April 7, 2020 COVID-19 Update

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For the time being, I will be sending out electronic newsletters periodically to ensure you are able to follow the latest developments of the coronavirus outbreak in Wisconsin.

U.S. Supreme Court Decision

It is quite evident the coronavirus has become an ever-evolving situation.

Such was the case yesterday when, shortly after I sent out my COVID-19 e-update, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a federal judge's ruling that would have extended the deadline to submit absentee ballots by six days.

Due to the Supreme Court’s actions, absentee ballots have to be postmarked by today to be counted.

If you haven’t mailed in your absentee ballot by the time you are reading this, it is still not too late to have your vote counted. Absentee ballots can still be turned in to your local polling place by 8 p.m.

While I did not have a say in the matter, I did not agree with the decision of the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Wisconsin to file an appeal on the federal judge’s ruling.

While I am disappointed by the ruling, I understand it is the job of the court to interpret the Constitution. I have great respect for the institution and I will not second guess their interpretation of the law.

Our municipal clerks have been swamped with requests for absentee ballots over the past few days and even weeks, and I worry that, given the time crunch, there will likely be voters who do not receive their absentee ballots in time.

Given the extraordinary circumstances, I think it would have been better to allow for the additional six days.

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Today's Election

While I share the frustration of many of you in how this has unfolded, our local and county clerks handled the election very professionally and kept the risk to public safety at a minimum.

By all reports, the election today went very smoothly. Both Jamie Annoye, the Kewaunee County clerk, and Jill Lau, the Door County clerk, reported that they had heard of no problems in any of the polling places.

Jill Lau said that clerks had been preparing for today for weeks. Voters were generally welcomed by a greeter, who gave them hand sanitizer and made sure people were kept at a safe distance. Voters were separated by plexiglass barriers from the poll workers. Each voting station was disinfected after use by each voter. 

National Guard troops were used to work the polls in both counties, although the vast majority of workers were local citizens. All locations were fully staffed. I volunteered to help at two locations, but my help was really not needed.

Because of the huge effort to encourage absentee voting, voting was reported to be light at all locations. Handling so many absentee ballots was the greatest challenge for the clerks. They have been working tirelessly for weeks getting them sent out and now counting them.

As Kewaunee County Administrator Scott Felt said, “I am really proud of the job that our local clerks did.” 

CDC Masks 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that you wear a homemade face covering when in public to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Officials with the CDC are stressing the importance of using these cloth masks especially in areas where there is significant community-based transmission or when it’s difficult to practice social distancing, like in grocery stores or pharmacies.

Now, I know that some of you might be uncomfortable or self-conscious about wearing a face covering in the presence of complete strangers. However, seeing masks in public is going to become much more common in the near future. Plus, it’s also in the best interest of your health and that of those around you.

My daughter and her family, who are pictured above, live in the New York City area, which is one of the main COVID-19 hotspots in the country. Every time they go out in public they wear their face coverings, and most of the people they come across are doing the same thing.

The cloth masks the CDC are recommending do not include the personal protective equipment that is needed for our healthcare workers and first responders who are battling on the frontlines.

In fact, you can make these masks with items that are commonly found in your home. To give you an example, the CDC has released a video with U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams that demonstrates how you can create a face covering with a scarf, bandana, hand towel or old t-shirt.

For more information on how to make your own face mask, please click here, here and here.