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Door, Kewaunee Counties Report First Deaths Related to COVID-19

The Door County Public Health Department reported the first death associated with COVID-19 in Door County: a male in his 70s with underlying medical conditions.

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the individual who has passed,” the statement read. “This tragic loss is a reminder of how important the Safer at Home order is in the protection of our most vulnerable residents.”

Door County has reported nine cases of COVID-19 through April 15. There had been more than 3,600 cases reported statewide, including at least 170 deaths. To date, 30 percent of all patients confirmed to have COVID-19 in Wisconsin have been hospitalized.

Kewaunee County reported its first death the following day; it has reported four cases of COVID-19.

Door County Public Health Manager Sue Powers said there remains no evidence of community spread of the virus within Door County.

“With every positive case, Door County Public Health does an investigation,” Powers said. The department then performs contact tracing of that person’s interactions in the community, including lengthy interviews with each of those contacts.

Powers said her department is getting additional help from within the county’s Department of Health and Human Services to perform the contact tracing.

Powers also said her department limits the information released about cases because of privacy considerations. 

“It would make the cases too identifiable,” Powers said. “We take HIPAA seriously.”

She said that knowing the zip code or neighborhood where a patient lives should not change any individual behaviors in following the state’s Safer at Home guidelines.

Dr. Jim Heise, chief medical officer at Door County Medical Center, said he’s seeing progress on social distancing in the community, and it’s having a positive effect: The hospital’s hotline call volume has slowed, and the number of daily tests being performed has dropped. 

City Updates Meeting Procedures

The Sturgeon Bay Common Council is now meeting remotely via Zoom.  

“The Common Council continues to meet following its regular schedule of the first and third Tuesday of each month,” said council President Dan Williams.  

The meetings are still streamed on the city’s cable access channel and online, said administrator Josh VanLieshout. 

 “Public access and conformance to the open-meetings law is critical to local government,” said Mayor David Ward. “Residents were able to attend the April 9 meeting at City Hall.”

Ward said the city has received requests that the public be allowed to join the meeting via Zoom, which has been done in other peninsula communities, but that is not in the works for Sturgeon Bay.

“Given the lengths to which staff had gone to ensure compliance with the open-meetings law, and my personal experience participating in virtual meetings, I didn’t want to complicate administration of the meeting any more than absolutely necessary,” Ward said.

The next meeting of the Common Council will take place April 21. The public may watch live on cable access channel 988 or livestream it at sbtv.viebit.com. The council chambers will be open to the public, and public comment will be taken on agenda items.

More Events Canceled or Postponed

Add the Door County Wellness Festival, planned for June 4-7, to the list of canceled or postponed events in Door County. 

“Everyone is really bummed,” said organizer Jess Reinke, property manager and event director at the Kress Pavilion, “but we’re looking forward to when we can reschedule.”

For now, no new date has been set. The Wellness Festival joins the Door County Half Marathon (rescheduled for Oct. 31) and the Sturgeon Bay Fine Arts Fair (rescheduled for Aug. 22-23) in rescheduling events to new dates. 

Every Day Is Earth Day, Jacksonport’s Maifest and Ephraim’s Fyr Bal festival have already been canceled. 

Assembly Passes COVID-19 Relief Package

The Wisconsin Assembly passed a relief package to provide assistance to state residents, business owners and health-care workers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate was expected to pass the bill at press time on April 15. Gov. Tony Evers said he would sign it by April 17, barring any last-minute changes in the Senate.

The bill eliminates the one-week waiting period for unemployment-insurance benefits. These benefits will be applied retroactively to claims made after March 12, 2020, and will run through Feb. 7, 2021.

“This change is the No. 1 issue I have been hearing about from my constituents,” said Rep. Joel Kitchens.  

Kitchens said the legislation allows Wisconsin to obtain additional federal funding for our Medicaid programs, such as BadgerCare Plus. The state will receive an extra $150 million for each quarter that the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Additionally, the legislation ensures that Wisconsin will receive the entire $2.3 billion in federal assistance available to the state through the CARES Act.

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