Governor suspends school, sports to fight COVID-19 spread
In an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Tony Evers last Friday ordered the statewide closure of all K-12 schools, public and private.
The mandated closure was delayed until Wednesday, March 18, to give school districts time to make plans for kids, families, educators, and staff. Evers gave an anticipated reopening date of April 6 but said that 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.
Evers made the call Friday after the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) reported 11 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 19 cases, including one individual who has recovered. Since then, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 33.
The governor also 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.
The executive order also suspends all school spring sports activities until Monday, April 6, including all school training, practices, scrimmages and contests.
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.
Coaches may provide individual workouts virtually but cannot encourage or organize their team assembling to practice.
In a joint release, which is on today’s opinion page, Sparta School Superintendent Amy Van Deuren and her counterpart from Tomah, Cindy Zahrte, said their respective districts will make every effort to provide students with ways to learn from home with remote lesson delivery and help with tasks.
“The district is also working to ensure that students have access to school meals,” they said. “We know there will be disruptions to normal routines, and we are working to minimize the negative impacts of those disruptions, by continuing as many services as we can for as long as we can.”
Sparta and Tomah school boards will hold meetings today (Monday) for discussion and possible action regarding Coronavirus response measures. Sparta’s board meeting is at 6 p.m. at the AEC; Tomah’s board meeting is at 7 p.m. at Robert Kupper Learning Center.
City of Sparta
In anticipation of the virus possibly reaching Monroe County, the City of Sparta also is taking precautionary measures. According to Mayor Kristen Gust, the city has suspended all programs offered through the Parks & Recreation Department and has canceled any large events scheduled to take place in city facilities. However, city council and regularly scheduled city meetings will be held as usual.
Gust said the city is working with the Monroe County Health Department, whose health professionals will help it determine when activities will resume to normal.
Absentee voting encouraged
The city also is encouraging early or absentee voting for the upcoming April 7 election to crowds down at the Community Center polling station. Early voting is now open.
Voters can request an absentee ballot in the City Clerk's office or in writing and should be addressed to the City Clerk's office using the Application for Absentee Ballot form.
Absentee ballot requests can also be done online at http://myvote.wi.gov. In-House Absentee Voting is conducted at City Hall, at 201 W Oak Street, starting Monday, March 23. Hours are Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., with the last Friday before the election until 5 p.m. A photo ID is required.
Mayo Clinic Health System responds
Those showing any sign of possible COVID-19 symptoms, should contact their local health care provider. COVID-19 infection may appear two to 14 days after exposure and can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
Providers will direct people to Mayo’s dedicated COVID-19 Nurse Line. Those who meet testing criteria, will be directed to one of its local testing sites. People with symptoms should not go into a clinic or hospital to be tested.
The clinic reminds people to wash their hands, avoid touching their face, distance themselves from others, and practice appropriate self-care, including staying home when sick. It also recommends having a personal care plan in place in the event you or a family member is directly impacted by the virus.