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Lawmaker listening session focuses on Drs. Foster and Smith closureSubmitted: 01/29/2019
Story By Ben Meyer

Lawmaker listening session focuses on Drs. Foster and Smith closure
RHINELANDER - Rhinelander would love another large employer to come to town, taking the place of Drs. Foster and Smith (DFS).

That's not on the table right now. But if it was, Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) said he'd consider exploring tax breaks for that company.

It was one of the things Tiffany and Rep. Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) told the crowd at a listening session Tuesday in Rhinelander.

"Rhinelander is still the hub of the north. Everything happens and centers around Rhinelander. I think there's good things yet to come in Rhinelander," Swearingen said.


Earlier this month, Petco, which owns DFS, announced it was closing most of its operations. The move impacts 289 employees.

"Does it hurt our community? Yes, it hurts our community. But sometimes, when you get hurt, you get stronger, too. That's truly what I hope for," Rhinelander Mayor Chris Frederickson said. "In the absence of great prosperity, challenges come, and when they come, that's opportunity for us to stand and rise."

State-funded unemployment and workforce employees started meeting with DFS workers this week. A job fair is being planned for the end of February.

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 IN OTHER NEWS

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EAGLE RIVER - "For many of us, this day has been in our calendars or in a countdown as soon as we knew the date," said Northland Pines graduate Jillian Gleason.

Graduation day at Northland Pines happened without crowd, stage or students.

"We have faced challenges that no class has experienced before," Gleason said. "We're facing a world most don't know how to navigate."

But the Class of 2020 did have resolve, and a little bit of humor.

"Good afternoon: family, friends, faculty, and people who said 'well, I guess we have nothing better to do today,'" quipped student speaker Gunnar Schiffmann.

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WAUSAU - Public health departments rely on contact tracing to stop coronavirus outbreaks before they happen.

But they can't do it without people to make the calls.

The Marathon County health department is hiring part-time contract workers to perform contact traces.

That involves determining how many people have been exposed to coronavirus by contact with a known positive case.

Those people are then contacted, tested and potentially quarantined.

People who are interested can apply by emailing a resume to jobs@westphalstaffing.com with "Contact Tracer: Referral Marathon County Health Department" in the subject line.

Judy Burrows from the Marathon County health department was very specific in describing what she's looking for from a potential hire.

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FOREST CO. - Over the last three weeks, Forest Co. went from having zero confirmed COVID-19 cases to now 28.

Health officials state all but one is tied to an outbreak at The Bay at Nu Roc Health and Rehabilitation Center, in Laona.

However, Forest Co. residents connected to employees at Nu Roc say the virus was present a few weeks prior to the county's first case.

Resident Jennifer Connor discovered after speaking to community members that two weeks prior to the county announcing their first confirmed case another employee at NuRoc tested positive in April

Witnesses at NuRoc, who wish to remain anonymous, did confirm that the administration brushed off that employee's COVID like symptoms as another illness and allowed her to continue working in the building until April 24.

That following week the employee tested positive for the coronavirus.

CDC guidelines state "if a healthcare worker develops symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, difficulty breathing), advise them to stay home from work."

Nurses and other staff stated that the employee's significant other tested posted for the virus prior and after speaking with administration they were asked to not share that information with their colleagues.

One stated "Corporate told us that the employer has the coronavirus, but not to say anything to anyone as we need to keep this real quiet. We were told by corporate not to worry."

Following CDC guidelines includes healthcare workers to report when they come in contact to a high or medium-risk exposure. Additionally they ask to exclude them from working for 14 days after the last exposure.

Knowing that information, Connor began to call multiple state agencies to warn of the potential outbreak at Nu Roc.

All nursing homes are required to report data weekly to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and CDC through NHSN according to the CMS and CDC reporting requirements.

After speaking with almost ten state agencies, Connor added in an email to Newswatch 12 that they had no knowledge of the spread and even admitted they had inaccurate data.


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CRANDON -

The Sokaogan Chippewa Community in Crandon has been awarded $300,000 to fund their coronavirus relief effort.

According to a press release, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced they will award $15 million to 52 different tribes across the nation.

The money comes from the CARES Act that President Trump signed back in March.

Qualifying tribes can receive up to $300,000 in these grants. 


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MADISON, WI - Gov. Tony Evers today announced $75 million in assistance for small businesses as part of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation's We're All In initiative, a comprehensive effort to celebrate and help Wisconsin's small businesses get back on their feet and support best practices to keep businesses, consumers, employees and communities safe.

Funded largely by federal dollars received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, this initiative will provide direct assistance to small businesses most impacted by the duration and restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

These $2,500 cash grants will assist with the costs of business interruption or for health and safety improvements, wages and salaries, rent, mortgages, and inventory. Businesses will be able to apply for grant assistance in early June.

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BLACK RIVER FALLS - The death of an inmate in the Jackson County Jail is under investigation.

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RHINELANDER - Ripco Credit Union announced that the lobbies of both the Rhinelander and Eagle River branches will be reopening on June 15th.

President/CEO Liza Edinger shared that the Reopening Plan uses a phased approach. 

Phase 1 has already begun, with members requiring specific services being welcomed back into their lobbies by appointment.

Those services include use of the coin machine, notary services, safe deposit box entry and certain loan closings.

Members are still asked to use non-contact services like the drive-ins, ATMs, phone, and digital channels whenever possible.

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