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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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RHINELANDER - The Lights of the Northwoods Festival draws in hundreds of people to experience the best light-show in the area. Leaders from the festival want the community to know that the staff is still working to light up the Northwoods.

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ONEIDA COUNTY -
Oneida County health officials confirmed two more people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the county's total to 5.

Health officials say the 4th individual is in their 50's and has traveled outside the community, but has not had any contact with any of the previously confirmed cases in the county.  That person is now in isolation.

They say the 5th individual is in their 70's, and is currently in the hospital.  They say they person has not had contact with any of the previously confirmed cases in the county, nor have they traveled outside of the community.



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RHINELANDER -
The Centers for Disease Control recommends wearing face masks to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Stores in our area that sell the materials to make them have been declared non-essential, though.

"I don't want to jeopardize anybody's health and be open as usual," store owner Mary Wilke said.

Wilke knew she had to close both of her Sew Smart crafting supply stores as soon as COVID-19 appeared, but she was offering curbside delivery until she got a call.

"The health department called me and told me that I was not abiding by the law and I had to cease immediately and I could no longer do that," Wilke said. "The only options I had were to do mail order or deliveries."

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