The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose risks to both the public health and economic health in Sawyer County. While our coordinated efforts have been successful thus far in containing a significant spread of the COVID-19 virus, the impact of Governor Evers’ Safer at Home Order requires actions that protect public health while also encouraging the re-opening of businesses. Sawyer County is committed to re-opening local businesses as soon as possible, but we must act responsibly in light of the known risks to public health posed by the COVID-19 virus and the increased risks if businesses re-open too soon. Sawyer County is committed to working cooperatively with other counties, businesses, law enforcement, LCO and other governmental partners to ensure proper coordination to re-open businesses in a safe and appropriate manner. This letter describes the steps we are taking to protect the public’s health, welfare and safety while also working diligently to re-open businesses as soon as possible.
Julia Lyons, Sawyer County’s Public Health Officer (PHO), is working closely with other northern county PHOs to develop plans to re-open safely. Key elements must be in place before in lifting restrictions due to the likelihood of increased positive tests of COVID-19 once businesses re-open and people gather in groups. Data shows that people without symptoms of COVID-19 may be carriers of the virus, so even seemingly healthy people gathering in businesses may unknowingly transmit the virus.
Moving forward, the focus for Sawyer County Public Health is to ensure businesses have a screening protocol in place that assesses employees for COVID-19 symptoms prior to starting their shift to prevent illness from spreading amongst employees. They are working on a masking campaign that will advise the proper use of masks for employees, customers, visitors and vendors throughout the county when unable to keep a 6-foot distance from others. They are working with the health care community to ensure that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms will get tested as identification and monitoring of close contacts is the main strategy to reduce the spread of COVID- 19.
Enforcement of the state and local orders is an essential part of ensuring public health and safety. Sawyer County Sheriff Doug Mrotek is working with other sheriffs, particularly those in the northern counties, to ensure appropriate enforcement. While economic pressures push for a quick re-opening of businesses, law enforcement must uphold the law as it currently stands.
We want to commend our local businesses for their continued voluntary compliance of the order. As of today, the Stay at Home Order is in place, and until a court decides otherwise, Sawyer County will continue consistent yet appropriate enforcement of the Stay at Home Order. A cooperative partnership between law enforcement, public health and businesses is the best course of action to re-open businesses as soon as possible.
Sawyer County’s Emergency Manager, Pat Sanchez, is working closely with regional emergency managers to ensure that our first responders, health care workers and other responders have the necessary equipment and resources for protection during the current outbreak. The Sawyer County Emergency Management Team does have plans in place if there were an increase in positive COVID-19 cases and long-term response needs that may occur once the Stay at Home Order’s restrictions are lifted.
Sawyer County’s elected officials and administrative leadership are coordinating efforts so businesses may re-open as soon as possible within the confines of current legal restrictions. The Sawyer County Administrator, Tom Hoff, confers with other northern county administrators and leadership to share information, plan coordination, and discuss the most appropriate way to respond to the economic needs while balancing public health. Sawyer County’s elected officials, including Sawyer County’s Board of Supervisor’s Chairman Tweed Shuman, understand that it is imperative that businesses cooperate and work together with law enforcement and public health officials to protect our citizens. We then, together, can safely address the financial needs of our community. Chairman Shuman works closely with Sawyer County’s COVID-19 team to make sure both the business community and our citizens’ voices are heard.
Partnership and cooperation are the keys to getting through these challenging times. Sawyer County is working as fast as possible to re-open businesses. However, we cannot rely on speculation that vaccines or other effective treatments of the COVID-19 virus will be available to properly counter the risks presented by a premature re-opening of businesses. In addition to minimizing risk to public health, we are working to ensure compliance with current law so we will be ready to meet any challenges that may arise once our area businesses are back open again.