Letter from Representative Joel Kitchens

Dear neighbor,

The COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly be one of those monumental generational events that forever changes our worldview. Our young people will someday tell their children and grandchildren about it. It will affect each of us in a different way, and it will play out somewhat differently in every part of the country. It is my hope that in Door County, it will be remembered as a time when we came together, took care of each other and strengthened our sense of community.

As Wisconsinites, we tend to think of ourselves as strong individualists who meet challenges head on and would never let a threat such as this interfere with the way we live our lives. I will admit that my own immediate inclination was to continue to meet with people and do the job I was elected to do. If I became sick, so be it. I now realize that this is a very selfish and irresponsible response. I am confident that I am in good health and that I would recover from the illness uneventfully, but I would very likely infect other people who may not survive it.

We must each take social distancing very seriously, not so much to protect our own health but to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us. It is our moral responsibility. Thirty-five percent of the residents of Door County are older than 65. We learned from the State of Washington that when COVID-19 enters a nursing home, it is a virtual death sentence for many of the residents. The actions of every one of us will determine whether that happens here.

Whether we individually become ill or not, COVID-19 will exact a heavy toll on all of us. Our Public Health Department and Door County Medical Center are doing an admirable job in preparing for the impending medical emergency, but I worry for the workers, the business owners and our older residents who have seen their retirement plans shrink dramatically. Parents are scrambling to make arrangements for child care while others may need help with obtaining food or medications. Now is the time for us to take care of each other.

In that vein, I am incredibly impressed by the effort coming from our fire chiefs, emergency personnel, volunteers and the Peninsula Pulse and being led by Sister Bay/Liberty Grove Fire Chief Chris Hecht. Perhaps I should not be surprised – Door County has always stepped up when neighbors are in need. Once again, we are leading the way with an ambitious, proactive and humanitarian plan that may serve as a model for other communities.

Visitors to my office in the Capitol invariably marvel at the beauty of the gallery of photographs of my district. Beyond the physical beauty of our area, it is the strength, resourcefulness and compassion of our residents that make this such a special place to live. I am completely confident that we will look out for each other, and I thank those who have already come forward. My office will continue to work to keep you informed and to provide assistance wherever we can. Together, we will get through this, and we will emerge even stronger in the end. 

Yours in service,

Representative Joel Kitchens