Updates from the State Senate - March 17, 2020

The photo above was taken at Embarrass River in the Town of Pella, Shawano County.


Robert Cowles


Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District








Dear Friends and Neighbors,


The Coronavirus has been dominating news coverage and has impacted all of our daily lives. From school cancellations to restaurant closures to shortages of essential goods on grocery store shelves, weíre all getting a bit of whiplash trying to keep up with the latest news in this rapidly changing news cycle.


As Wisconsin residents adapt to a new, short-term reality to address Coronavirus, please keep in mind that information is constantly changing as our knowledge about this issue evolves. Iíve been working to collect as much information as I can on Coronavirus to share with all of you, but before I discuss some of these details, Iíd first encourage you to stay up-to-date with the latest developments from every state agency and learn how you and your neighbors can slow the spread of COVID-19 on a new state website particularly designed for this outbreak. While youíre on this website, you can also subscribe to receive email updates.




Iím sure youíve heard this enough recently, but according to state and federal health officials, actions you can easily work into your daily routine will help to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. These practices should be used even by people who donít have any illnesses, as you may be a carrier of the disease but be asymptomatic, or you may pick up the disease.

  • Avoid close contact with others, even if theyíre not currently ill (known as Ďsocial distancingí)

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth

  • Stay home if youíre sick or if you may have a compromised immune system

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash

  • Clean and disinfect frequently handled objects (such as cell phones) and touched surfaces

  • Follow CDCís recommendations for using a face mask

  • And most importantly, wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and use hand sanitizer between hand washings




As of this afternoon, there were a total of 72 positive tests and 1,038 negative results from those tested who did not have Coronavirus. As numbers continue to rise, keep in mind that increased testing will lead to a better, more complete picture of the scope of this problem in Wisconsin. Thatís why self-isolation and social distancing techniques for everyone, not just those who have testing positive for Coronavirus, is so important.


So far, only one positive test has been reported in a county in the 2nd Senate District. Outagamie County has had a positive test, while Brown, Shawano and Waupaca Counties still do not have any positive tests as of this afternoon.


To see the most up-to-date Coronavirus numbers compiled by the State Department of Health Services, visit their website.



Schools and Universities


On Friday, Governor Evers, in consultation with his Health Secretary, required under emergency authority that both public and private schools close to in-person instruction starting on Wednesday. Many schools have been more proactive and had already announced closures before the Governorís declaration, while others have chosen to close earlier than Wednesday.


Given the difficulties that this closure for an indefinite time period places on teachers to move traditionally in-person instruction online in an expedient manner, the Department of Public Instruction has elected to exempt schools that request a waiver from statewide requirements for mandated hours of instruction so that, much like snow makeup days, we donít have an excessive number of Coronavirus makeup days.


Colleges, including the UW-System, have also largely taken the large step to close down for an indefinite time period, some through the end of the school year, and move instruction online. Whether youíre a college student now at home or if youíre a parent with a child now at home, you may be eligible for 60 days of free broadband and Wi-Fi access from Charter to ensure you donít miss out on any online instruction. Learn more about this officer from Charter on their website.



Public Gatherings


Yesterday, the Governor expanded on his efforts relating to schools to require that the Department of Health Services order a ban on gatherings of 50 people or more. Critical infrastructure and services such as grocery stores, food pantries, childcare centers, pharmacies, and hospitals are exempt from this order.


That order was updated today to match federal recommendations of banning gatherings of ten people or more. This ban becomes effective at 5 PM this afternoon.


Despite some exemptions and prior to this order, many local businesses and corporate citizens had already taken steps to protect their customers and employees, some including voluntary closures of limited access.


More information on unemployment insurance changes related to Coronavirus is expected to come out tomorrow, including waiving work search requirements and modifying availability for unemployment insurance to expand access to those impacted.





In the wake of the changing business climate due to Coronavirus, many questions have been raised to my office by citizens, businesses, and organizations regarding unemployment insurance and other workforce development services that the state provides. Iíve wanted to share information directly from the source to help clarify what the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) can provide impacted workers.


We have also received several phone calls and emails from constituents specifically regarding Unemployment Insurance (UI) for individuals and businesses effected by the virus. I have also included a newly created link directly to frequently asked questions about unemployment insurance during the time of Coronavirus.


More information on unemployment insurance changes related to Coronavirus are expected to come out tomorrow, including waiving work search requirements and modify availability for unemployment insurance to expand access to those impacted.



Price Gouging and Consumer Protection


Price gouging, or raising the price of a product during a time of scarcity, is illegal during a statewide emergency. The Attorney General and Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) are encouraging citizens to report suspected scams, fraud, false marketing claims, price gouging, and other consumer complaints related to Coronavirus. To report a complaint, please contact DATCPís Consumer Protection Hotline at DATCPHotline@wisconsin.gov or (800) 422-7128, or file an online complaint.


Additionally, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has notified utilities, because of the potential for missed or reduced paychecks and additional expenses as the nation deals with Coronavirus, that they may not disconnect service due to nonpaymentís and must make reasonable attempts to reconnect anyone who is disconnected during the state public health emergency.



Early Voting


Tomorrow is the last day to register to vote by mail for the April 7th election in Wisconsin. However, through April 3rd pending local decisions to close the offices of municipal clerks, voters can still head to the polls early with in-person early absentee voting. Reducing the size of the crowd at the polls on Election Day will be important to ensure the spread of Coronavirus is reduced. To learn more about requesting an absentee ballot of voting early, visit My Vote Wisconsin.



Ways to Help in Your Community


While practicing self-isolation and social distancing is perhaps most important to help your neighbors by doing your part to stop the spread of Coronavirus, if youíre not ill and are able to, there are other ways you can help out in your community during this public health emergency.


Some suggestions that have been thrown out include: check-in on neighbors, particularly the elderly or those living alone; helping the elderly with necessary tasks like shopping; not hoarding supplies while shopping; thanking first responders, nurses and doctors, truck drivers, and others helping our country function during this difficult time, and; giving blood at a local blood bank. These simple, yet important steps will help to proverbially hold our communities together during a time of social distancing.



Actions in the State Senate


As I continue monitoring the situation with Coronavirus in Wisconsin, my office will continue to be open for questions and comments from constituents. Additionally, Iíll be continuing to monitor federal legislation and work with other state legislative leaders to ensure the Department of Health Services and other state agencies have the resources necessary to continue a robust response to this public health concern.





As always, please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns you may have, and be sure to visit my website and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for regular updates on Coronavirus and more from around the 2nd Senate District and in the State Capitol.


Thanks for reading!



Senator Robert Cowles
Proudly Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District




Mailing Address: P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882 | Office: 118 South, State Capitol

Office: (608) 266-0484 | District: (920) 448-5092 | Sen.Cowles@legis.wisconsin.gov




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