Community Leaders Join Forces in Midst of COVID-19 Crisis

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Michelle Phillips
Signs like the one at Middleton City Hal indicating that a building is closed can be seen at businesses around the city and Dane County.

MIDDLETON–At the request of Middleton resident Bartlett Durand, community leaders came together in a Zoom meeting last week to provide updates and share resources of how the community can pull together during the COVID-19 outbreak. The virtual meeting, which was the first of regularly scheduled Friday meeting with the group, has been given the moniker Good Neighbor Hub.

He expressed his concern with the psychology of the community, and said he wanted to make sure no one was left behind during the crisis. “I’m kind of scared for our community. People are isolated and I’m worried,” Durand said. He added that he would like people to call on the six neighbors on either side of them to find out their needs and concerns.

City Administrator Mike Davis spoke first after Mayor Gurdip Brar, who was on the call could not be heard. Davis said the main concern for the city had been the upcoming election, urging residents to vote absentee. 

“That would be very much appreciated,” Davis said, “because there is more risk when you send people out to the polls.”

Davis said as of now the election is still on for April 7, and that the city is in need of poll workers.

He said that the city buildings are still closed, although there are some employees in the buildings and working from home. 

Meals are being provided for students at the Middleton Youth Center and schools, and the Middleton Senior Center is still serving Meals on Wheels to clients, Davis included.

Durand reminded that people can connect with the city through their Facebook page, Notify Me and the app Nextdoor.

He asked if there were any issues with power or the water supply, and Davis said there weren’t.

Middleton Police Department Community Resource Officer Tom Wilson spoke next and said there was a slight change in operations at the police department, which remains open. He said that citizens are being asked to communicate through email or telephone as much as possible. Wilson said a barrier had been put in place in the lobby to protect staff and residents when it is necessary for in person contact. 

The police have generally stopped going on EMS calls when a patient is involved, and Wilson said community outreach programs have been halted at this time. In addition, the police are releasing people after arrest as much as possible rather than taking them to the Dane County Jail.

“In general, since this started, our calls have gone down. There are less calls and general situations in which people are out and about,” Wilson said.

He said as peoples’ frustration levels go up, there could be an increase in calls involving mental health concerns or domestic situations.

He expressed concern about Durand’s suggestion of knocking on neighbors doors. He said people generally don’t like solicitation, and may be less likely to come to the door at this time. If residents plan to call on others, Wilson suggests, going two people at a time, during daylight hours and explain your purpose. “People can get upset and start yelling,” Wilson said. “Walk away, don’t engage anybody.”

John Hausbeck, Environmental Health Care Supervisor form the Environmental Health office of Public Health of Madison and Dane County (PHMDC) gave an update on COVID-19 in the county. At that time, he stated that there were 43 cases in Dane County, by Tuesday that number had grown to 72. “Hopefully the orders put in place will flatten the curve,” he told the group.

He said the PHMDC is doing everything they can to make sure that those who need care get to the hospital. New guidelines have been put in place, and indicate that once a person recovers from COVID-19, they can return to normal activities. At this time, only one person has fully recovered, and five have died, and the total number of confirmed cases had neared 500 in the state by March 24. 

To be considered recovered, a patient must be fever free for at least 72 hours, have a reduction in symptoms and be seven days past the onset of the illness. “All three of things must be true,” Hausbeck said. 

He added that 911 dispatcher have a list of where COVID-19 patients are located in the county, but the list will not be made public. He said at some point they will not be able to keep that up.

Hausbeck reminded that the illness can be transmitted by those that are asymptomatic. “That’s one reason we are asking people to maintain distancing,” he added. “You may think it’s just allergies or a cold, but should still isolate,” he said.

Middleton Cross Plains Area School District Superintendent Dana Monogue was next to speak. She said that the district decided to close school two days earlier than the state required, and told participants, “Our world has been turned upside down in a number of ways.”

She said that the school is providing nine pick up points for meal pick up for students in need of food, and are open every day from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. The school is offering lunch and breakfast for the following morning, Monday-Friday. So far, about $30,000 has been raised in the community to provide the meals.

Monogue said the school will begin e-learning on April 1, and has worked hard to make sure all students have the technology they need, including electronic devices and Internet access. The school distributed Chromebooks on March 20 to students who needed devices.

She said the school is making sure hourly employees would not have to worry about a paycheck during the shutdown. “That is something we are committed to doing,” she said.

“There have been whispers that we will not be going back to school this year,” she said. “Today, I would say that is almost a certainty.”

She said she knows there are rites of passage for seniors this time of year, and the school is trying to come up with alternate plans for events like prom and graduation.

Monogue said there are “thoughts and concerns” for the most in need students and families, and there are worries that those gaps will increase. However, the district has no intention of sending people to homes for instruction.

Buildings in the district remain closed, but Monogue said building projects are scheduled to continue.

She said the school has been inundated with help and volunteers.

Tammy Derrickson, Middleton Senior Center Director, gave an update, and said COVID-19 had a major impact on programing at the center. “We are mainly an activity center,” she stated, and added that their building was closed, aside from a few employees that are still working. 

She said that case management services and Meals on Wheels are still available to residents. Derrickson added that the senior center is part of Dane County Area on Aging, and takes directives from the agency.

She said that the center has been serving meals five days a week,, but will be dropping a couple of days, and added that seniors will still receive the same number of meals. She said to get meals delivers, residents must go through a case manager, and can call to talk with someone. They will also take referrals from concerned citizens.

Derrickson said RSVP, a volunteer service that offers rides to seniors, is still in operation, but only for essential trip such as dialysis and chemotherapy. 

She said they, too, have be inundated with offers of volunteers. People are really stepping up,” she said.

Derrickson warned that seniors are vulnerable to scams, and seniors are on high alert right now.

Of the COVID-19 outbreak, Derrickson said, “My feeling is there is a little bit of shock right now with this.”

Middleton Outreach Ministry (MOM) Director Ellen Carlson said there has been some reorganization of positions and processes at the facility. Instead of a shopping pantry, MOM is offering food boxes to those in need. Volunteers have been enlisted to fill and hand out boxes at the pantry parking lot.

She said case managers can still assist people who are needing food or have financial needs. Carlson said federal guidelines have changed for the program. “It used to be an average monthly income, now it’s an average weekly income,” she said, and added that the guideline for a family of four is less than $932 to meet eligibility.

She said the facility also offers emergency food for those who show up at MOM. “There is no shortage of food,” she added.

Carlson said the biggest need right now is financial assistance, and donations of funds are welcome.

Middleton Youth Center Director Gabrielle Hinahara said the youth center is also closed, but working with families to help provide food. She said they distributed 30 boxes of food last Monday to families of students who attend the center. 

“We try to include household supplies and an educational activity,” she said.

Hinahara said that the center is working to provide resources to families, including virtual help with homework.

She said, that the youth center is also in need of monetary donations and has raised about $1,000 so far. Although there about 30-40 people currently accessing resources through the facility, Hinahara said she expects that number to go up.

Durand thanked those for their participation, and said that he hopes the city can pool its resource. He encouraged those willing to help tot reach out to him.






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