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Mock assistance center helps Oneida Co. prepare for mass casualty eventSubmitted: 05/09/2019
Story By Ben Meyer

Mock assistance center helps Oneida Co. prepare for mass casualty event
RHINELANDER - Two years ago, a shooter killed 58 people and injured hundreds more at a country music festival in Las Vegas.

On Thursday, a simulation in Rhinelander used the aftermath of that event, in part, as a model for responding to a crisis.

"The point is is that, we will be ready as a region, together, for this," said Oneida Co. Health Dept. Assistant Director Marta McMillion, who helped organize the event.

The health department set up a mock family assistance center at Grace Foursquare Church. It was designed for workers to practice connecting victims of fire, natural disaster, or emergency to the resources they need.


"This plan that we have is actually not one that we have ever actually exercised to this capacity or this scale before. The point of the exercise is to kind of stress it and figure out what we do well [and] what we maybe need to improve," McMillion said.

More than 60 people were involved in the event, including emergency workers and actors playing victims.

They practiced setting up and using rooms for first aid, mental health, and family reunification.

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 IN OTHER NEWS

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

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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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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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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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