March 13, 2020


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Students from Sheboygan Christian School, which I attended as a child, made a much-anticipated trip to Madison yesterday to visit the Wisconsin Veterans Museum and the State Capitol.  It was my privilege to show them around and introduce them to our seat of government.  (And it was their privilege to sit in our seats on the Assembly floor and press the "speak" buttons.)  Thanks for coming!


However, things are changing rapidly.  As we were taking this photo, Governor Evers declared a public health emergency in Wisconsin in response to the emergence of COVID-19.  COVID-19 is similar to, but distinct from, other human coronaviruses such as the one that causes the common cold.  The vast majority of people who have contracted COVID-19 around the world so far have experienced mild symptoms and have recovered quite rapidly; however, the virus has caused pneumonia and led to severe illness in some people, particularly among vulnerable populations such as the elderly and the immunocompromised.


The playbook in a rapidly evolving health situation like this one is to slow the epidemic down so that our excellent health care system can keep up with providing quality care without becoming overwhelmed.  Everyone has a role in this effort, including me and including you.


Your federal and state governments are doing their part.  Governor Evers' order gives the state Department of Health Services (DHS) wide latitude to use the many resources already at its disposal.  It permits the National Guard to be activated in the event that the emergency becomes more urgent.  It also permits the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to take extra steps to protect the public against unfair market practices (i.e., price gouging) if the emergency becomes more severe.  This memo explains the Governor's order in great detail; so far, it appears that state law already provides sufficient funding and flexibility for DHS to lead the state response to the emergency, but the legislature's Joint Finance Committee on which I serve is ready to consider additional steps should further action become necessary.  At the federal level: the Trump administration held a massive conference call earlier this week with state leaders around the whole country; enormous efforts are underway across many agencies to mitigate risk.  To give you a sense of this, read on to the bottom half of this message for the summary of Wednesday's nationwide phone conversation.  Frankly, this has been an impressive display of cooperation and coordination so far.


You and I have a direct personal role in slowing down the virus also and keeping ourselves and our neighbors safe.  Early evidence suggests that contagious COVID-19 particles can survive in the air (from coughs and sneezes) for hours and on surfaces (also from coughs and sneezes) for days.  Therefore, the best ways to prevent the spread of illness are to wash your hands often, limit contact with people who are sick and use normal household cleaners to wipe down surfaces that are touched and used often.  If you are actually sick, cover your coughs and sneezes and, if at all possible, stay home from work and everywhere else.


So far, most federal and state authorities have not yet recommended or required the widespread closure of schools and public spaces.  However, the authorities have recommended postponing and otherwise avoiding large social gatherings that are not essential.  For example, most government offices remain open for business, but State Capitol tours have been suspended; universities are open, but most classes will occur online rather than in person; most legislative offices remain open, but professional associations and lobbyists have mostly postponed any planned conferences; etc.


In keeping with the latest DHS guidance, Senator Devin LeMahieu and I have determined to postpone the public listening sessions that we had planned to host in the Random Lake and Sheboygan communities on Monday, March 16th.  We will schedule new events after the health authorities lift their recommendation against hosting non-essential public meetings.  So far, our Capitol offices remain open for business as usual, so if you were eagerly looking forward to communicating with us in person on Monday, don't hesitate to call or e-mail instead and we'll reply promptly.  In the event that we receive instructions to close our Capitol offices temporarily, we'll serve you as best we can during the interim; in that situation, e-mail would be the best way to reach me promptly.


Please do your part to keep yourself and your neighbors safe, especially those who are particularly vulnerable!  Best wishes on your weekend.


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State and Local Briefing Call Summary


U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)

  • The Department of Health and Human Services is committed to providing as much information as possible to prepare communities for response to COVID-19. The Department, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and other agencies, continuously provide guidance to healthcare providers, laboratories, communities, and state and local officials for dealing with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19. The most up-to-date information can be found at
  • Wednesday, March 12, CDC announced the imminent release of almost $600 million to support state and local authorities respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. Full funding amounts are here.
  • CDC released their “Implementation of Mitigation Strategies for Communities with Local COVID-19 Transmission.”  This is a guide for communities describing possible coronavirus transmission. Community mitigation strategies are often the most available interventions to help slow the transmission of COVID-19 in communities.
  • The CDC has been actively working to address the need for testing across the country. You can find more information about testing here. We encourage review of the Updated Guidance on Evaluating and Testing Persons for Coronavirus Disease 2019, as well as the recently updated the FAQ website for laboratories to determine best practices for testing.
  • The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps has deployed hundreds of officers to help with this response. As America’s Health Responders, the Commissioned Corps is currently very involved in assisting the CDC with airport screenings, deploying staff to support hospitals, among other important missions. Find out more about Commissioned Corps activities here.
  • Part of preparedness includes a robust blood supply. The current situation around COVID-19 heightens the need for a ready blood supply, please encourage your health community members to keep their appointments to donate blood.
  • CDC released updated guidance on infection prevention and control recommendations for healthcare workers. Healthcare workers are fighting this outbreak on the front lines, and this guidance is intended to provide assistance to healthcare settings that are handling suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19. This guidance is applicable to all U.S. healthcare settings.


U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

  • The Small Business Administration will work directly with state Governors to provide targeted, low-interest loans to small businesses and non-profits that have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing. 
  • The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental expanded the disaster definition for the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) to include COVID-19. Economic Injury Disaster Loans are SBA loans that are available to eligible Small Businesses, Small agricultural cooperatives, and most non-profits that have experienced substantial economic injury as a result of a disaster.  
    • EIDLs are available in areas that are declared a disaster area by the SBA.
    • There has to be an SBA Disaster Declaration in an area for EIDL loans to be made available, which originates from a request made by the Governor.
    • To assist in the efforts, the SBA engages with States’ Emergency Response Teams to help them comply with the requirements before a request is made.
  • EIDL Loan Details
    • Entities that can apply for EIDL loans are eligible Small Businesses, Small agricultural cooperatives, and most private nonprofit organizations.
    • EIDL Loans are up to $2million and have terms as long as 30 years.
  • State and local officials who have been contacted by Small Businesses that may have been affected should share that information with their Governor or the State’s Emergency Response Officials. More information on SBA’s disaster loans, including eligibility and how to apply for loans, can be found here:


U.S. Department of Education (DoED)

  • The Department of Education has established a dedicated Coronavirus webpage, which includes resources for institutions of higher education and for K-12.
    • The website includes guidance for students at institutions of higher education, and covers Coronavirus-related scenarios that could impact students who are enrolled in study abroad programs, students who meet full-time requirements but fall below 12 credit hours, students who are quarantined and miss class, campuses that have temporarily stopped offering ground-based classes to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, and foreign schools that serve Americans who receive Federal financial aid.  Also see a letter from the Office for Civil Rights that addresses potential discrimination associated with coronavirus.
  • The Department is working on additional information for families and communities including:
    • Information regarding certain flexibilities under the Every Student Succeeds Act, or “ESSA;”
    • Information regarding services to children with disabilities;
    • A fact sheet from our Office for Civil Rights on the risk of Coronavirus in schools while protecting the civil rights of students; and
    • Information on the Family Education Records Privacy Act, or “FERPA,” as it pertains to K-12 and higher education students.
  • The Department will continue to update its website, Please direct education related questions to


U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)

  • The U.S. Department of Transportation, in its important supporting role, has and will continue to coordinate with transportation stakeholders, foreign counterparts and other federal agencies to manage the risk in the United States.
  • DOT continues to ensure: an active air bridge remains in place for the safe return of Americans from affected areas; airlines are funneling passenger flights to one of the eleven designated U.S. airports equipped to health-screen Americans returning from affected areas; continued air and sea cargo traffic between the US and China; health protocols are established to protect the crews of aircraft continuing to fly between the US and foreign locations; and, dissemination of health messages about the virus, for airlines to use to inform their passengers.
  • The U.S. government’s travel restrictions and advisories have been a remarkably effective ‘first layer’ of containment. These travel requirements delayed the arrival of the virus to the United States, giving the nation precious time to prepare further measures, and plan for mitigation. This achievement took the cooperation of nearly 200 commercial airlines, a like number of overseas airports, and the Civil Aviation Authority of China.
  • External Stakeholder outreach is being actively conducted throughout the modes of transportation in DOT. DOT has already hosted calls with stakeholders for the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Transit Authority, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and others. Additional calls are scheduled for outreach to additional stakeholders in all surface transportation, maritime, and labor.


U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed COVID-19 planning guidance for employers to implement engineering, administrative, and work practice controls and personal protective equipment (PPE). The guidance is intended for planning purposes – employers and workers should use the planning guidance to help identify risk levels in workplace settings and to determine any appropriate control measures to implement.
  • The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), an independent agency that serves as the chief human resources agency and personnel policy manager for the Federal Government, issued guidance for Federal Agencies regarding COVID-19 and human resources policies.
  • DOL announced new guidance outlining flexibilities that States have in administering their unemployment (UI) programs to assist Americans affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Under the guidance, federal alw


U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD)

  • The health and well-being of our country’s most vulnerable citizens is Secretary Ben Carson’s highest priority. At the direction of Secretary Carson senior HUD, officials have developed an Infectious Disease Toolkit for Continuum of Care homeless shelters (CoC). This includes specific documents addressing preparedness in shelters and encampment settings. More here.
  • HUD has sent communication to CoC and Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) grantees, highlighting the importance of infectious disease preparedness and linking to CDC and Healthcare for the Homeless resources: Infectious Disease Preparedness Among Homeless Assistance Providers
  • HUD is coordinating with the CDC, Healthcare for the Homeless, United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) on messaging and cross-promoting resource materials. This will continue on an ongoing basis. Also, the Department is reaching out to Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for future coordination.
  • HUD has plenty of resources for your communities including: 
    • Communities can use their unspent Emergency Solutions Grants and Continuum of Care Program funds to help address needs related to coronavirus. Additionally, a portion of CDBG funds are also available for public services, including health care.
    • Technical Assistance is available for ESG and CoC Program recipients if requested.  Additionally, communities that want to amend their CDBG plans, can reach out to their CPD representative if they need assistance.


U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

  • USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced proactive flexibilities to allow meal service during school closures to minimize potential exposure to the coronavirus. During an unexpected school closure, schools can leverage their participation in one of USDA’s summer meal programs to provide meals at no cost to students. Under normal circumstances, those meals must be served in a group setting. However, in a public health emergency, the law allows USDA the authority to waive the group setting meal requirement, which is vital during a social distancing situation.
  • USDA intends to use all available program flexibilities and contingencies to serve program participants across our 15 nutrition programs. USDA has already begun to issue waivers to ease program operations and protect the health of participants. USDA is receiving requests for waivers on an ongoing basis. As of today, USDA has been asked to waive congregate feeding requirements in Washington, California, Maryland, Alaska, Utah, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Maine, Kansas, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Virginia and USDA has granted those requests.
  • For more information about the coronavirus response across USDA, please visit:


U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

  • While the overall risk to the American public remains low, actions by DHS and the administration are decreasing the strain on public health officials by screening incoming travelers, expediting the processing of U.S. citizens returning from China, and ensuring resources are focused on the health and safety of the American people. It is important to recognize, that while there is a significant focus on containing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19, all departments and agencies of DHS are continuing to perform their regular duties with no impact on their mission.
  • DHS is working to recognize, detect, and assist individuals attempting to enter the U.S. through our, airports, land ports, or waterways who may be carrying the virus: Cruise Lines International Association, CDC, USCG, and CBP. DHS is working with the Department of State, HHS, and the senior public health leadership with the Government of Mexico to prepare for any COVID-19 cases identified along the South West Border. This effort includes coordination with state, and local Public Health Officials to develop reporting and response courses of action.
  • FEMA has rostered 56 four-person Incident Management Assistance Teams.
  • The Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, which contains the National Biosurveillance Integration Center and the Chief Medical Officer, has maintained close coordination with our Components and U.S. Government partners regarding the status of the outbreak and associated U.S. Government response actions.



Office of Representative Terry Katsma
State Capitol, Room 306 East
P.O. Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708

(608) 266-0656 |