Businesses ordered to close

The Rusk County Health Department issued a travel advisory, Monday, as the state tries to slow the spread of a growing coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers directed the state Department of Health Services to issue a 16-page “Safer at Home” order that prohibits all nonessential travel, with some exceptions. It orders all individuals within the state to stay at home or at their place of residence, with limited exceptions. It takes effect at 8 a.m., Wednesday, March 25, and will remain in place until 8 a.m., Friday,  April 24, or until a superseding order is issued.

People may leave their homes only for essential functions, essential governmental functions, essential businesses and operations, minimum basic operations, essential travel and special situation.

These moves follow decisions last week to close to the public the Rusk County Government Center and Ladysmith City Hall. They join many other businesses and public facilities that have restricted access or closed as the Rusk County Community Library also has done.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported on Monday that five people have died from the COVID-19 coronavirus. Statewide, there have been 416 total cases with 7,050 negative test results.

Officials encourage people who are sick to call a healthcare provider before visiting a clinic or hospital to minimize the spread of both COVID-19 and seasonal flu.

“I know the COVID-19 outbreak has been difficult and has disrupted the lives of people across our state. 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,” Evers said. “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 health care workers have the opportunity to do their important work. Let’s all do our part and work together.”

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 this order, it does not need documentation or certification to continue its work that is done in compliance with this order.

This order is enforceable by any local law enforcement official, including county sheriffs. Violation or obstruction of this order is punishable by up to 30 days imprisonment, or up to $250 fine, or both.

As of this week Tuesday, within the past 72 hours, positive COVID-19 cases have risen in the United States 119 percent, from 15,219 to 33,404 and have risen in state 102 percent from 206 to 416. Public health officials estimate the actual number of state residents infected with COVID-19 is significantly higher and likely present in every county in the state.

At the current growth in the number of people infected, the number of people needing medical care due to COVID-19 will significantly exceed the amount of available healthcare resources.

There have been five deaths with three in Milwaukee County and one each in Ozaukee and Fond du Lac counties.

The Rusk County Public Health Officer has authority to set forth certain recommendations and directives to protect the health, welfare and safety of people and property in Rusk County, according to Health Officer Dawn Brost.

“Our messaging is to stay at home,” Brost said.

There have been 12 people tested in Rusk County for COVID-19 with eight being negative and 4 with results pending. Prevea Health can test as well as Marshfield Clinic-Ladysmith. Marshfield Clinic determines if the testing will occur at the clinic or the emergency department.

The public is encouraged to practice social distancing — keeping at least 6 feet apart from others and avoiding direct physical contact — as the only effective means of slowing the rate of infection. Despite prior emergency orders banning mass gatherings, the rates of infection continue to drastically increase, necessitating additional measures to slow the rate of infection and save lives.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus in the United States and in Wisconsin, [I have] issued a Travel Advisory Order,” Brost said. “This decision is consistent with the previous steps taken by Rusk County to control the spread of COVID-19 and the continued need to protect the health, welfare and safety of the people and property in Rusk County.”

Due to high community transmission of coronavirus in certain areas of the state, Brost recommends people stay in their permanent home and not travel to their seasonal or second home in Rusk County.

“Due to the very limited healthcare infrastructure, please do not visit here now,” Brost said.

People who have seasonal homes in Rusk County are recommended to stay at their winter homes at this time. Those who recently came from an area outside Rusk County are encouraged to self-quarantine for 14 days in order to stop potential community-to-community spread.

“If you decide to travel, please bring your own groceries and essentials as supplies in Rusk County are scarce at this time,” Brost said.

People must continue to comply with other applicable restrictions, such as the Wisconsin Governor’s various Executive Orders and the Illinois Governor’s “Stay at Home” Order issued to Illinois residents. Illinois’ “Stay at Home” Order effectively restricts Illinois residents from coming to their second or seasonal home in Rusk County.

Rusk County has a large population of older adults and vulnerable populations, according to Brost “These populations are at the highest risk of COVID-19; it is our priority to keep people in Rusk County healthy and safe,” she said.

Rusk County has already taken steps to stop the spread of COVID-19, including the Rusk County Board of Supervisors’ adoption of a COVID-19 Emergency Declaration.

“Please be aware that additional health and travel restrictions may be imposed in the future,” Brost said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is an ever-changing and very serious health situation, and Rusk County needs to be diligent in its response to establish restrictions that are particular to the needs of Rusk County’s residents,” Brost said.

People who are homeless are exempt, but are strongly urged to obtain shelter.

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

- Avoid social gatherings with people of all ages (including playdates and sleepovers, parties, large family dinners, visitors in your home, 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.

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