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Oneida County Health Department warns of potential community spread with COVID-19Submitted: 04/07/2020

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RHINELANDER - DHS reports Wisconsin's total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped to about 2,600, along with almost 100 deaths.

Oneida County now has five confirmed cases of COVID-19, though health officials say only two out of the five cases had recently traveled out of the state. Linda Conlon from the Oneida County Health Department said they've been monitoring things closely.

"In the case of our first individual that tested positive for COVID-19, we knew that she had traveled and likely been affected during travel, but for other cases we have not identified a source of infection," said Conlon.

Health officials are now thinking there is community spread, meaning there is an illness for which the source of the infection is unknown. Conlon said there are a few ways people in the Northwoods can prevent more community spread, including following the stay at home orders and keeping at least six feet distance from people.

"Make sure that you're disinfecting your hands. You have hand sanitizer. Keep your hands away from your face, which I think is more difficult than all of us realize," said Conlon. "Also when you enter your home, make sure that you wash your hands again before you are touching anything in the home."

More suggestions include washing your hands frequently and utilizing the disinfectant the stores are supplying for the grocery cart handles. Conlon said that though society isn't used to this type of isolation, it's imperative to stay at home.

"The longer that people ignore the order and feel like they can go out and do business as usual, the longer we are all going to be under these stay at home orders," said Conlon.


Story By: Maya Reese

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 LOCAL NEWS

NORTHWOODS - Before voters could fill out a ballot, they had to disinfect.

"Earlier last week, every polling place received supplies from the Wisconsin Election Commission," Vilas County clerk Dave Alleman said. "This box of supplies included sanitizer, included wipes, included some masks."

Those supplies were put to good use at polls around the Northwoods, on the advice of public health departments.

"They put a lot of measures in place to help control the environment so that people can stay safe," said Judy Burrows, a public information officer with the Marathon County Health Department.

Officials across the state have been encouraging people to stay home for almost a month, but election day left them feeling conflicted.

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WAUSAU - Justin Borger voted for the first time Tuesday. He wished it wasn't in the middle of a pandemic.

"I just turned 18 a couple months ago," said Borger. "So, I figured why not?"

He said he was worried for the health of his older relatives.

"For my grandparents and the older people I know, I'm a little bit worried," said Borger. "So, I try to stay away from them and social distance to try and keep them safe."

The hockey-rink-turned-polling place in Marathon Park accommodated Borger. This included routine sanitization, plastic screens, and clean pens. About half of the people inside wore masks.

Chief Inspector Jack Frederick said there were fewer people today than usual.

"We're making people stay six feet apart in the lines, which there haven't been much of today," said Frederick. "[There's been] a lot of absentee ballots, but not a lot of foot traffic. Not as much as normal that's for sure."

Borger successfully voted for the first time. He said he felt safe doing it.

"It was fun," said Borger. "I enjoyed it. I was a little bit confused wandering around in there, but I got the hang of it in the end and I'm glad I came out and voted today."

Results from Tuesday's election will not be available until Monday, April 13.

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NORTHWOODS - With millions of Americans now forced to work from home to slow down the spread of the Coronavirus, the toll on the country's internet infrastructure has never been greater.

Strains on wireless networks are feared now more than ever.

"It's just been a very very busy time for us. It's kind of a love hate relationship where we love the fact that we are so busy but we hate the reasons why we are busy," said Co-Founder Paul Osterman.

Due to the safer at home order and the Coronavirus outbreak, Northwoods Connect has seen a huge spike over its wireless networks.

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WAUSAU - Aspirus is the latest health system to start lab testing for coronavirus. Not just swabbing;  actual testing. Officials say 40 tests have been run so far, all coming back negative.

In a news conference Monday,  Aspirus officials said the in-house lab is only testing healthcare workers or patients who required hospitalization. They say any other potential COVID specimens are sent to Mayo Clinic.

Molecular Technical Specialist Kate Drewer is the only person performing the testing at this time. She was able to create the test on her own.

"[Kate] has put in a lot of time, a lot of effort," said Aspirus official Jesse Tischer. "Essentially single-handedly, with support around her, but single-handedly bringing the test to the community of Wausau. And without her, we would not have the test available."

Drewek does testing in two batches everyday. Turnaround time is three to four hours.

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 REGIONAL NEWS

MADISON - Thousands of Wisconsin voters waited hours in line to cast ballots and the National Guard staffed overcrowded polling stations on Tuesday, straining the state's ability to hold a presidential primary election under the lash of an escalating pandemic.

At the same time, many voters said they did not receive their requested absentee ballots and, unwilling to violate a stay-at-home order to vote in person, accepted their votes would not be counted.

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MADISON - The number of deaths from the coronavirus in Wisconsin increased by 15 as reported Tuesday as voters were casting ballots in person at the polls statewide, despite an order to stay at home to avoid spreading the highly contagious disease.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported that deaths increased from 77 on Monday to 92 on Tuesday. The overall number of confirmed cases rose from 2,440 to 2,578.

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- Wisconsin's chaotic primary may just be the beginning. Both major parties are preparing for a months-long, state-by-state legal fight over how citizens can safely cast their ballots should the coronavirus outbreak persist through November's election.

The outcome of the court battles - expected to litigate mail-in voting rules, voter identification requirements and safe access to polls - may have a significant impact on how many people turn out to vote in hundreds of elections across the country between now and November, including the race for the White House. It will likely play out in key presidential battlegrounds amid an already roiling debate over voting rights and protecting access to the ballot.

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WASHINGTON D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court blocked part of a lower court decision to extend the absentee voting deadline in Wisconsin.

A federal judge in the Western District of Wisconsin issued a ruling last week extending the state's absentee ballot deadline to April 13.  However, the Supreme Court ruled absentee ballots must still be postmarked by Spring Election Day, April 7th.  They must also be received by April 13th.

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