediately, until at least early April and maybe longer.

“In the best interests of the health of our students, staff, and families, and based on the direction provided by Public Health Madison and Dane County, the following public schools in Dane County and surrounding area will be closing effective immediately as of Sunday, March 15, 2020,” said a joint statement issued by 21 superintendents, including those in Mount Horeb, Middleton, New Glarus, Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin Heights and more. “This closure will extend minimally through Friday, April 3.  Individual school districts will be sending out more detailed information to their families and staff as soon as possible, but collectively agreed to close schools immediately. We appreciate your understanding as we continue to navigate through this rapidly evolving situation.”

WILL SPRING ELECTION TAKE PLACE?

In light of bans on large gatherings, will the April 7 Spring Election still take place in Wisconsin? Georgia was the first state to delay its upcoming election. Other states, including New York, began postponing theirs, as well. Sending nearly every member of a community to one or two polling places on a single day would be one of the most efficient ways to spread the disease. 

The Spring Election will determine who sits on local school and municipal boards, as well as playing a part in determining who runs for President on the Democratic ticket this fall. 

Mary Jo Michek, the clerk and treasurer in the Village of Blue Mounds, attended a virtual webinar on Monday of this week regarding contingency plans for the spring election. She and Blue Mounds chief of Police Joe Hoops took part in a conference call with Dane County emergency management department two days earlier, as well.

While Michek wanted to find out if the election would even take place, she worked to make it as safe as possible. 

“Right now, my plan is to encourage early voting and absentee voting for anyone that wants it,” she said. “I am meeting with my chief inspectors on March 23 to review plans and schedules in the event any of my poll workers becomes ill.  We will have a box of pens – come in to vote, get a pen, use that and then place it into a bucket on their way out which will then be disinfected before another uses it. Hand sanitizer and gloves available - I will be disinfecting every handle, and surface continually.   We will make curb side voting available to anyone that is fearful of coming in.  We also usually have cookies available and that will not be happening this time around! All the election machines will be disinfected routinely throughout the day also.”

Michek informed any workers with underlying health issues that they will not be staffing the polls this year. She urged as many people as possible to vote early.  

By this Monday she had received more than 30 requests for absentee ballots. 

On March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. At a special meeting on March 12, the Wisconsin Elections Commission took two actions designed to deal with concerns about Coronavirus in advance of the April 7 Spring Election and Presidential Preference Primary and the May 12 Special Election in Congressional District 7. On the same day, Governor Evers issued an executive order “proclaiming that a public health emergency exists in the State of Wisconsin as a result of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.” One day later, President Donald Trump made a national emergency declaration. 

First, the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) directed municipal clerks to mail absentee ballots directly to residents in nursing homes and care facilities instead of dispatching teams of special voting deputies to those places where vulnerable populations live. Normally, teams of special voting deputies and political party observers conduct voting in common areas and potentially in residents’ rooms to assist with absentee voting.

“We understand the concern of protecting our most vulnerable voters is paramount,” said Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin’s chief elections official. “The Commission is taking this action in consultation with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and its pending directive to limit public visits to nursing homes and care facilities.”

Second, the Commission acted to give municipal clerks flexibility to relocate polling places currently slated to be in nursing homes and other facilities where public health is a concern. Under state law, municipalities must establish locations for polling places at least 30 days before an election, which has already passed (on April 7). The Commission’s action will allow clerks to find alternate polling place locations as needed.  The Commission will also help clerks publicize new polling place locations so voters can find them.

Wolfe said the WEC staff had been working continuously over the week “to assess the COVID-19 situation, provide clerks with sound guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, and develop additional guidance for clerks and voters in advance of the coming elections.”

“We understand everyone has pressing and important concerns regarding COVID-19,” Wolfe said. “We share clerks’ mission and sense of urgency in ensuring each of Wisconsin’s voters has access to exercise their right to vote without jeopardizing their health or the health of others.”

The Commission held two special webinars for clerks this  Monday to address COVID-19 issues and is providing continuous updates that will be posted in real time on this newspaper’s website. 

Commission Chair Dean Knudson said the WEC may hold additional special meetings in the coming weeks to address additional public health concerns as they may arise, including encouraging Wisconsin residents to request absentee ballots by mail or to vote absentee in-person before the election.

In one small, rural town in Wisconsin, the clerk overseeing the election said she was drawing on past experiences as she prepared for the election. Vermont clerk Katie Zelle was previously the director for a residential summer program during the H1N1 pandemic, so she knew to plan ahead. 

“I was lucky in that I saw this coming and ordered extra absentee ballot envelopes several weeks ago,” said Zelle. 

“With an additional case of corona virus confirmed in Dane County on Tuesday of [last] week, the Town of Vermont is making plans to ensure that the upcoming election on April 7 will be unaffected and that residents are able to cast their ballots without concern that their health is at risk,” Zelle said. 

“We encourage you to vote absentee, particularly if you or anyone in your household is elderly, medically frail or has respiratory issues, such as asthma,” she continued. You can request your ballot online at myvote.wi.gov.

Your ballot can be mailed to you, or even emailed, if you prefer. The last day to request an absentee ballot is April 2, but municipalities began mailing ballots on Monday of this week.

“If you plan to vote in person, there are common sense precautions you can take to protect yourself and others when you come to vote,” Zelle said. “If you would like to bring your own black pen, you are welcome to use your own, rather than ours. If you still need to register to vote you can do so online or by mail until March 18, to save you time at the polls. Additionally, as always, wash your hands frequently and try to avoid touching your face. When possible, maintain a six-foot distance from others while waiting to vote.”

Per the Dane County Health Department, Vermont will be wiping down all commonly touched surfaces at least once per hour and following any additional suggestions they may have.

“If you are interested in being a poll worker, we could still use a list of people we could call in the event that one or more poll workers are ill,” said Zelle. “In the event that we have fewer poll workers on April 7 please plan to allow a little extra time to vote. We will do everything we can to make sure voting is as safe, easy and secure as it always is.”

Late on Monday of this week, Mount Horeb Village administrator Nic Owen reported that County Clerk Scott McDonnell joined an emergency management conference call and said “there are no plans to postpone the upcoming April 7 election and they are urging everyone to vote absentee.”

Mount Horeb village clerk Alyssa Gross held another conference call Monday afternoon with election officials to continue planning for the election.

“The one big concern with mail-in absentee ballots is having enough envelopes for the ballots,” said Owen. “The county is currently working on a solution to this concern.  People are encouraged to request a ballot to vote absentee by mail.  We will also start with in-person absentee voting on Wednesday.”

“We have also decided that we will be closing Village Offices at the end of the business day [Monday] to do our part to reduce person-to-person contact and to help slow the spread,” said Owen. “In-person absentee voting will begin on Wednesday; to accommodate this we will be leaving the front door open and directing people to the second floor conference room.  Staff will still be working in the offices, but in-person contact will be minimal and we will only allow people in by making appointments.”

ABSENTEE VOTING

There are several ways registered voters can request absentee ballots. If they have internet access, the easiest way is to sign up at MyVote Wisconsin, myvote.wi.gov.

Just look for the “Vote Absentee” button near the top of the page. On a mobile phone, use the menu button in the upper right corner of the website. There is a three-step process that starts with putting in your name and date of birth, followed by requesting your ballot. If you don’t already have a photo ID on file with your clerk’s office, you can upload a copy. Mobile phone users can take a picture and upload it to MyVote. Absentee ballot requests submitted this way go directly to your clerk’s office, and you can track your ballot by returning to the website.

Voters can also request absentee ballots by mailing, emailing or faxing their municipal clerk’s office. You can find your clerk’s contact information on MyVote Wisconsin. These requests must be accompanied by a copy of your photo ID.   If you already have a photo ID on file from previous absentee requests under your current registration, you will not need to provide it again.

Voters who are indefinitely confined, meaning they may have difficulty getting to the polls for reason of age, illness, infirmity, or disability are not required to provide a photo ID.  Voters in care facilities can have a representative of the facility confirm the resident’s identity instead of providing a photo ID.  More information on photo ID and exemptions can be found at bringit.wi.gov. 

The deadline for registered voters to request an absentee ballot be mailed to you is the Thursday before the election, April 2. However, the WEC urges voters not to wait, due to possible delays in mail delivery.  If you get an absentee ballot mailed to you, you can still decide to vote at the polls on Election Day if you haven’t returned it.

Your absentee ballot must be received in your clerk’s office or at your polling place by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Again, the WEC urges voters to request and return ballots as soon as possible.

GOVERNOR DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY

In his statement on March 12, Governor Tony Evers said six people in Wisconsin had been infected. The governor signed an executive order that directs DHS to take all necessary and appropriate measures to prevent and respond to incidences of COVID-19. It allows the Department to purchase, store, or distribute appropriate medications, regardless of insurance or other health coverage, as needed to respond to the emergency. It also authorizes state funds to support local health departments with costs related to isolation and quarantine, as well as the use of the Wisconsin National Guard.

One day later, he reported the number had risen to 19. 

Evers then directed the Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to issue an agency order mandating the statewide closure of all K-12 schools, public and private, as part of the state’s efforts to respond to and contain the spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin. 

“The mandated closure will begin on Wednesday, March 18, in order to give school districts ample time to make plans for kids, families, educators, and staff. School districts, particularly those in counties with reported cases of COVID-19, may choose to close earlier than Wednesday,” said the governor’s office. “The anticipated reopening date is April 6, 2020; however, the reopening date is subject to change pending further information.”

“Closing our schools is not a decision I made lightly, but keeping our kids, our educators, our families, and our communities safe is a top priority as we continue our work to respond to and prevent further spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin,” said Evers.

Earlier that day, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 11 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 19 cases, including one individual who had already recovered.

“Kids and families across Wisconsin often depend on our schools to access food and care,” Evers continued. “We are going to continue working to do everything we can to ensure kids and families have the resources and support they need while schools are closed.”

‘SOME OF US MAY BECOME SICK’- CHURCHES GO VIRTUAL

In times of fear, anxiety and stress, many people turn to their respective faith communities for support. Synagogues, churches and mosques are places where people go when the world seems unsteady beneath their feet. 

But with the current pandemic, many of those places of worship opted to close their doors, focusing on the physical well-being of their communities, as well as their theological health. But that doesn’t mean they stopped playing a role in how people dealt with the situation. 

“Like several other churches in the area, Mt Vernon UCC has suspended our in-church services for the time being,” said Rev. Brad Brookins, who oversees Mt. Vernon Zwingli United Church of Christ. “My plan is to stay in touch with my folks through email meditations, updates and educational materials.”

“I am also working setting up a Zoom conferencing facility to carry on some on-screen, face-to-face conversations.  There will be more, I’m sure,” he said. “I think we’re in for a long haul.”

In his first “viral meditation” sent to parishioners, Brookins quoted a passage from the Book of Mark: 

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Don’t you trust me yet?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” 

“We are in a viral storm right now,” Brookins mused. “A storm unlike anything any of us has ever seen. The situation before us is, in fact serious and the danger we face is, in fact, real. Before this is over many more people will be made sick—some of us may become sick.”

“There will be times when we will be sure our boat is sinking,” he continued. “So take a moment right now to remember who is in the boat, weathering the storm, with us. Wake him up and listen again to his voice: “You don’t need to be afraid. Trust me.” It may seem to us that panic and fear are the obvious and reasonable responses to what we face. They are not. Rather, for us, trust in Jesus and a calm resolution to do what we can do right now is the obvious and reasonable response. I will have more to say on the ‘what we can do right now’ part very soon. For now, though, just listen to the voice that calmed the storm. ‘Don’t be afraid. Trust me.’ That same voice will calm us now. Remember—God is always with us. We are never alone.”

At the United Methodist Church in Mount Horeb, Rev. Julie Wilson also turned to technology to support her congregation.

“We canceled in person worship and all church events this week and next,” she said. “Also, our Easter Egg Hunt scheduled for April 5. Our worship team met this morning and livestream worship on our church Facebook page.”

“I’m encouraging my members to use this time to connect with one another,” said Wilson. “Check in on friends and neighbors. I see this as an opportunity for us to be the church in a different way.”

“I am working with neighbors helping neighbors to get food and other essentials to people,” she continued. “I will have more specifics this afternoon. I have had a lot of people reaching out for ways to help.”

On March 13, Public Health Madison & Dane County issued orders to stop mass gatherings of 250 or more people across the county to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The order was soon updated to include places of worship and religious gathering centers of over 250 people, effective March 14 at 4 p.m.

“Limiting large gatherings of people is an important tool to prevent the spread of illness. We would like to thank all the places of worship who have taken measures to protect their patron’s health and safety regardless of gathering size,” said Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County. 

Father Chahm Gahng, who oversees the St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Mount Horeb, said Monday that he received notice from Bishop Donald Hying, bishop of the Diocese of Madison, announcing they are suspending the celebration of public masses as of Tuesday, March 17 and until at least Friday. April 3. All non-essential parish gatherings are to be post-poned.

WIAA CANCELS ALL REMAINING WINTER STATE TOURNAMENT SERIES EVENTS

On March 12, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association determined all remaining games of the State Girls Basketball Tournament, and the boys basketball sectional finals and the State Tournament will be canceled in response to the evolving concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

“The WIAA regrets the lost opportunity for teams and players that have worked to achieve their goals and the communities that have supported them throughout the year,” said a statement issued by the organization.

“I want the student-athletes and their coaches to know that your school leaders, the WIAA Executive Staff, our committees and the Board of Control have done everything imaginable to try to provide and preserve these opportunities for you,” Executive Director Dave Anderson said. “However, we want and need to be responsible in helping the global and state efforts to stem the tide and spread of this virus.”

Earlier on the same day, the WIAA was informed the Kohl Center would not be available for the State Boys Basketball Tournament scheduled for March 19-21. 

Tickets for the WIAA Girls and Boys State Basketball tournaments will be refunded in full. 

Evers’ executive order issued Friday, March 13 closed all public and private schools, and suspended all school spring sports activities extending from Wednesday, March 13, 2020, until Monday, April 6 at the earliest. 

In response, the WIAA has updated its athletic participation limitations to adhere to the executive order as stated on the WIAA’s Infectious Disease option.

Consistent with. Evers’ announcement Friday, all school training, practices, scrimmages and contests were suspended. 

“In addition, schools and coaches may not bring students together or be involved with students during this time period for any extracurricular or athletic purposes, which includes practices and other instructional/organizational purposes,” stated the WIAA. “Coaches may provide individual workouts virtually, but shall not encourage or organize their team assembling to practice.”

FOR POLICE, FEW CHANGES

“We have been monitoring the situation and discussing protocols with other departments in the area,” said Doug Vierck, the chief of police in Mount Horeb. “Lt. Gretzinger and I have been in communication with village officials and county officials from Dane County Emergency Management to keep up to date on best practices and the current data for the local area.”

“There has not been a large impact to our protocols at this time,” he continued. “We have made minor changes to prevent the spread of viruses.  These include, but are not limited to keeping distance when the situation allows, contacting people via phone in non-emergent situations, not responding to medical calls with flu like symptoms where officers are not equipped to provide treatment or assistance, and reminders to wash hands and keep cars and equipment sanitized.”

PANDEMIC HAS ECONOMIC IMPACT

Other gathering places were impacted as well. The Driftless Historium, a museum and cultural center located in downtown Mount Horeb, closed its doors to the public for the time being. 

“The Driftless Historum will temporarily close to the public effective Monday, March 16 due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), as a public health precaution and for the safety of our staff and volunteers,” said Destinee K. Udelhoven Executive Director of the Driftless Historium History Center and Mount Horeb Area Historical Society. “Updates will be made available when possible. We are monitoring the guidance of the CDC and local public health officials.”

As some businesses closed their doors, area chambers of commerce grappled with the situation, as well. 

“The chamber does have an internal action plan based off of [the] level of threat as determined by local, state, and federal government advisories,” said Tiffany King, executive director of the Mount Horeb Area Chamber of Commerce. 

“Currently we are conducting business as usual with added precautions of no handshakes, continued handwashing and sanitation, and advising people to stay home if they feel ill,” King continued. “We want to underscore the economic impact that widespread panic could have on our small businesses. Some businesses are already feeling the effects of the isolation and we are working with those businesses to try to find solutions that work for them and their employees. Education and caution is important for prevention and we will continue to monitor the situation with the CDC and WHO (World Health Organization), and funnel information to the business community consistently.”

LOOKING AHEAD…

After temporarily closing the doors to their cider company and eatery in Mount Horeb, Matt and Marie Raboin worried about the future of their business. But the felt closing was the right thing to do in the interest of public health. 

“I think we came to the decision after tossing and turning in bed for a few nights,” said Matt. “Our business is about building community.  Normally we bring people together for local food, local drink, live music, and events.  Coronavirus changes that, and building community right now requires taking bold steps to control the spread of the virus and protect one another.  Staying open at this time would be doing the community a great disservice.”

They know firsthand about how illness can impact a family.

“Our son was hospitalized multiple times for respiratory problems a couple years ago, and I know how terrifying it can be to spend long days and nights in an ICU with a loved one who is struggling to breath,” he continued. “It would be far more terrifying in an overcrowded hospital where patients’ care is compromised.  We’ll put our trust in the opinions of the experts who are telling us that it is important to take precautions now before the situation goes out of control.”

In an effort to keep their business afloat and feed a community where social distancing and isolation have become the norm, many businesses turned to online purchasing and deliveries. 

“This week we’re planning to sell ‘community food boxes’ that people can order on our website and that we will deliver to their door in order to minimize interactions,” said Matt. “We hope that this will be a way to continue to feed people safely and build community.” Those boxes are now being offered through the Brix website, and several other local businesses instituted similar programs.

FREE FOOD FOR THOSE WHO NEED IT

By Sunday evening, the reality of the widespread impact of the pandemic – whether or not the virus ever actually becomes prevalent in local communities – was becoming clear. 

As reports of the pandemic spread, many people stocked up on supplies, emptying shelves of disinfectants, toilet paper, canned goods and more. At local grocery stores, there were no scenes of panic, no one pushing or shouting, but people did wear thinly veiled worry on their faces as they piled non-perishable food items into their shopping carts. 

But those worries were not only for themselves. Many people quickly began to think of the people in local communities who are food insecure, and who rely on subsidized or free school lunches to feed their children throughout the school year. 

In Mount Horeb, the school district moved up its timeline for supplying breakfast and lunch to students even when schools are closed. 

Beginning Monday and running through the mandatory period of school closure, including spring break, the district offered food at six locations in the community: 

Blue Mounds (Division Street/Main Street) 11:30-12:00

Grundahl Park (Parking lot on S Blue Mounds Street) 11:30-11:45

Mount Horeb Family Aquatic Center 11:50–12:05

Waltz Park (Near Shelter) 12:10-12:30

Zwingli United Church of Christ (Mount Vernon) 11:30-12:00

Mount Horeb Area School District Office 7:00-3:30 (Beginning Monday, March 14, 2020 at 11:30 a.m.) 

But children do not require only food to flourish. They also need social and intellectual stimulation, which will be hard to come by as families are urged by healthcare professionals to avoid playdates. 

“This, too, continues to be an area of great concern for our dedicated staff,” wrote Mount Horeb superintendent Steve Salerno. “It is comforting to know we have families that are able to provide continued monitoring of our young peoples’ mental health and wellness status.”

Student Services staff members and teachers were asked to make personal contacts to children they know experience significant anxiety and might wish to have a friendly point of contact. “If you wish to reach out for support, we will be asking all employees of the District to check their emails twice daily,” said Salerno. 

School nurses Pam Schaal (4K-5th) and CJ Goodwin (6-12 grade) spent the weekend developing two informative, age appropriate video presentations about COVID-19 and the steps families/students can take to address the mental health side of these disconcerting developments. The district sent links to those videos to all families. 

WHAT IMPACT WILL THIS HAVE ON THE SCHOOL CALENDAR?

“We do not know; however, we are pleased to find the following passage in Governor Evers’ update to schools,” said Salerno. “The DPI has stated they will be empathetic to the ability of a district to reasonably meet the hours requirement. We will be drafting a letter asking for special dispensation. More information to follow. I am certain there are many questions left unanswered by this letter. This is an evolving process, and our COVID-19 Response Team is deeply appreciative of your continued patience and grace.”

‘A TOTALLY VULNERABLE POPULATION’

Dr. Sarah Fox is a family medicine physician and vice president of medical services for primary care at Upland Hills Health. She said the medical community is working to better understand the virus, its effects on health, and ways to treat it. In the meantime, the general public will play a vital role in slowing the spread of the pandemic. 

“We just launched, at Upland Hills, some … testing to confirm if it’s spreading in the community,” she explained Monday. Once the virus is documented, hospitals will “back down” from testing every patient and simply advice the majority of people with symptoms to stay home, try to stay isolated, and not visit clinics or emergency rooms where they are likely to infect the most vulnerable populations. 

Fever alone is not a sufficient reason to visit the hospital, she said, but severe shortness of breath and difficulty breathing are. 

Fox said COVID-19 is often present in the community for several weeks before the first positive test results, meaning infected people unknowingly spread it as they go about their daily lives. 

“Our goal is to try to cut this off before it gets to the most vulnerable people,” she said. “Maybe it seems like [the response is] over the top, but we’re fortunate that this is reaching our communities a little later, and we are able to learn from what happened before, and quite honestly some of the mistakes that were made.”

Hyperbolic online rhetoric has claimed the virus is part of a biological war, while some people believe it doesn’t exist and others are consumed with panic. The truth is, COVID-19 is a new virus, and doctors don’t yet know enough about it to answer every question. 

“We have limited resources and delaying the most severe cases will give us time,” Fox explained. “Time to learn more about it. Time to learn what medicines might hurt, or what medicines might hurt.”

“The success of this is very much dependent on the public,” she added. “If we are able to look back on this and say it was all an overreaction, in many ways that’s the best case scenario; that means we were successful.”

While many Wisconsinites were able to work from home, that’s not true for most doctors and nurses. 

“We have to continue delivering babies,” Fox pointed out. 

In the future, people might develop some immunity to COVID-19. But even that immunity might be temporary, as with some viruses, rather than permanent, as with others (like chicken pox). 

In the meantime, local communities have, for the most part, banded together to help “flatten the curve” – a term for preventing too many cases from occurring at once - and prevent the disease from overwhelming hospitals and resources. That social distancing will have real economic effects, and societal ones, too. But it could save lives. 

“Right now we have no immunity,” Fox said. “It’s just a totally vulnerable population.”

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