County Board declares pandemic emergency

Board also approves pandemic leave policy for employees
Shawano County Administrative Coordinator Brent Miller talks about some of the steps the county has already taken in its facilities to stave off the coronavirus during Wednesday's Shawano County Board meeting. Miller encouraged the board members to stay positive during the crisis. (Lee Pulaski | NEW Media)Shawano-Menominee Counties Health Director Vicki Dantoin shares some statistics on the coronavirus during Wednesday's Shawano County Board meeting. She noted that, as of the time of the board meeting, there were 106 positive cases of coronavirus in the state, but none in Shawano or Menominee counties. (Lee Pulaski | NEW Media
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

SHAWANO — The Shawano County Board formally declared an emergency due to the spread of coronavirus on Wednesday by unanimous vote.

The state of emergency will be for a minimum of 60 days, although it can be extended by the mandate of the county board chairman and the administrative coordinator. Those two can also coordinate and administer the county’s emergency management duties.

The resolution approved by the board also suspends the County Board rules during the 60 days and will allow board members to attend County Board and committee meetings remotely to prevent further threat of transmission. Gov. Tony Evers issued a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people on Tuesday.

“My staff can tell you, by the time that I get things typed up to go out, some of it has already changed,” said Brent Miller, administrative coordinator.

There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus, technically named COVID-19, in Shawano or Menominee counties, but nine Shawano County employees who were out of the state or country on vacations have been placed under quarantine as a precaution, according to Miller.

The county has already closed down a number of its facilities, including the Lakeland Center, which hosts about 50-70 clients. Elderly meal sites are closed during the emergency, according to Miller, but meals are being distributed to the homes of people who regularly use the sites just like those who are homebound and receiving meals.

Outpatient mental health groups have also been cancelled during the state of emergency, Miller said.

The county’s six library facilities closed on Wednesday. The court system is closed for the most part, according to Miller, with the exception of cases that, by state law, courts must deal with in a timely fashion, such as emergency placements.

For other offices, the county is encouraging that things be done via the website, and those who should call the courthouse instead of showing showing up in person, Miller said.

All work-related travel has been halted and will only be approved on a case-by-case basis. Employees have been asked to cancel travel plans that are non-work related.

Shawano-Menominee Counties Health Director Vicki Dantoin reported that there were 106 positive cases of coronavirus, with the closest being a confirmed case in Outagamie County. Dantoin said there were also 1,577 tests done that came back negative.

“This coronavirus, being new, is shown to be easily spreading,” Dantoin said. “It has an increased death rate associated with it, so that’s why there’s a lot of hype about this particular virus.”

Dantoin said the health department is not conducting the coronavirus tests. Those are being done at ThedaCare Medical Center, she said.

Dantoin noted that a pandemic of this magnitude has not been seen in the United States since the 1918 flu pandemic.

The board also voted to add a section to its policy addressing pandemic leave. The policy states that when parts of locations in the county are closed due to a pandemic declaration, county employees can be sent to alternative work assignments or locations, but if that is not possible, the county will receive paid administrative leave.

The policy also addresses that if the entire county is closed down due to pandemic, all county employees will receive paid administrative leave.

Miller told the board that he hoped the current situation doesn’t end up resulting in a full county shutdown.

“If the county shuts down, that truly adds to the panic and the hysteria out there,” he said.