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This summer has flown by so fast! I hope everyone has a safe and fun Labor Day weekend and good luck to all of the students and teachers as they kick off a new school year. 

This update has lots of helpful information to keep you up-to-date including:

  • COVID Safety Precautions for the Holiday Weekend
  • Find a Vaccination Site Near You
  • Provide Your Input On Fair Maps
  • Life Jacket Safety
  • The Latest Consumer Alert
  • September Preparedness Month in Wisconsin
  • Veterans Resources and additional information!

I hope you find this information helpful and please don't hesitate to reach out to my office if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
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JON ERPENBACH
State Senator
27th District

 

DHS Urges Wisconsinites to Mask Up and Follow Public Health Practices Ahead of Labor Day Weekend

Ahead of Labor Day weekend, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) encourages Wisconsinites to celebrate safely and continue taking steps to protect themselves and others against COVID-19. Wisconsin is seeing very high case activity. The 7-day average of new confirmed cases is now 1,699 and COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19, wearing a mask, avoiding indoor gatherings, staying home if you feel sick, and following other public health best practices are important steps everyone can take to stay safe and help prevent further spread of COVID-19 in their communities.

“COVID-19 cases are rising in Wisconsin due to the more contagious Delta variant. People who are not yet fully vaccinated continue to make up the significant majority of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Chief Medical Officer and State Epidemiologist for Communicable Diseases. “It is critical that we take action now to prevent further spread of the virus. Let’s use all of our effective prevention tools: Get vaccinated, wear masks when gathering indoors, and stay home if you’re feeling sick, especially if planning get-togethers with others over the holiday weekend.”

Medium and large gatherings contribute to the spread of COVID-19. If you plan to celebrate with people you do not live with, keep activities outdoors. DHS recommends that everyone, even fully vaccinated people, pack a mask wherever they go. Masks should be worn indoors everywhere in Wisconsin because our entire state has substantial to high COVID-19 transmission(link is external). Stay home if you’re feeling sick. If you become sick after attending a gathering, isolate from others and get tested for COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated. For guidance and tips on celebrating safely, visit the DHS COVID-19: Staying Safe in Your Community webpage.

Getting vaccinated remains a key tool in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death. The Wisconsin Vaccine Reward Program is now offering $100 to Wisconsin residents who get their first dose of any COVID-19 vaccine now through Labor Day, September 6. Talk with your family and friends who are not yet vaccinated and encourage them to get vaccinated for the best protection against COVID-19.

For information, resources, and data related to Wisconsin’s COVID-19 vaccination program, visit the COVID-19 vaccine page


Do Your Part and Get Vaccinated! 

First and foremost, the best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community from COVID-19 and the Delta variant is to get vaccinated. 

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 prevents severe illness, hospitalization, and death; it also helps reduce the spread of the virus in communities. Unvaccinated people should get vaccinated and continue wearing a mask until they are fully vaccinated. With the Delta variant, this is more urgent than ever. Data demonstrate that COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the Delta variant. Past infection with COVID-19 does not assure protection from the Delta variant, so people who have had past COVID-19 infection are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated. High vaccination coverage will not only reduce the spread of the virus, but also help prevent new, and possibly more concerning, variants from emerging. Vaccination is the best way to protect you, your family, and your community. To find a vaccination location near you visit vaccines.gov(link is external) (https://vacunas.gov/(link is external)) or call 211.

Find a vaccination site near you:

While vaccination remains the top defense against the Delta variant, the CDC guidance also focuses on additional strategies that will provide additional protection against the spread of the virus. Because science has shown that wearing a mask over your nose and mouth can help prevent transmission of the respiratory droplets and aerosols that spread COVID-19, wearing a mask is now recommended in the following indoor settings:

  • All teachers, staff, students, and visitors of K-12 schools should wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
  • Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, who lives in areas with substantial and high transmission as noted on this CDC map(link is external) (orange counties represent substantial transmission and red counties represent high transmission) should wear masks in public indoor settings.


Are You Ready for Fair Maps?

The Wisconsin People's Maps Commission has announced a new public portal where Wisconsinites are encouraged to submit input and maps of their communities, redistricting plans of their own, and written comments to guide the work and recommendations of the People's Maps Commission.

You can learn more submit your feedback here.

 


Life Jackets Save Lives: Wear It Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds the public to always wear a life jacket when out on Wisconsin's waterways, including over the Labor Day holiday.

As summer draws to a close, 19 people have died in boating accidents in Wisconsin in 2021. Another 22 people died in 2020. Current and past boating incident date can be found here.

Operator inexperience, inattention, recklessness and speeding are the four leading causes of tragic watercraft crashes, and the leading cause of death is drowning. The majority of people who drown in boating accidents know how to swim but become incapacitated in the water such as being injured or unconscious, exhausted or weighed down by clothing.

In addition to recreational boating, the 2021 early teal and Canada Goose waterfowl hunting seasons open Sept. 1 and will add additional boats to Wisconsin’s waterways over the weekend. Hunters, as with all boaters, are encouraged to wear their life jackets whenever they are on the water.

"When something goes wrong, it’s too late to put a life jacket on if you aren’t already wearing it," said Lt. Darren Kuhn, DNR Boating Law Administrator. "Wardens have responded to numerous drowning deaths only to find a life jacket stuffed inside a kayak or floating near the capsized canoe."

LABOR DAY WATER SAFETY TIPS

  • Sign up now to take an online boater education course.
  • Always wear a properly fitted life jacket that has a snug fit and is fastened when you're on or near the water. Life jackets will keep you on top of the water if you walk off an unexpected drop-off, or a wave or current overpowers you or you fall out of a boat.
  • Enjoy the waters sober and know your limits. Alcohol blurs a person's judgment, reaction time and abilities.
  • River shorelines and sandbars pose unseen dangers. Higher, fast-moving water can tax an individual's boating, paddling and swimming skills.
  • Keep an eye on the weather and let someone know where you are going.

Be ready for the unexpected and always wear your life jacket. More boating safety tips are available on the DNR website.


Consumer Alert: DATCP Sees Rise in Unemployment Insurance Scam Reports

If you receive a text message regarding unemployment insurance, be cautious about clicking on any links. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has received reports of a phishing text where imposters pretend to be from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) or a similar agency.

These alarming texts claim that there is a problem with your account and that your benefits will be discontinued if you do not click on the link to update your account ID and password. However, they are imposters trying to get your personally identifiable information to steal your identity and your money. Delete these texts, and do not click on any links.

How to tell if a text message from DWD is official:

  • Official text messages from DWD link to my.unemployment.wisconsin.gov
  • DWD does not send text messages to claimants to notify them that their profile or claim will be deactivated.
  • DWD does not send group text messages.
  • Any official text messages from DWD notify the claimant to log on to their Claimant Portal at my.unemployment.wisconsin.gov to view any messages securely.
  • Do NOT click on links, enter your user information, or provide any information to suspicious websites or spoofed messages.

If you have questions about the legitimacy of a text you received, DWD provides updates online about current scam reports at dwd.wisconsin.gov/ui/fraud/scams.htm.

If you have questions about the status of your unemployment insurance or question the authenticity of a text, letter, phone call, or email you receive that claims to be from a government agency, contact that agency directly to inquire. Always contact the agency using a website, phone number, or email address that you know to be accurate – never use the contact information provided by the questionable communication.

If you have been the victim of a scam, report it by filing a complaint online at datcp.wi.gov/pages/programs_services/fileconsumercomplaint.aspx, or send an email to datcphotline@wisconsin.gov, or call DATCP’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-422-7128.


September is Preparedness Month in Wisconsin 

Preparing for disasters protects everyone you love, and ReadyWisconsin encourages people to take time during September to ensure they have the tools needed to respond to potential disasters and emergencies in their community. Gov. Tony Evers has declared September Preparedness Month in the state of Wisconsin.
 
“Every year, our state faces its share of floods, tornadoes and other emergencies,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “It’s critically important for Wisconsinites to make sure they’re prepared for emergencies that may arise and to take the necessary steps to protect their loved ones. This month, we’re helping do that by equipping folks with the skills and resources they need to remain safe during an emergency.”
 
As part of Preparedness Month, Wisconsinites should take the following actions:
 
Make A Plan – Develop a plan for how you and your loved ones will reach safety during any emergency. Know where your shelters at home, work and school are located or how you will safely leave the building. Practice going to those safe places. Also, make sure everyone knows how to contact each other if a disaster were to occur while you are separated.
 
Build A Kit – Kits should include enough non-perishable food, water, and medications to keep you safe for up to 72-hours. First aid supplies, a flashlight, and a NOAA Weather Radio, along with copies of insurance policies, prescriptions, and a list of important contact numbers, are also great inclusions. Store your kit in a location where you can access it quickly during an emergency.
 
Know Your Risk – Being prepared for disasters includes identifying the risks that exist in your community. This includes understanding the natural threats, such as tornadoes and local flood hazards, and man-made risks that may be nearby, such as industrial sites. Use that information to develop your emergency plans, the review and practice them with everyone in your home.
 
Teach Youth Preparedness – Disasters can be scary for kids. Help them feel more in control by talking about what they should do in an emergency. If you have a student in fourth or fifth grade, ask their teacher about participating in the Student Tools for Emergency Planning (STEP) program in their classroom during the school year. Information on this free program is available at https://readywisconsin.wi.gov/step/.
 
You can view a copy of Gov. Evers’ Preparedness Month proclamation here.
 
For tips on how to create an emergency kit and plan, visit http://readywisconsin.wi.gov. You can also follow ReadyWisconsin on Facebook (www.facebook.com/readywisconsin) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/readywisconsin) for emergency preparedness tips throughout the year.


Veteran Resources 

Veterans across our state and nation are reacting to the news of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Veterans may feel distressed from experiences during their service. Resources are available to veterans through the U.S. and Wisconsin Departments of Veterans Affairs.

Contacts from the Wisconsin DVA:

  • Veterans Crisis Line - The Veterans Crisis Line is a toll-free, confidential resource that connects veterans and their families to mental health resources. Connect with the Crisis Line.​​
  • County Veterans Service Officers - Your local Tribal and County Veterans Service Officers can help determine the benefits and services for which you are eligible. Find your TVSO/CVSO​. ​

Resources available right now (information provided from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs):

Common Reactions

In reaction to current events in Afghanistan, Veterans may:

  • Feel frustrated, sad, helpless, grief or distressed
  • Feel angry or betrayed
  • Experience an increase in mental health symptoms like symptoms of PTSD or depression
  • Sleep poorly, drink more or use more drugs
  • Try to avoid all reminders or media or shy away from social situations
  • Have more military and homecoming memories

Veterans may question the meaning of their service or whether it was worth the sacrifices they made. They may feel more moral distress about experiences they had during their service.
Veterans may feel like they need to expect and/or prepare for the worst. For example, they may:

  • Become overly protective, vigilant, and guarded
  • Become preoccupied by danger
  • Feel a need to avoid being shocked by, or unprepared for, what may happen in the future

Feeling distress is a normal reaction to negative events, especially ones that feel personal. It can be helpful to let yourself feel those feelings rather than try to avoid them. Often, these feelings will naturally run their course. If they continue without easing up or if you feel overwhelmed by them, the suggestions below can be helpful.


Strategies for Managing Ongoing Distress


At this moment, it may seem like all is lost, like your service or your sacrifices were for nothing. Consider the ways that your service made a difference, the impact it had on others’ lives or on your own life. Remember that now is just one moment in time and that things will continue to change.


It can be helpful to focus on the present and to engage in the activities that are most meaningful and valuable to you. Is there something you can do today that is important to you? This can be as an individual, a family member, a parent, or a community member. Something that is meaningful to you in regard to your work or your spirituality? Such activities won’t change the past or the things you can’t control, but they can help life feel meaningful and reduce distress, despite the things you cannot change.
It can also help to consider your thinking. Ask yourself if your thoughts are helpful to you right now. Are there ways you can change your thinking to be more accurate and less distressing? For example, are you using extreme thinking where you see the situation as all bad or all good? If so, try and think in less extreme terms. For example, rather than thinking “my service in Afghanistan was useless” consider instead “I helped keep Afghanistan safe.”
Finally, consider more general coping strategies that you may want to try including:

  • Engage in Positive Activities. Try to engage in positive, healthy, or meaningful activities, even if they are small, simple actions. Doing things that are rewarding, meaningful, or enjoyable, even if you don’t feel like it, can make you feel better.
  • Stay Connected. Spend time with people who give you a sense of security, calm, or happiness, or those who best understand what you are going through.
  • Practice Good Self Care. Look for positive coping strategies that help you manage your emotions. Listening to music, exercising, practicing breathing routines, spending time in nature or with animals, journaling, or reading inspirational text are some simple ways to help manage overwhelming or distressing emotions.
  • Stick to Your Routines. It can be helpful to stick to a schedule for when you sleep, eat, work, and do other day-to-day activities.
  • Limit Media Exposure. Limit how much news you take in if media coverage is increasing your distress.
  • Use a mobile app. Consider one of VA’s self-help apps (see https://www.ptsd.va.gov/appvid/mobile/) such as PTSD Coach which has tools that can help you deal with common reactions like, stress, sadness, and anxiety. You can also track your symptoms over time.
  • PTSD Coach Online. A series of online video coaches will guide you through 17 tools to help you manage stress. PTSD Coach Online is used on a computer, rather than a mobile device, and therefore can offer tools that involve writing.

If you develop your own ways of adapting to ongoing events and situations, you may gain a stronger sense of being able to deal with challenges, a greater sense of meaning or purpose, and an ability to mentor and support others in similar situations.


Get Covered Through the ACA!

Thanks to new COVID relief, health insurance premiums have decreased on Healthcare.gov and you can sign up to get covered right now! Four out of five enrollees will now be able to find a plan for $10 or less per month.

If you’ve shopped on Healthcare.gov before, look again! New, lower prices are available for more people than ever before.

If you are are currently uninsured, already signed up for a plan through Healthcare.gov, or eligible for COBRA coverage from a former employer, you may benefit from these changes. People looking to get enrolled or change their current plan are encouraged to visit Wiscovered.com or call 2-1-1 to get free, expert help.

This new enrollment opportunity won’t last forever- sign up today!


Rental Assistance

Reminder, if you or anyone you know that has experienced income loss as a result of the pandemic their is support available! 
 
The Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance Program, provides direct financial assistance for rent, utility, home energy costs, and wraparound services for individuals who qualify.
 
For information on the program, how to apply, frequently asked questions as well as local resources and contacts please click here.


- Resources - 

During this difficult time it is worth reminding Wisconsinites that 211 exists to help when you don’t know where to turn. 211 is a resource managed by the United Way of Wisconsin. Call 2-1-1 or visit their website.

Office of Crime Victim Services

End Abuse Wisconsin 

National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-7233, text LOVEIS to 22522, or go to thehotline.org for free and confidential support.

Disaster Distress Hotline 

Coping Resources for Kids and Parents Amidst COVID-19 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Veterans Crisis Line 

Vets for Warriors 

Military One Source 

Resilient Wisconsin

Department of Corrections Helpline: The call center can be reached by members of the public Monday through Friday from 7:45am–4:30pm at (608) 240-5700.

Wisconsin Farm Center 

24/7 Farmer Wellness Hotline

LGBTQ Crisis Line 

HopeLine Text Service 

Wisconsin Elder Abuse Hotline 

Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline 


 

Looking for additional resources? If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to my office at Sen.Erpenbach@Legis.WI.Gov, or call (608) 266-6670. 

 

 
 
Contacting My Office

Feel free to contact me with any inquiries.

Please visit my website for press releases and other Capitol updates.