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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Wisconsin, Michigan Governors Issue Orders to Stay at Home

Issue Date: March 25, 2020

Highways and byways in Marinette,Menominee and Oconto counties and pretty much all across the nation are strangely quiet this week. Schools, churches, libraries, bars and all non-essential businesses are closed. To prevent spread of the coronavirus, governors of Wisconsin, Michigan and several other states have banned gatherings of more than 10 people and have issued stay-at-home orders for all but essential outings for things like groceries, medications and employment in essential businesses.

Even jails are not accepting new inmates except under extreme circumstances, and court proceedings, medical procedures and non-essential hospital admissions are being postponed or cancelled.

The number of diagnosed coronavirus cases continues to climb, with 457 reported in Wisconsin on Wednesday, March 25. There are no cases reported yet in Marinette, Menominee or Oconto counties. Closest known cases are three in Brown County, two in Outagamie County and one in Marathon County.

On Tuesday, March 24 Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers directed Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to issue a Safer at Home order that prohibits all nonessential travel, with some exceptions as clarified and defined in the order that became effective at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, March 25 and will remain in effect until 8 a.m. on Friday, April 24, or until a superseding order is issued.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued similar orders on Monday, March 23 that became effective at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, March 24. There had been 1,328 people diagnosed with the virus since March 10 and the death toll had climbed to 15. "Don't play fast and loose with what is essential and what's not," Whitmer urged. Don't try to skirt the rules." She said fines may be levied against businesses that fail to obey the orders. "Do not panic, do not hoard," she urged.

"I know the COVID-19 outbreak has been difficult and has disrupted the lives of people across our state," Gov. Evers declared. "Issuing a Safer at Home order isn't something I thought we'd have to do and it's not something I take lightly, but here's the bottom line: folks need to start taking this seriously. "Each and every one of us has to do our part to help slow the spread of COVID-19 so we can flatten the curve to ensure our doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers have the opportunity to do their important work. Let's all do our part and work together."

According to the governor's news release, individuals do not need special permission to leave their homes, but they must comply with this order as to when it is permissible to leave home. Similarly, if a business is an Essential Business or Operation as defined in the order, it does not need documentation or certification to continue its work that is done in compliance with the order.

Under this order, Wisconsin residents are able to: "Perform tasks essential to maintain health and safety, such as obtaining medicine or seeing a doctor;

"Get necessary services or supplies for themselves or their family or household members, such as getting food and supplies, pet food and supplies necessary for staying at home;

"Care for a family member in another household; and

"Care for older adults, minors, dependents, people with disabilities or other vulnerable persons.

Businesses allowed to operate under the Safer at Home order include, but are not limited to health care operations, including home health workers; critical infrastructure; businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise vulnerable individuals; fresh and non-perishable food retailers, including convenience stores, grocery stores, farmers' markets, and food banks; businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food and goods directly to residences; pharmacies, health care supply stores and health care facilities; child care facilities, with some limitations; gas stations and auto repair facilities; banks; laundry businesses, dry cleaners and services necessary for maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of a residence, including garbage collection; hardware stores, plumbers, and electricians; educational institutions, for the purposes of facilitating distance learning; roles required for any business to maintain minimum basic operations, which includes security, and payroll; and law and safety. Essential government functions are to continue under the recommended action.

The order contains detailed information regarding exemptions provided to certain businesses and businesses unsure about whether or not they are exempted from this order may contact the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

The public is asked to follow simple steps to prevent illness and avoid exposure to this virus including:

Avoiding social gatherings with people of all ages, which means no playdates, sleepovers, parties, large family dinners, visitors in your home, and non-essential workers in your house; frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water, covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding touching your face, and staying home.

The news release concludes: "This is a rapidly evolving situation and we encourage you and the public to frequently monitor the DHS website for updates, and to follow @DHSWI on Facebook and Twitter, or dhs.wi on Instagram. Additional information can be found on the CDC website."

Outdoor walks with members of your household are permitted, but the advice is to stay at least six feet from other passers-by, and when shopping keep a 6-foot "social distance" from other customers.

Conditions are rapidly changing and various supplies are becoming more available, but on Tuesday, March 17 the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced that due to a national shortage of COVID-19 laboratory testing materials, the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene (WSLH) and the Milwaukee Health Department Laboratory (MHDL) are limiting testing to the highest priority patients and health care workers.

Although both laboratories had significantly increased their capacity for COVID19 testing, the number of samples being received continued to exceed daily capacity. Both laboratories will be testing high-priority samples from hospitalized patients and health care workers 7 days a week for the foreseeable future. Test requests that do not meet the criteria will be sent to other labs in the state and country for testing.

With the increased number of COVID-19 cases reported nationally and identified community spread in Wisconsin, health care providers are urged to prioritize testing for hospitalized patients for whom timely diagnosis of COVID-19 is critical.

Testing should be prioritized based on clinical criteria. There is no role for testing asymptomatic patients. Testing is not recommended for people with mild upper respiratory symptoms, or those with mild illnesses for which they would not normally seek medical care. It is recommended that these individuals self-isolate at home until their symptoms improve.

U. S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has announced an IRS ruling that due to coronavirus restrictions, tax day for individuals and businesses is July 15, rather than April 15.

That ruling covers both 2019 tax returns and payments due as well as estimated tax payments, and a bill setting the new date is pending in Congress. By making the administrative ruling now, the Treasury Department has provided certainty to taxpayers without waiting for Congress to act.

Effective Monday, March 23, Marinette County Courthouse and Annex will be open to the public only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Monday through Friday until further notice. In addition the Courthouse/Annex will be open for Court proceedings and for meetings in which the public has a right to attend. All entrances will be available to the public between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., but access to court proceedings or public meetings will be through the doors closest to the Veterans Memorial on the east side of the Annex which is on the Stephenson National Bank side of the Courthouse/Annex building complex, according to a news release issued by County Administrator John LeFebvre.

All County Health and Human Services Facilities will limit access to one entrance. Signs will be posted in an effort to direct the public to the appropriate entrance.

All across Marinette County municipal clerks are making plans for safe voting on Tuesday, April 7 and scrambling to get enough envelopes for those who want to cast absentee ballots.

Gov. Evers last week directed Palm to restrict the size of all child care settings. Effective Thursday, March 19 day care centers were not allowed to operate with more than 10 staff members or 50 children present at a time.

"I know many Wisconsinites are looking for ways to help during this crisis," Gov. Evers said of that order. "If you are able, keeping your kids at home is one of the actions you can take to have the most impact. I also want to recognize the child care providers around the state who are stepping up to support our communities-- we appreciate your service during this challenging time."

He said additionally, the administration is working with healthcare providers, child care providers, and the National Guard to explore options to serve healthcare workers through on-site care. It is important that these facilities are able to provide the same level of care and health precautions for staff and children. More information on this effort will be available in the coming days.

Marinette County Public Health Officer Molly Bonjean offered advice as well. "We in Marinette County can rally together. If you have capacity to care for kids whose parents are on the front line of COVID-19 response, especially health care providers, please consider helping your neighbors during this difficult time."

Evers announced on Monday that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has approved Wisconsin's request for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to access low-interest federal disaster loans.

"This is very good news for Wisconsin businesses that have already suffered financial losses due to the COVID-19 outbreak," he said. "With the SBA loans now available to our state, small businesses and their employees have a little more certainty over their financial futures. This is another step in providing much-needed assistance to Wisconsin's small businesses."

With unprecedented demand for the loans nationwide, processing of the applications may be delayed. "We are encouraging business owners to reach out to SBA's partners and to SBA's offices with their questions to help the loan application process go as smoothly as possible," said Wisconsin's SBA district director, Eric Ness.

Under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, businesses and non-profits may qualify for up to $2 million in loans to cover losses resulting from the pandemic. The interest rate on the loans is 3.75% for for-profit businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits. Participants may be able to extend payments for up to 30 years. Businesses and non-profits can begin their loan applications at the sba.gov/disaster website.


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