COVID-19 Journal - The archive chronicling a pandemic

The storage place for previous stories
A pair of spikes on the goal post at the Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School football field was illuminated by football field lights on Friday as the community paid tribute to the students who will be apart for the remainder of their semester. The lights were turned on for 20 minutes beginning at 8 p.m., a gesture of support that will continue through the school year, according to the school’s athletic director.

Carol Ryczek | NEW Media
NEW Media Staff

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UPDATE March 24 11 a.m.

Evers gives specifics on Safer at Home order

Gov. Tony Evers directed Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm on Tuesday to issue a Safer at Home order that prohibits all nonessential travel, with some exceptions as clarified and defined in the order. The order is available here.

The order is effective at 8 a.m. on Wednesday and will remain in effect until 8 a.m. April 24 or until a superseding order is issued.

“I know the COVID-19 outbreak has been difficult and has disrupted the lives of people across our state. Issuing a Safer at Home order isn’t something I thought we’d have to do and it’s not something I take lightly, but here’s the bottom line, folks need to start taking this seriously,” Evers said in a press release. “Each and every one of us has to do our part to help slow the spread of COVID-19 so we can flatten the curve to ensure our doctors, nurses and healthcare workers have the opportunity to do their important work. Let’s all do our part and work together.”

Individuals do not need special permission to leave their homes, but they must comply with this order as to when it is permissible to leave home. If a business is an essential business or operation as defined in this order, it does not need documentation or certification to continue its work that is done in compliance with this order.

Under this order, Wisconsin residents are able to perform tasks essential to maintain health and safety, such as obtaining medicine or seeing a doctor; get necessary services or supplies for themselves or their family or household members, such as getting food and supplies, pet food and supplies necessary for staying at home; care for a family member in another household; and care for older adults, minors, dependents, people with disabilities or other vulnerable people.

Businesses allowed to operate under the Safer at Home order include, but are not limited to health care operations, including home health workers; critical infrastructure; businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise vulnerable individuals; fresh and non-perishable food retailers, including convenience stores, grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and food banks; businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food and goods directly to residences; pharmacies, health care supply stores and health care facilities; child care facilities, with some limitations; gas stations and auto repair facilities; banks; laundry businesses, dry cleaners and services necessary for maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of a residence, including garbage collection; hardware stores, plumbers, and electricians; educational institutions, for the purposes of facilitating distance learning; roles required for any business to maintain minimum basic operations, which includes security, and payroll; and law and safety, and essential government functions will continue under the recommended action.

Farming and animal care will also be allowed to operate, including: food and beverage manufacturing, production, processing, transportation, and cultivation; farming, livestock, fishing, baking, and other production agriculture, including cultivation, marketing, production, and distribution of animals and goods for consumption; businesses that provide food, shelter, and other necessities of life for animals, including animal shelters, boarding, rescues, kennels, and adopting facilities; farm and agriculture equipment, supplies, and repair services.

The order contains detailed information regarding the exemptions provided to certain businesses.

MISD cancels annual scholarship gala

The Menominee Indian School District (MISD) has canceled its annual scholarship gala due to the COVID-19 pandemic scheduled for March 27 at the Menominee Casino and Resort Conference Center.
"Of course, we are very disappointed that we have to cancel,” said MISD Superintendent Wendell Waukau in a press release. "But, in the interest of public health and safety, it is the right thing to do."
This would have been the seventh annual Gala, which has raised more than $181,000 for student scholarships, according to a press release.

UPDATE March 17 9:01 a.m.

Cellcom providing free internet for 2 months

An internet service provider is offering local service and wi-fi free at least through April during the COVID-19 crisis.

Shawano residents in the Cellcom home internet service area who do not have an existing Cellcom home internet connection can get service and wi-fi free for two months. To enroll, call 715-851-7350. Installation fees will be waived for these households. Cellcom’s home internet service area is within the city limits of Shawano.

Cellcom’s fiber-fast network has unlimited capacity and will not be negatively impacted by the anticipated increased usage by local students and remote workers, according to a press release from the company.

For the next 60 days, Cellcom will not terminate service of any residential wireless or home internet customers because of inability to pay their bills due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus and any late fees will be waived. This is in cooperation with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Keep Americans Connected Pledge.

UPDATE March 16 10:10 A.M.

City offices, alternative means of doing business suggested

SHAWANO — All municipal buildings in the city of Shawano closed Monday amid concerns surrounding the coronavirus, though critical operations will continue.

“We’re going to close our facilities to the public, but our employees are going to continue working as normal,” City Administrator Eddie Sheppard said Friday.

“We will make arrangements for any emergency business that needs to be conducted,” he added.

City staff will continue to hold meetings as necessary, but public meetings are temporarily canceled.

There is no defined timeline on these measures, with the city saying it will be in effect until further notice.

The city put out a statement Friday afternoon as follows:

“The City of Shawano has been monitoring updates from the Centers for Disease Control, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Shawano-Menominee Health Department regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Out of respect for the health and safety of our employees and the community, the City of Shawano has decided to close all municipal buildings to the public, effective Monday (March 16) until further notice. These buildings include City Hall, Police Department lobby, Recreation Center, Civic Center, Shawano Municipal Utilities and Public Works offices. All city public meetings will also be canceled until further notice.

“At this time, it is our intention to maintain all essential/critical city functions with our employees continuing in their normal capacity, while working within the facilities closed to the public. Residents will see no change in the level of services provided including public safety (Police/Fire/ambulance), curbside services, etc. The land fill will remain open to the public during this time; however all transactions will need to be made with debit or credit card payments – no cash transactions will be accepted.”

The senior meal program held at the Civic Center will still deliver to those individuals already scheduled. Individuals who go to the Civic Center for a meal can still do so. However it will be for pick up only, with no dine-in option available during this time, according to the city statement.

All residents making real estate tax payments to the City of Shawano or utility payments to Shawano Municipal Utilities can do so by mailing, placing their payments in the drop boxes located outside of these facilities or by using the online payment portals found on the city’s website.

Contact City Hall, 715-526-6138, for all other transactions including pet licensing, taxi tickets, voter registration and in-office absentee voting, or any other questions.

The March 19 and April 9 Shawano-Bonduel Municipal Court dates have been rescheduled. All Shawano appearances have been rescheduled for May 14, and the Bonduel appearances have been rescheduled for April 16. If payments have already been made, individuals may disregard their court date unless it is mandatory.

Shawano-Bonduel Municipal Court payments can also be made via the City Hall drop box or via the online payment option.

“We appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we do our part to help limit the exposure to our community,” the statement concluded.

Evers suspends DPI administrative rules

Gov. Tony Evers directed the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to suspend administrative rules relating to hours of instruction, student teacher assessments, and general flexibility during the COVID-19 public health emergency on Sunday.

“As we continue to face challenges surrounding COVID-19 in Wisconsin, it’s critically important that school district administrators, educators, students, and parents have the peace of mind knowing we’re working to address concerns about hours of instruction, making sure our student teachers will graduate on time, and ensuring the department has flexibility as we move forward to do what’s best for our kids, educators, and schools across our state,” Evers said.

Evers’ order relating to the DPI will ensure the DPI will be able to streamline the waiver process for hours of instruction for public schools; suspend the requirements to allow students in teacher preparation programs to graduate on time this spring; and provide the DPI with flexibility in light of upcoming due dates.

Number of Positive Results by County Per DHS

Wisconsin County Total Cases as of 3/27/2020

Bayfield 2
Brown 5
Calumet 1
Chippewa 3
Clark 2
Columbia 6
Dane 133
Dodge 6
Douglas 5
Dunn 2
Eau Claire 7
Fond du Lac 18
Grant 1
Green 3
Iowa 3
Iron 1
Jefferson 6
Juneau 2
Kenosha 23
La Crosse 14
Marathon 1
Marinette 1
Milwaukee 411
Monroe 1
Outagamie 4
Ozaukee 30
Pierce 4
Portage 1
Racine 9
Richland 2
Rock 12
Sauk 8
Sheboygan 7
St. Croix 4
Vilas 2
Walworth 5
Washington 27
Waukesha 61
Waupaca 1
Winnebago 6
Wood 2
Total cases 842

Total deaths 13

UPDATE March 19 5 p.m.

DATCP provides resources to farmers, ag businesses

MADISON – The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is providing resources for the state’s consumers, farmers, and agricultural businesses as they navigate the challenges presented by COVID-19. These resources can be found at and include helpful information such as information on Executive Order #72 and Emergency Order #5 regarding gatherings of 10 people or more, which makes important exemptions for manufacturing, processing, distribution, and production facilities.

It also provides links to state and federal agency tips and information (also available at gov/COVID19.)

There is a toolkit for farmers and agricultural organizations to assist in planning ahead.

Farmers and also find frequently askded questions on price gouging, animal and livestock health, food supply and delivery, and crops and agribusinesses

“We understand this is a confusing and stressful time, especially for those in agriculture,” said DATCP Interim Secretary Randy Romanski. “We aim to serve as a resource for farmers, consumers, and agribusinesses in need of assistance as they plan their response to COVID-19.”

In addition to continually updating the DATCP website as information on COVID-19 evolves, the agency is conducting weekly calls with industry stakeholders to provide updates, share information, and access resources. Agricultural stakeholders should work through their agricultural associations to compile questions and concerns. These organizations will then share those items with DATCP on their designated weekly call.

UPDATE March 17

MADISON - Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday directed Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to issue an agency order prohibiting mass gatherings of 10 people or more to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The order makes exceptions for transportation, educational institutions, child care, hotels, military, law enforcement, food pantries, hospitals, long-term care facilities, restaurants and bars can only offer take-out or delivery, grocery stores and convenience stores, utility facilities, job centers, and courts. Additionally, schools will be closed for the duration of the public health emergency.

“Our top priority at this time is to keep Wisconsinites safe and healthy by reducing the spread of COVID-19, especially for those who are considered high-risk. With limited tests available nationwide and continued community spread, we have to take every precaution to protect ourselves, our families, and our neighbors,” Evers said in a press release.

“I know what this means for our small business owners and the struggles they and their workers will face in the coming weeks, but we are committed to working with our federal partners, state officials and stakeholders to ensure we are doing everything we can to assist during these uncertain times.”

The order supersedes Evers' announcement on Monday on banning gatherings in the state of any more than 50 people.

UPDATE March 17 11:55 a.m.

State Patrol delivering test kits, samples

Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary-designee Craig Thompson has ordered the Wisconsin State Patrol to assist with the growing need to deliver COVID-19 test kits and samples to designated labs.

Through coordination with the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC), State Patrol on March 14 transported a patient sample from a nursing home facility to the hygiene lab in Madison.

“State Patrol officers across the state stand ready to assist in any way necessary with the evolving public health emergency,” Thompson said. “In addition to their daily tasks of ensuring safety on Wisconsin’s highways, our troopers facilitate the transport of COVID-19 samples and test kits when requested by the SEOC.”

Courier services associated with hospitals and the state hygiene lab are the first point of contact to transport test kits and samples to their destinations. However, the State Patrol is preparing for the possibility that these “first tier” couriers could become overwhelmed. If a testing facility cannot transport a kit or sample, the request is forwarded to the State Patrol representative at the SEOC.

UPDATE March 14 3:20 p.m.

The state election commission is encouraging voters to take advantage of early voting in response to COVID-19 health concerns.

“The Wisconsin Elections Commission strongly urges anyone who is concerned about Coronavirus COVID-19 exposure to make plans now to vote absentee for the April 7 Spring Election and Presidential Preference Primary,” the commission stated in a news release.

“If you are worried about getting to the polls on Election Day, make sure you are registered to vote at your current address and with your current name and request an absentee ballot as soon as possible,” said Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin’s chief elections official.

Acting by Wednesday, March 18, is especially important for anyone who needs to register to vote, Wolfe said. “We want everyone who is eligible and who wants to vote to be able to do so safely,” she said. If your name or address has changed since you need to register with your current information. You can check your registration status at, click on “My Voter Info.”

UPDATE March 20 10:30 a.m.

County urging business by phone, online

SHAWANO — The coronavirus outbreak has Shawano County officials urging the public to conduct as much of its business via the county website,

For those issues that cannot be resolved online, people should call the applicable department, including the following: administration and finance, 715-524-4611; child support, 715-526-2190; clerk of courts, 715-526-9347; county clerk, 715-526-8150; corporation counsel, 715-524-3181; district attorney, 715-526-2166; emergency management, 715-526-6774; health, 715-526-4808; highway, 715-526-9182; human services, 715-526-4700; land conservation, 715-526-4820; maintenance, 715-526-6685; parks, 715-524-4986; planning and development, 715-526-6766; register of deeds, 715-524-2129; register in probate, 715-526-8631; sheriff, 715-526-3111; technology services, 715-526-4615; University of Wisconsin-Extension, 715-526-6136; veterans services, 715-526-9183; victim witness, 715-526-4608; and WIC, 715-526-2822.

For those who must come to the courthouse, visitation should be limited to the people that the issue concerns. Anyone who is coughing or sick should not come into courthouse unless it’s an emergency.

UPDATE March 23 8:15 a.m.

Shawano extends absentee voting hours

SHAWANO — The city is holding extended absentee voting hours two days a week ahead of the April 7 election to give voters who might not be able vote during regular hours a chance to cast their ballots.

Shawano City Hall, 127 S. Sawyer St., will remain available to curbside in-person voting up until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, March 24, 26, 31 and April 2.

The move is part of a push being made to encourage absentee voting statewide due to health concerns over the COVID-19 coronavirus.

“In an effort to continue to keep our residents and staff safe, the city of Shawano is continuing to urge its residents to utilize to obtain an absentee ballot for the upcoming April 7 election,” the city said in a statement.

Those who don’t have the ability to upload a photo ID to that site can mail a written request to City Hall. You will need to provide a copy of your ID with the request.

Curbside absentee voting is available if neither of those options are practical for voters.

“We will continue to keep you informed of any changes the city makes regarding the services being provided to our residents,” the city said in the statement. “We hope you are all able to stay safe and healthy during this time and are here for you if you have any questions. Thank you as always for your understanding and patience during these rapidly changing times.”

UPDATE March 23 8:24 a.m.

Oconto County Board declares state of emergency

OCONTO — The Oconto County Board voted unanimously Thursday to ratify a state of emergency resolution in the wake of what the World Health Organization has described as a pandemic from the novel strain of coronavirus dubbed COVID-19.

County Board Chairman Paul Bednarek had signed the declaration two days earlier on March 17, proclaiming a state of emergency through July 17 enabling the county “to employ and expend all available resources to protect the health, safety and welfare of persons and property in Oconto County.”

The vote was 24-0 to ratify Bednarek’s action, with seven supervisors not in attendance, in a meeting that was moved from the board chambers at the Oconto County Courthouse to the more spacious conference room at the adjacent Law Enforcement Center.

The board also passed a variety of more routine business items, including the election of Brandon Hytinen as the county’s new highway commissioner. Hytinen has been assistant highway commissioner under Pat Scanlan, who last month announced his retirement from the position effective April 3.

Salaries were set for the next four-year terms of the county clerk, register of deeds and treasurer, who will be elected in the November election.

The resolution – approved 23-1 with Supervisor Gary Frank dissenting – provides a 6.8% increase over the incumbents’ current salaries to $62,010 in 2021, followed by 2% annual raises for the next three years to $70,296.01 in 2024.

The board did postpone action on resolutions related to the closeout of the county Revolving Loan Fund and applications for two related Community Development Block Grant projects.

UPDATE March 24 9:44 a.m.

Oconto County closes buildings to the public

Oconto County facilities will be closed to the public effective on Tuesday. Offices will remain open.

Signs will be placed on the entrances notifying the public of such and to contact the County Clerk’s Office at 920-834-6800.

Also, no County Board committee meetings until April 20.

Jury trials are canceled in Oconto County Circuit Court at least through April 30. Jurors summoned for this time period are not required to report and or call the jury line at Oconto County Clerk of Court. In addition, your jury service will be satisfied for four years. General court inquiries should be directed to 920-834-6858.

UPDATE March 23 8:32 a.m.

Abrams theater holding virtual auditions for summer show

ABRAMS — Auditions for the next Abrams Spotlight Productions Inc. show are being held this week but, in keeping with the season, not face-to-face.

The community theater troupe is holding virtual auditions for its summer play, “Mark Twain’s the Diaries of Adam and Eve.” Adults and teens 16 and older are encouraged to audition. The play calls for a variety of roles, both male and female. Newcomers are encouraged to audition. No previous experience is necessary.

The play is a light-hearted look at the world’s first love story through the eyes of America’s great humorist, Mark Twain. Throughout the play, the Garden of Eden bursts with wit, laughter and the lyric poignance of the first love and the first loss.

The show is scheduled to be presented June 19-21 and 26-28 at the Nancy Byng Community Theater, 5852 Maple St., Abrams.

Anyone interested in auditioning should email or call 920-826-5852. Individuals will be asked to record themselves reading from the script and submit the recording electronically. The theater group will provide the reading. Submissions are due by 8 p.m. Friday.

Anyone interested in helping out behind the scenes should call 920-826-5852 to volunteer.

First produced for “American Playhouse” on PBS, “Mark Twain’s the Diaries of Adam and Eve” is a uniquely American theater piece. The show has been produced more than 200 times in both extended runs and touring engagements at regional theaters, university theaters and performing arts centers across the country.

UPDATE March 19 5 p.m.

Shawano School District announces food distribution

Shawano School District bagged breakfast/lunch program begins Monday and will run weekdays while school is closed from 10-11 a.m.

District administrator Randi Anderson said about 430 children have already been signed up for the program. Families fill out an online survey to participate, and Anderson noted that the program is still open for any district student.

Parents are asked to pick up food at locations throughout the district at a time based on students’ last names. They are asked to keep social distancing in mind when picking up breakfasts and lunches.

“We don’t want to see a line of kids waiting to get food,” Anderson said. “Social distancing is so important. We are hoping that because we are going by last name, that will help, and there will be an administrator present.”

The distribution schedule is based on the first letter of the student’s last name: A-D, 10 a.m.; E-H, 10:10 a.m.; I-L, 10:20 a.m.; M-P, 10:30 a.m.; Q-T 10:40 a.m.; and U-Z 10:50 a.m.

Pickup locations are Shawano Community Middle School, the old Wescott Town Hall on Lake Drive, Bartlett and Fifth streets near the site of the old hospital, Franklin Park, Elizabeth Street and Eberlein Park.

UPDATE March 28 12:15 p.m.

Prevea Health offers online screening

Prevea Health is offering free online screening and evaluation for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) through Prevea Virtual Care at

Prevea Virtual Care visits for COVID-19 assess the patient’s symptoms and provide information about COVID-19. If additional care is needed, patients will be provided specific directions about where to go for lab testing and follow-up care to ensure they receive the care they need while maintaining a safe distance from others. If a patient needs additional lab tests or follow-up care, it will be billed to the patient’s insurance provider.

Prevea Virtual Care is available to anyone in the state, regardless of whether they’ve been with Prevea or not.

Those with symptoms of COVID-19 — including fever, cough and shortness of breath — should stay home and use Prevea Virtual Care online or call 920-431-1810 to receive a free assessment by phone. If symptoms are severe and life-threatening, they should call 911.

If they prefer to travel to the emergency room on their own, they should call the hospital prior to their arrival to explain their symptoms. This will provide the emergency department time to prepare for their arrival and be sure that others in the area will be protected from the potential spread of infectious disease.

In addition to the COVID-19 assessment, Prevea Virtual Care also offers online diagnoses and treatment for a variety of common health conditions, allowing people to receive care from the safety and comfort of home which is especially important during this time. Prevea Virtual Care visits for common health conditions are offered for only $35 each.

UPDATE March 27 2:30 p.m

Evictions, foreclosures suspended during COVID-19 crisis

Gov. Tony Evers directed Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to temporarily order the suspension of evictions and foreclosures on Friday amid the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The order prohibits landlords from evicting tenants for any reason unless failure to proceed with the eviction will result in an imminent threat of serious physical harm to another person and mortgagees from commencing civil action to foreclose on real estate for 60 days. Wisconsinites who are able to continue to meet their financial obligations are urged to do so. This order does not in any way relieve a person’s obligation to pay their rent or mortgages.

“During this time individuals, families, and small businesses may see disruptions in paychecks due to losing hours, tips, business, or employment. This is another step we can take to prioritize the health and safety of Wisconsinites during this public health emergency,” Evers said. “Evictions and foreclosures pose a direct and serious threat to the health and well-being of Wisconsinites, ensuring they are able to keep a roof over their heads and those in social services can prioritize assisting those who currently do not have shelter is critically important.”

UPDATE March 27 1 p.m.

Shawano logs 30 negative tests, ‘many more’ tests waiting

The Shawano-Menominee County Health Department has released a statement saying that it is likely that COVID-19 is present in the area, even though tests have not yet yielded a positive result.

“In Shawano and Menominee Counties, while we currently have more than 30 negative tests and many more are waiting for results or being tested, we are still watching for our first confirmed positive case. We know there is illness in the community and it is likely we have COVID-19 among us. With limited testing available to detect a confirmed case, we encourage you to keep watching for any signs or symptoms and to stay home as much as possible, but especially if you have illness,” the health department said.

“On March 24, 2020, Governor Evers issued the Safer at Home Order. Our entire state must take steps together. This is a big challenge and it is important that we all take this seriously. Lives are at stake.”

“COVID-19 has surprised us all with the level of impact it has had on our lives. We have taken some important steps to fight COVID-19 and we applaud all of the efforts our counties and tribes have taken to respond to this pandemic. Now is the time for us to collectively do all we can to protect the health and safety of our community,” the release states.

UPDATE March 23 2:34 p.m.

City of Shawano issues emergency declaration

SHAWANO — The city Monday issued a proclamation declaring a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The proclamation followed the announcement that Gov. Tony Evers planned to issue a stay-at-home order closing all non-essential businesses and services statewide.

The Shawano proclamation states that the city will make all of its resources available to adopt, implement and support all actions and recommendations of federal, state and county public health agencies.

Under the emergency declaration, all in-person meetings and gatherings involving city employees, staff and elected officials are being suspended.

Any necessary meetings of the Shawano Common Council, committees, commissions and boards would be conducted remotely.

Currently, there are no meetings scheduled but the city will likely have to hold its April reorganizational meeting following the April 7 election.

“If we have to meet, if there is something that is required that we need to do in a timely manner, we will meet but it will be done remotely,” City Clerk Lesley Nemetz said.

Read the full story at

UPDATE March 25 12:15 p.m.

Shawano closes playgrounds

The city announced Tuesday it is closing down city playgrounds in compliance with the state’s stay-at-home order as part of the response to the COVID-19 health emergency.

Parks will remain open, but playground equipment will be sealed off, City Clerk Lesley Nemetz said.

The city released the following statement:

“Governor Evers has issued Emergency Order 12, the Safer At Home Order. Within the contents of this order, the City of Shawano is required to close our playgrounds until further notice.

“Please note that we will be keeping our parks open for those individuals that would like to engage in other outdoor activities such as walking, biking, hiking or running, so long as they are complying with the social distancing requirements provided by the State.

“Along with the playgrounds being closed, the order states that individuals may not engage in team or contact sports such as basketball, ultimate frisbee, soccer or football.

“As a municipality, the last thing we want to do is tell you not to use our parks, however we are asking you to follow these guidelines to help keep yourself and your neighbors safe and healthy during these difficult times.”

UPDATE April 3 8:30 p.m.

Shawano County gets first positive COVID-19 case

Shawano-Menominee Counties Health Department announced Friday that there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Shawano County.

This is the county’s first confirmed case, but there have been cases in surrounding counties. The individual is under isolation as requested by local, state, and federal recommendations, according to a health department press release. No details are being released on the person who has tested positive.

“We have been preparing for and anticipating confirmed cases in Shawano County. We are working closely with the (Wisconsin) Department of Health Services (DHS) to ensure we are taking all of the appropriate steps,” said Vicki Dantoin, Shawano-Menominee counties health officer.

The county also had 75 people test negative for COVID-19, according to information posted Friday on the state DHS website.

The health department and DHS responsibilities include:

• Identifying and contacting anyone who has been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19. These people are asked to quarantine themselves for 14 days from their exposure and will be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms. People with symptoms are tested for COVID-19.

• Providing guidance to clinicians regarding testing.

• Preparing for community spread of COVID-19.

For the latest information about COVID-19 in Shawano County, visit

UPDATE March 27 6:18 p.m.

Oconto County records first coronavirus case

Wisconsin health officials have confirmed the first case of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Oconto County. Health officials are investigating how the person may have become infected, and will be contacting individuals who may have had close contact with the patient.

To protect patient privacy and ensure compliance with federal HIPAA laws, additional details about the patient cannot be released, said Deb Konitzer, county health officer.

“We are in daily contact with this individual to monitor their symptoms and ensure they are receiving support to be able to isolate at home,” Konitzer said. “The Oconto County Health Department is ready to deal with this situation and will continue to work with Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and our local partners to make sure our community remains safe and healthy.

“The best thing people can do is practice everyday good health habits – cover your coughs and sneezes by coughing into your upper sleeve, wash your hands often, and stay home if you’re sick,” she said. “Everyone should be following the Safer at Home order provided by Governor Evers which limits all non-essential travel and prohibits social gatherings. These efforts can help to slow the spread of the virus.”

UPDATE March 26 10:45 a.m.

CoVantage authorizes $20M to help members

The CoVantage Credit Union board of directors has authorized that up to $20 million be made available to assist existing credit union member-owners affected financially by the recent pandemic emergency.

Member relief efforts will focus on providing financial relief for CoVantage members including opportunities for deferring payments on existing loans, waiving late fees on loans, deferring first payments on new consumer loans, and more. Individuals, families and businesses who are current CoVantage members should reach out to CoVantage if they need assistance.

“CoVantage has a long history of assisting member-owners in times of need, and we are devoted to helping those who have supported their credit union,” said Charlie Zanayed, CoVantage CEO. “CoVantage would not be able to offer this relief program if it wasn’t for our members’ support. Credit unions were created to serve during difficult times, and CoVantage is well-positioned to make these resources available to our members today.”

Special efforts are being put into place to support CoVantage credit union members (including business members) who are most affected by the health, economic, and social impacts of this pandemic.

“While we certainly won’t be able to help every individual or business, and we can’t solve every problem, we will always be ready to try to be there for those who are a part of our cooperative,” Zanayed said.

Because CoVantage serves many low- and moderate-income communities, the United States Treasury has designated CoVantage as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). The CDFI designation allows CoVantage to apply for and receive grant funds.

CoVantage will be applying for grant funds recently made available for pandemic relief, with hopes of assisting even more people served by the financial cooperative. While there is no guarantee CoVantage will be awarded grants, if approved, CoVantage will share additional details with member-owners and the communities that the credit union serves.

Call 800-398-2667 or visit for information.

UPDATE March 23 2:34 p.m.

City suspends wood waste, bulky item collection

SHAWANO — The city is suspending the collection of wood waste and bulky items until further notice as of Wednesday and postponing spring cleanup to an undetermined future date.

Regular garbage and recycling pick-up will continue, however.

The changes are the latest developments in the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and state orders mandating social distancing and requiring non-essential workers to stay at home.

UPDATE March 22 5:22 p.m.

More PSC consumer protections ordered

Gov. Tony Evers issued Emergency Order 11 on Sunday, suspending several utility-related administrative rules, paving the way for the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) to temporarily order further consumer protections amid the COVID-19 public health emergency.

“It is critically important to give people flexibility during this emergency, when paychecks might be disrupted, to keep the lights and heat on and water flowing,” Evers said. “We’re making sure that folks don’t have to make the critical choice between keeping their utilities on and paying for other essentials.”

Immediately following the governor’s emergency order, PSC Chairwoman Rebecca Cameron Valcq directed regulated utilities in the state to take the following actions for the duration of the emergency:

• Stop utility disconnection for nonpayment for all customers, including commercial, industrial, and farm accounts. Previously this applied to residential accounts only.

• Cease assessing late fees to customer accounts.

• Halt the practice of requiring deposits from customers for reconnection of service.

• Allow deferred payment agreements for all customers who request them.

• Remove any administrative barriers for customers establishing or reestablishing utility service.

• Authorize water utilities to provide budget billing arrangements to customers. Electric and natural gas utilities are allowed to do this under current rules.

Previously, the PSC directed utilities to cease disconnecting residential service for nonpayment until the state public health emergency had been lifted. Additionally, utilities were required to make reasonable attempts to reconnect service to an occupied dwelling that had been disconnected.

UPDATE April 2, 8:15 p.m.

Shawano will move voting outdoors on Tuesday

SHAWANO — The city of Shawano will hold its voting outdoors during Tuesday’s spring election and presidential primary out of concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Voters will cast their ballots under large tents in the City Hall parking lot, 127 S. Sawyer St., in an effort to keep poll workers and residents as safe as possible, the city said.

“We are planning on having the ballot machines available for the voters to place their opti-scan ballot in the machine as they do at a typical election,” City Clerk Lesley Nemetz said.

“We will be taking every precaution possible to ensure that our workers and residents are safe,” Nemetz said. “We do plan to have someone making sure that the recommended social distancing requirements are being followed to the best of our ability.”

The social distancing precautions and limited number of staff could lead to longer wait times for voters, Nemetz said.

“Our primary concern is the health and safety off all those in attendance,” she said, and asked that voters on Tuesday be patient.

Many voters have already taken advantage of absentee voting to avoid coming out to the polls on Tuesday.

“Typically for this election we would have somewhere around 350 absentee ballots requested. We are currently at 1,400,” Nemetz said Thursday afternoon.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 2, 8:15 p.m.

Bonduel taking extra precautions for Tuesday’s election

BONDUEL — The village of Bonduel is taking special precautions for Tuesday’s election day voting in light of health and safety concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clerk/Treasurer Michelle Maroszek said the village will be following the recommended guidelines for distance and numbers of voters/people in village hall at one time.

“All workers will have personal protective equipment available to wear and use,” she said. “Sneeze guards will be used at registration tables and individual pens and styluses we be provided for each voter to use.”

There will also be a hand sanitizer dispenser as voters walk in to vote.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 1, 3:30 p.m.

Hillside Assembly goes online

GILLETT — With the spread of the coronavirus and the governor having everyone to stay at home, Hillside Assembly in Gillett and Hillside North in Pound have begun a special weekly worship service online for all to view at 10 a.m. Sunday at and There is also a Children’s Church program at 9 a.m.

Only the Gillett office is staffed for now and church offices will be locked, but if families need emergency help with food they can bring it out to a vehicle; just knock. Parishioners can also check our Facebook page for devotionals and hope-filled scripture lifesavers, as well as updates.

Hillside Assembly is located at 5890 State Highway 22 West in Gillett, and Hillside North is located at 2023 County Road Q in Pound. For more information, contact the Gillett office at 920-855-2962.

UPDATE April 6, 11:20 p.m.

Shawano County records three COVID-19 cases

Shawano County health officials Monday reported two more confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to three.

The Shawano-Menominee Counties Health Department reported its first case in Shawano County on April 3, and the first confirmed case in Menominee County on April 1.

Officials have not released information on any of the patients or where in the two counties the coronavirus was contracted.

As of Monday, the health department reported 145 tests for COVID-19 in Shawano County, with 107 coming back negative and 35 still pending.

In Menominee County, there have been 10 tests with nine negative results and one positive. No tests were still pending as of Monday morning.

The health department said in a Facebook post that daily updates would be provided on Facebook in the afternoon starting Tuesday.

The department also advised people to continue practicing social distancing and hygiene by staying home as much as they can, especially if they are sick; covering coughs and sneezes; avoiding touching their face; washing hands often with soap and water; staying at least 6 feet away from other people; and calling before going to see a medical provider.

UPDATE April 3, 6:45 p.m.

Agriculture responds to COVID-19

SHAWANO — The state has been given contradictory views of the impact of COVID-19 in the last 48 hours, Jeff Strassburg observed on Friday.

The Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (DFW) board member and member of the Land O’ Lakes cooperative board said the farms dumping milk have been confined to seven southeastern Wisconsin and a few western counties while some grocery stores in the Eastern U.S. have no dairy products on their shelves.

Strassburg is not dumping any milk from his 1,000-cow herd on his farm north of Bowler as the co-op continues to pick up milk on its regular schedule. He hasn’t heard of any local producers dumping milk and only one local processor dumping milk.

“It looks pretty bad right now, but we still have to be a little optimistic that the end of the world isn’t coming. We’ll get back to business-as-usual sometime,” Strassburg said, after the country weathers what he termed “trying times.”

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 1 4:30 p.m.

Oconto County issues travel advisory

OCONTO — Oconto County has issued a travel advisory asking people who own seasonal property in the county to refrain from coming to their seasonal homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the continued spread of the virus in the United States and Wisconsin.

The announcement from Oconto County Health Officer Deb Konitzer recommends that those with second/seasonal homes within Oconto County refrain from traveling to those properties due to the limited healthcare infrastructure available within the county and increased risk of community-to-community spread.

“Oconto County has a high percentage of older adults and vulnerable population,” Konitzer said. “These high-risk groups are one of the county’s priority groups that need protection to keep Oconto County healthy and safe.”

People who have seasonal homes are recommended to stay at their winter homes at this time. Anyone who has recently arrived in Oconto County from outside of the county, is encouraged to self-quarantine for 14 days to reduce the potential for community-to-community spread.

Visit and click on COVID-19 under Quick Links for more information, including the full text of the travel advisory.

UPDATE April 3, 9:45 a.m.

Sturgeon Park to be closed for spawning season

SHAWANO — Coronavirus concerns have quashed a popular annual event that typically takes place in the spring of each year.

The city of Shawano has announced it will temporarily close down Sturgeon Park effective April 9, cutting the park off to the throngs of visitors that usually gather for the annual sturgeon spawn.

“With the continued increase of concern regarding COVID-19 and the recommendations to limit person-to-person contact, the city of Shawano has made the tough decision to temporarily close Sturgeon Park to the public,” the city said in a statement Thursday.

“The annual sturgeon spawn will take place in the coming weeks, and this event typically draws hundreds of people to Sturgeon Park at any given time,” the city said. “Currently, the recommendations being provided by the state of Wisconsin related to social distancing prohibits groups of 10 or more and having the ability to maintain distance of 6 feet between one another.”

According to the city, Department of Natural Resources staff will not be doing its usual sturgeon-tagging, but will still be present to monitor and ensure the safety and well-being of the sturgeon.

Read the full story at

UPDATE March 31, 3:15 p.m.

First confirmed COVID-19 case announced in Menominee County

SHAWANO — Shawano-Menominee Counties Health Department announced Tuesday that there is a confirmed case in Menominee County.

This is the first confirmed case for the county. This individual is under isolation as requested by local, state, and federal recommendations.

“We have been preparing for and anticipating confirmed cases in Shawano and Menominee counties. We are working closely with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) to ensure we are taking all of the appropriate steps,” said Vicki Dantoin, Shawano-Menominee counties health officer.

The health department and the DHS’s responsibilities include:

• Identifying and contacting anyone who has been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19. These people are asked to quarantine themselves for 14 days from their exposure and will be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms. People with symptoms are tested for COVID-19.

• Providing guidance to clinicians regarding testing.

• Preparing for community spread of COVID-19.

Local public health officials in Shawano and Menominee are keeping track of this outbreak, according to a press release.

For the latest information about COVID-19 in Menominee County, visit

UPDATE April 2, 3:45 p.m.

WBSD students will continue with their studies

A letter went out on April 1 to the students and families in the Wittenberg-Birnamwood School District. In it Superintendent Garrett Rogowski clarified the new normal for at-home instruction for the next two weeks, April 6-17. The plan is to continue with this two-week process until further notice.

“First and foremost, it is very important to regularly check the district website and social media sites, teacher emails, and any other resources your child’s teacher may be utilizing,” Rogowski said.

Materials will be mailed to each residence for students in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade. All work should be completed to the best of the student’s ability. It will not be officially graded, but should be submitted if the teacher requests it.

For grades 5-8, the materials/Chromebooks are to be picked up from the school each child attends on April 7 between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Students without internet access may request hard copy resources from their teacher. For grades 6-8, all work assigned is mandatory. All work will be collected and graded, but grading for the remainder of the school year can only improve a student’s grade from where they left off in mid-March.

Read the full story at

UPDATE March 31 4:45 p.m.

ThedaCare sets up COVID-19 hotline

Prevea Health is offering free online screening and evaluation for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) through Prevea Virtual Care at

Prevea Virtual Care visits for COVID-19 assess the patient’s symptoms and provide information about COVID-19. If additional care is needed, patients will be provided specific directions about where to go for lab testing and follow-up care to ensure they receive the care they need while maintaining a safe distance from others. If a patient needs additional lab tests or follow-up care, it will be billed to the patient’s insurance provider.

Prevea Virtual Care is available to anyone in the state, regardless of whether they’ve been with Prevea or not.

Those with symptoms of COVID-19 — including fever, cough and shortness of breath — should stay home and use Prevea Virtual Care online or call 920-431-1810 to receive a free assessment by phone. If symptoms are severe and life-threatening, they should call 911.

If they prefer to travel to the emergency room on their own, they should call the hospital prior to their arrival to explain their symptoms. This will provide the emergency department time to prepare for their arrival and be sure that others in the area will be protected from the potential spread of infectious disease.

In addition to the COVID-19 assessment, Prevea Virtual Care also offers online diagnoses and treatment for a variety of common health conditions, allowing people to receive care from the safety and comfort of home which is especially important during this time. Prevea Virtual Care visits for common health conditions are offered for only $35 each.

UPDATE April 7, 2 p.m.

Quilters come to the rescue

WITTENBERG — Quilters seem to be on the forefront of keeping the spread of COVID-19 at bay.

What they have in common is a seemingly unlimited supply of quality fabric remnants from past projects. Quilting is definitely a labor of love, so it makes sense that there are so many reports of quilters who are busy making masks.

Three of them in this area are Dar Borchardt and Linda Philipp, of Wittenberg, and Katie Kaufman, of Eland.

“I have three daughters in the health care industry and when they asked for masks, I was happy to help,” said Kaufman.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 6, 10:45 a.m.

Gwidt Pharmacy conducts business in new way

WITTENBERG — Gwidt Pharmacy is open and serving customers with precautions to keep both staff and customers safe from COVID-19.

By closing the store but keeping the drive-up window open for business, pharmacist Shane Resch is hoping to keep exposure to the virus to a minimum.

Resch noted that they have only ever totally closed once and that was a couple of years ago when there was a gas line problem and the area had to be evacuated. Resch plans to keep normal business hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 5, 2:25 p.m.

State gets national emergency declaration

WASHINGTON — FEMA announced that federal emergency aid has been made available for the state of Wisconsin to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic beginning on Jan. 20 and continuing.

Public assistance federal funding is available to the state, tribal and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures (Category B), including direct federal assistance under public assistance, for all areas in the state of Wisconsin affected by COVID-19 at a federal cost share of 75 percent.

James K. Joseph has been named as the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further assessments.

UPDATE April 9, 3:40 p.m.

Shawano County records 5th COVID-19 case

Shawano County was reporting five confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday afternoon, up from four that had been confirmed as of Tuesday.

The Shawano-Menominee Counties Public Health Department reported its first case in Shawano County on April 3, and the first confirmed case in Menominee County on April 1.

Two more were confirmed in Shawano County on Monday and another on Tuesday.

Officials have not released information on any of the patients or where in the two counties the coronavirus was contracted.

As of Thursday, the health department reported 179 tests for COVID-19 in Shawano County, with 141 coming back negative and 33 still pending.

In Menominee County, there have been 11 tests with 10 negative results and one positive.

Statewide there were 2,885 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday and 111 deaths.

UPDATE April 3, 1:30 p.m.

Judge extends absentee ballot counting until April 13

Tuesday is officially election day for the spring election and presidential primary, but voters will still be able to have their absentee ballots counted until April 13, according to a judge’s ruling handed down Thursday.

In response to several lawsuits seeking to postpone the April 7 election over coronavirus concerns, Judge William Conley of the Western District of Wisconsin federal court extended the receipt of absentee ballots to 4 p.m. on Monday, April 13.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot, however, was not extended. That was set to expire at 5 p.m. Friday, April 3.

The judge’s decision means there won’t be any published election results until Tuesday, April 14, according to Shawano County Clerk Pam Schmidt.

The court did not add a requirement for a postmarked-by deadline as long as the ballot is returned by the new deadline.

A witness signature on the absentee ballot certificate envelope is not required if the absentee voter provides a written affirmation or other statement that they were unable to safely obtain a witness certification despite reasonable attempts to do so, provided the ballot is otherwise valid.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 9, 4 p.m.

Oconto County up to three cases; public facilities closed

OCONTO — With the number of reported coronavirus cases in Oconto County now up to three, the county public health director took action this week to close boat landings and campgrounds owned by the county.

Public Health Director Deb Konitzer also banned the use of all-terrain and utility vehicles on county roads that are part of the Oconto County Trail System. She noted this does not close the trails themselves.

“This order does not close boat landings and campgrounds that are under the control of a municipality, township, federal agency, or a private business,” Konitzer said.
The county acted after it became clear that the facilities were continuing to draw visitors from many other counties and even other states despite the governor’s Safer at Home order and a local travel advisory, she said.

“These outdoor activities draw many people in from outside of our county, increasing our population and putting a burden on our healthcare system,” Konitzer said. “Limiting travel is one of the best ways to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

UPDATE April 11, 8: 40 p.m.

Wittenberg clerk’s office closed indefinitely

The Wittenberg village clerk’s office has closed indefinitely due to COVID-19.

Residents will still be able to contact the clerk on a daily basis by calling 715-253-6063 or emailing

Payments or concerns can be mailed to P.O. Box 331, Wittenberg, WI 54499. There is also the option of using the drop off box on the right side wall inside the Wittenberg Community Center located at 208 W. Vinal St.

UPDATE April 13 9 p.m.

Shawano County records sixth COVID case

Shawano County was reporting six confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Monday afternoon, up from five that had been confirmed as of last weekend.

As of Monday, the Shawano-Menominee Counties Public Health Department reported 210 tests for COVID-19 in Shawano County, with 182 coming back negative and 22 still pending.

In Menominee County, there have been 12 tests with 10 negative results and one positive. One test was still pending.

Officials have not released information on any of the patients or where in the two counties the coronavirus was contracted.

Statewide, there were 3,428 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported Monday and 154 deaths.

UPDATE April 13 9 p.m.

Coronavirus puts twist in CMN Earth Day event

KESHENA — Plans for a big 50th anniversary observance of Earth Day next week at the College of Menominee Nation had to shrink slightly due to the coronavirus pandemic, but activities are still taking place virtually.

Normally, Earth Day is celebrated with a big festival on the college’s Keshena campus, according to Rebecca Edler, sustainability coordinator with CMN’s Sustainable Development Institute.

“We were hoping to celebrate it in a big way here on campus,” Edler said. “However, things had to shift to online.”

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 13, 9 p.m.

Lack of speedway racing will impact city, too

SHAWANO — The Shawano Speedway may be quiet in 2020, but the economic impact could be deafening.

The speedway helps Shawano on a number of financial fronts during the course of a season, the start of which has been postponed. Worse, there is the potential for no season at all if COVID-19 cannot be slowed.

The speedway — which brings in an average of 1,600-1,800 fans, plus an additional 350-400 individuals in the pit area on a race night — conducted an impact study on its fans a couple of years ago, and the numbers showed how important the races are to the city. More than 50% of the race fans spent money in Shawano prior to or after the races, while about 13% of fans stayed in Shawano for a night or the weekend after driving over for the races.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 13 9 p.m.

Coronavirus seeps into big dreams of local biz

SHAWANO — The opening of the Stubborn Brothers Brewery has been a much-anticipated event in Shawano, as the new beer and entertainment venue was touted to replace the former Crescent Theater.

With word first swirling around the city in 2016, it appeared the new facility would be up and running in a year. However, additional work and planning pushed back the opening again and again, until owners Aaron and Erik Gilling announced the brewery’s ribbon cutting would take place March 18.

Before the ribbon could be cut, however, guidelines for social distancing were established — first with events having no more than 50 people by Gov. Tony Evers, followed by President Donald Trump trimming that to 10 people.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 8, 7:30 p.m.

Health department clarifies guidelines for religious observances

Shawano-Menominee Counties Health Department announced today (Wednesday) that there are now a total of four confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Shawano County and one confirmed case in Menominee County. All individuals are under isolation as requested by local, state, and federal recommendations. Shawano-Menominee Counties Health Department is in contact with these individuals to assure their health continues to improve and they have the support they need to remain isolated.

“It is still more important than ever to remain at home as much as possible to help slow the spread of COVID-19. We thank all of you who are staying home and doing your part to slow the spread of illness”, said Vicki Dantoin, Health Officer.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 11, 8:30 p.m.

Shawano, Menominee counties equipped for COVID for now

SHAWANO — Shawano and Menominee counties are adequately supplied currently for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, according to local officials, but being ready for a surge in COVID-19 cases here should that happen may be more of a challenge.

Shawano County Emergency Management recently picked up three shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) from sites set up in Antigo and Wausau by Wisconsin Emergency Management.

“In Antigo, the first shipment was designated for the election and the election workers,” Emergency Management Director Jim Davel said, “and the second shipment was designated for first responders.”

The shipment included 295 masks.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 11 8:35 p.m.

Libraries offer online options during pandemic

SHAWANO — The Shawano County Library application and renewal process enables individuals to access digital library services without leaving the comfort and safety of their homes — even while the library is closed.

Individuals who don’t have a library card with InfoSoup can sign up for one online, and library staff will contact them with a temporary card number and PIN that will allow access to all the InfoSoup digital resources. To register for a card, simply complete an online application at

An InfoSoup library card grants patrons access to digital resources for all ages such as ebooks, audiobooks, digitized magazines, newspaper archives and genealogy research. All resources are absolutely free with a library card. Learn more at

Shawano County Library also offers a variety of virtual programs. Virtual programs can be accessed through the library’s Facebook page and include weekday storytimes at 10 a.m., do-it-yourself crafts at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and children’s science experiments at 1 p.m. on Fridays.

For information, contact the library at 715-526-3829.

UPDATE April 9, 4:35 p.m.

Shawano updates waste collection rules

SHAWANO — The city of Shawano has postponed its spring cleanup until the fall amid uncertainty over how long the precautions will need to stay in place to combat the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The city also tweaked how it will handle the pick-up of yard and wood waste, but the landfill will remain open for residents.

The city issued a news release Thursday saying that, in order to reduce crew sizes and conform to social distancing, provided services may take longer than residents are typically used to.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 11, 8:35 p.m.

ThedaCare offers tips for working from home

APPLETON — For many workers whose companies have ordered them to work from home during the coronavirus shutdowns, the experience is entirely new and possibly discomforting.

“Going to work daily provides significant structure to our lives,” said Catherine Langdon, a ThedaCare behavioral health mental health clinician. “When that structure is suddenly withdrawn, many of us might struggle to find a new normal.”

Adding to the feelings of disruption is the fact that schools are closed and children are home 24-7 each day and struggling with their own feelings of confusion and discontent.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 6, 10:30 a.m.

COVID-19 puts school projects on hold

SHAWANO — Plans to expand Shawano Community High School’s athletic and arts facilities have been put on the back burner, due to the COVID-19 virus. Efforts to help keep children learning despite a virus-caused shutdown have also met with challenges, the Shawano School Board heard on Wednesday.

The coronavirus pandemic shutting down most businesses and services have put future plans of many public agencies in limbo, and Shawano School District is no exception.

All schools were ordered to be closed in the middle of March, and schools are not expecting to open anytime before April 24, the last day of Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order. However, deadlines are constantly shifting at the state and federal levels, so even planning for graduation and summer school is in flux.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 11, 8:40 p.m.

Wisconsin Farm Center offers variety of ag resources

MADISON — With Wisconsin farmers facing an unprecedented series of challenges brought on by low commodity prices, unfavorable weather patterns, uncertain global markets and now, challenges posed by COVID-19, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) reminds farmers that support, information and resources are available through the Wisconsin Farm Center.

Since the mid-1980s, thousands of farm families have turned to the center, which provides an extensive array of services to farmers, often in cooperation with the university, governmental or private sector. Those services include, among others, financial and business consultation, farm succession planning, farm ownership transition planning, conflict mediation, production and herd-health challenges, legal and financial mediation and counseling vouchers.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 9, 5:35 p.m.

New order gives state DSPS more flexibility

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers issued Emergency Order #22 Thursday to allow the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) to continue providing its critical services by giving it flexibility to adapt to the new environments and circumstances due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The order covers a range of service areas and constituents, including fire departments, construction services, physical therapists and certified public accountants — all of which have faced new challenges as a result of this public health emergency.

Read the full story at

State public health emergency

Gov. Tony Evers on March 13 declared a public health emergency to help with containing COVID-19 in Wisconsin. People are encouraged to carefully consider travel plans and to avoid areas of the United States and around the world that have community spread of the disease.

UPDATE April 23, 3 p.m.

Safer at Home difficult for homeless people

SHAWANO — “Safer at Home” can be a bittersweet message for clients of Shawano Area Matthew 25.

SAM25 is the community organization that runs SAM’s House, an emergency shelter for individuals and families who are homeless. The current COVID-19 crisis has forced the shelter to be empty but has not eliminated the need for services. That’s where the counseling and advocacy portions of SAM25 take over, said Jennifer Laude Bisterfeldt, SAM25 executive director.

“We’ve relocated everyone. They’ve either self-resolved — with family or friends — or in hotels,” Bisterfeldt said.

The shelter, which usually is open through April, had to close, as it was impossible to maintain a safe distance between families during the COVID-19 crisis, she said.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 23, 3 p.m.

Cleaning up one wipe at a time

WITTENBERG — At a time when many businesses are closed or operating with skeleton crews, Top Brass employs 80 people and is looking to hire more.

The company specializes in packaging single-use antibacterial wipes, medical device and surface sanitizer wipes, and wipes for pet, auto and personal care use. They need more workers to help on the assembly line production of these wipes.

President Mark Burgess noted that due to the COVID-19 virus, many of the production lines are booked through the rest of 2020 and into 2021. Because of the demand for anti-bacterial wipes and sanitizers, they’ve had to push some regular customers further out on the schedule.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 20, 6:10 p.m.

Farm bureau’s annual brunch canceled for 2020

SHAWANO — The Shawano County Farm Bureau announced it will cancel the 2020 Brunch on the Farm.

As state and federal guidelines on slowing the spread of COVID-19 continue to unfold, confidence in the ability to host a large-scale event at the end of June has become low, according to a farm bureau press release. The group was disheartened to make the decision and cited health and safety of the planning committee, volunteers and guests to be their top priority.

The event was set for June 28 at the Nischke’s Back 40 Acres in Pulaski and typically draws more than 4,000 community members annually.

“Brunch on the Farm is the highlight of June Dairy Month, so it is disappointing to cancel this year’s event,” said Christa Hoffman, who chairs the event. “We are now focusing on those who need assistance obtaining milk and recognizing the hard-working farm families in our community.”

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 23, 3 p.m.

Shawano schools expanding meal program

SHAWANO — Most area schools are finding a way to keep children fed for two out of three meals on most weekdays during the coronavirus pandemic, but Shawano School District is about to up the offerings by providing weekend meals, too.

The district is signing people up for the weekend service, and parents will be able to pick up meals from 4-5 p.m. Fridays for the foreseeable future at Shawano Community Middle School, 1050 S. Union St., Shawano. The meals will only be at the one site, as it is anticipated the demand will not be as high as the weekday meals, according to Bobby Reed, Taher food service director for Shawano.

Reed said the district will be providing breakfast and lunch on Saturdays and Sundays to families needing help during this difficult time. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has issued a recommendation for schools to provide such services if their budgets allow, he said.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 23, 3 p.m.

Bonduel schools trying to help neighbors

BONDUEL — The recent announcement from Gov. Tony Evers that his stay-at-home order is being extended through May 26 is not impacting existing plans in the Bonduel School District, according to Superintendent Joe Dawidziak.

However, the news that schools will not be getting back to normal anytime soon is prompting officials to take extra steps to help the community that has helped to support the schools in the month since they were ordered to close down.

“Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen and felt and heard the overwhelming wave of support from our parents, our students and our community during these interesting times,” Dawidziak said.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 23, 3 p.m.

Alternatives to in-person graduation considered

OCONTO FALLS — Administrators and teachers in the Oconto Falls School District are brainstorming ways to honor graduating seniors now that the state has shut down in-person classroom teaching for the rest of the academic year.

Superintendent Dean Hess told the school board Monday that the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators interprets “the end of the school year” as being the end of June, which would have an impact on summer school.

Oconto Falls has scheduled its summer sessions to begin during the second week in June, Hess said.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 23, 5:30 p.m.

Shawano County COVID cases rise to 8

Shawano County reported an increase Thursday in confirmed COVID-19 cases more than a week after cases seemed to have leveled off.

The number of confirmed cases in the county as of Thursday afternoon rose to eight, adding two more to the six that were reported April 14, the last time there was a reported increase.

The Shawano-Menominee Counties Public Health Department reported in its latest update that there have been 316 tests for COVID-19 in Shawano County, with 287 coming back negative and 21 still pending.

Four people who had the coronavirus have recovered.

In Menominee County, there have been 31 tests with 30 negative results.

One person who had contracted COVID-19 has recovered.

There were no test results still pending in Menominee County.

Statewide, there were 5,052 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday and 257 deaths.

UPDATE April 14, 7:45 p.m.

Looser guidelines allowing for more local testing

KESHENA — Testing guidelines for the COVID-19 coronavirus have loosened up recently, according to Dr. Kevin Culhane of the Menominee Tribal Clinic, meaning the number of those being tested for the virus in Shawano and Menominee counties will go up.

Culhane, clinical director at the Menominee Tribal Clinic, is also affiliated with ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano and a member of the Shawano County Board of Health.

He said testing guidelines from ThedaCare and the state health department had been “pretty stringent” up until recently and prioritized patients in the hospital with pneumonia and health care workers treating them.

Read the full story at

UPDATE April 17, 11 a.m.

Evers extends Wisconsin stay-at-home order until May 26

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday extended Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order for another month, keeping nonessential businesses closed until after the Memorial Day holiday weekend to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Schools will be closed the remainder of the academic year under the safer-at-home order that will be in effect until May 26. Golf courses will be allowed to re-open, but club houses and pro shops will remain closed.

“A few weeks ago, we had a pretty grim outlook for what COVID-19 could mean for our state, but because of the efforts of all of you, Safer at Home is working,” Evers said in a statement. “That said, we aren’t out of the woods just yet.”

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UPDATE April 23, 5:30 p.m.

Oconto County boat landings to open, campgrounds ordered shut

Oconto County boat landings are expected to reopen with restrictions as of 5 a.m. Friday, April 24, and the Machickanee Shooting Range will also reopen.

But Oconto County Health Officer Debra Konitzer issued an order closing all county and private campgrounds, except seasonal sites, from 8 a.m. Friday until May 26 or as otherwise ordered.

“The COVID-19 public health emergency has required sacrifices from all of us and continues to be a challenging situation to adjust to,” Konitzer said. “We share people’s concerns about COVID-19, and we also understand that outdoor activities like fishing are encouraged. It is important to enjoy fishing opportunities in waters close to home and to limit travel.”

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UPDATE May 2, 8:45 p.m.

Oconto County COVID cases reach 14

OCONTO — The number of positive tests for coronavirus in Oconto County nearly tripled in the last two weeks of April, according to the county Public Health Department.

As of April 17, the county was reporting five people had contracted COVID-19, but that number rose to 10 by the end of the month and jumped to 14 in the May 1 daily report. Testing had also yielded 311 negative results, and no deaths had been reported in Oconto County.

The county announced that local ATV trails remain closed, including the Nicolet State Trail System. The trails will reopen once they are safe to ride and environmental conditions allow, according to the Forest, Parks and Recreation Department. The latest trail condition information is available at the county website,, or the county tourism site,

UPDATE April 30 9 p.m.

Shawano County COVID cases jump to 15

Shawano County health officials Thursday reported the number of COVID-19 cases in the county had risen to 15, jumping up from the 10 confirmed cases reported only a day earlier.

As of Thursday, the Shawano-Menominee Counties Public Health Department reported 419 tests for the coronavirus in Shawano County, with 346 coming back negative and 58 still pending. Two people had been hospitalized and six people have recovered.

In Menominee County, there have been 76 tests with 62 negative results and one confirmed case; 13 tests were still pending. The one person who was confirmed with COVID-19 in Menominee County was hospitalized but has recovered.

Officials have not released information on any of the patients or where in the two counties the coronavirus was contracted.

Statewide, there were 6,854 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday and 316 deaths.

UPDATE April 30, 9 p.m.

Oconto County Breakfast on the Farm 2020 canceled

LENA — The ongoing restrictions on public activity ordered in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic led the Oconto County Breakfast on the Farm Committee to cancel this year’s event.

“It is with deep regret the Oconto County Breakfast on the Farm Committee along with the Alsteen Family has decided to cancel the 2020 Oconto County Breakfast on the Farm event due to the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19,” the committee posted on social media. “We would like to thank you for your continued support of the Oconto County Breakfast on the Farm.”

The announcement said Alsteen Farms LLC will instead host the 2021 Oconto County Breakfast on the Farm on June 13, 2021.

“As we navigate through these uncertain times, please continue to keep farmers and all frontline workers in your thoughts and prayers,” according to the social media post. “Continue to support our local dairy farmers and agriculture industry by purchasing the wholesome products they produce: milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, cream cheese, and ice cream.”

UPDATE April 27, 9:30 p.m.

Evers loosens up restrictions on more non-essential businesses

MADISON – Gov. Tony Evers announced the another turn of the dial in expanding allowed operations for nonessential businesses, providing even more opportunities for businesses to get back to work in a safe and responsible way.

The emergency order, signed Monday by Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm, allows nonessential businesses to do curbside drop-off of goods and animals. This will allow businesses like dog groomers, small engine repair shops, upholstery businesses, and others to safely open.

The order also allows outdoor recreational rentals, such as boats, golf carts, kayaks, ATVs, and other similar recreational vehicles. Additionally, automatic or self-service car washes would be able to operate. All of these businesses must operate free of contact with customers by providing payment options online or over the phone, enact proper disinfecting practices, and operations must be able to be performed by one staff member.

“No one wants to reopen our economy as much as I do, and we’re working to do everything we can to make sure we can do so as soon as we safely and responsibly can,” Evers said in a press release. “That’s why today we announced a new order that, coupled with our Safer at Home order that went into effect last week, turns the dial a notch by allowing non-essential businesses to do more than they were able to do before.”

UPDATE April 26, 12:30 p.m.

Health department supports Safer at Home

SHAWANO — Shawano-Menominee Counties Health Department announced that there have now been eight confirmed cases in Shawano County and one confirmed case in Menominee County. The true number of infected individuals is likely much higher than the actual number of positive (confirmed) cases.

We can only report numbers of those who are tested and get a lab-confirmed positive test result. Individuals can infect others with COVID-19 even if they are not showing symptoms. Shawano-Menominee Counties Health Department continues to contact individuals who are tested and positive to assure they are remaining in isolation or quarantine.

We know that the Safer at Home order has helped to protect our communities in Wisconsin. As a state, we must continue to address this problem together because our counties are so intertwined. An outbreak in one county quickly leads to cases in other counties.

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UPDATE May 7, 11:20 a.m.

Oconto County COVID-19 cases on the rise

OCONTO — The number of positive tests for coronavirus in Oconto County has more than tripled since mid-April, according to the county Public Health Department.

As of April 17, the county was reporting five people had contracted COVID-19, but that number rose to 10 by the end of the month and jumped to 18 in the May 4 daily report.

Testing had also yielded 394 negative results, and no deaths had been reported in Oconto County.

The surge is nothing like that experienced in Brown County just to the south, where 1,448 positive tests had been reported through Monday, and six patients had died.

The county announced that local ATV trails remain closed, including the Nicolet State Trail System, but the Machickanee Shooting Range and Horse Trails have opened for the season.

The ATV trails will reopen once they are safe to ride and environmental conditions allow, according to the Forest, Parks and Recreation Department. The latest trail condition information is available at the county website,, or the county tourism site,

UPDATE April 27, 9:30 p.m.

Tigerton seniors honored with banners

TIGERTON — With the COVID-19 pandemic canceling school activities, sports and special events, it’s been a difficult time for Wisconsin students, especially seniors. Wanda Tucker, senior class adviser at Tigerton High School, wanted to make sure the nine students in the Class of 2020 know they have not been forgotten.

Tucker, who is also a special education aide at the high school, said she’d been hearing about the seniors’ challenges and frustrations from students and parents. “Everyone feels bad for them,” she said. “I thought of doing something special for them to let them know how proud our community and school is of them, and the grace and dignity with which they are handling all of this.”

“I saw on Facebook that different schools were having banners for their spring sport athletes,” Tucker added. “I thought it was a good idea, but that we should do it for the whole class.”

In Marion, where Tucker lives, there are similar banners on the street lamps. So she contacted the company that produced them, and they said they could help out with this project.

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UPDATE April 9, 4:55 p.m

Stockbridge-Munsee establish curfew on reservation

BOWLER — The Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians has followed the lead of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and established a curfew on its reservation lands.

As an additional way to limit transmission of the COVID-19, the tribal council enacts a reservation-wide curfew. This curfew is from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily from April 10 until the end of the tribal public health state of emergency. People who are away from their homes during curfew hours are considered to be trespassing and will be subject to a $500 fine.

People can still travel for legitimate business purposes or for reasons of safety. Law enforcement, fire department and EMS personnel are authorized to travel during curfew hours. The curfew also does not prevent travel by people due to an emergency, such as a health emergency that requires transport to a hospital or if people needs to leave a location to ensure the safety of themselves or their children.

Community members who need to travel during curfew hours such as for travel to and from work should provide prior notice of their hours of travel and reason for travel to the tribe by emailing the information to Police Chief Jim Hoffman at or 715-793-4394.

UPDATE April 7, 2 p.m.

Menominee tribe establishes 10 p.m. curfew for two months

KESHENA — A curfew is in effect for the Menominee Indian Reservation for 60 days as the tribe hopes to further restrict the spread of the coronavirus.

The Menominee Tribal Legislature unanimously approved the measure at a meeting on April 6 and set it to go into effect immediately. The curfew begins at 10 p.m. and is in place through 6 a.m.

Exceptions to the curfew are those seeking emergency medical care, law enforcement, government functions, travelng to and from work, traveling through the reservation to other destinations, and individuals who are fishing, spearing or turkey hunting.

Anyone found to be violating the law could be fined up to $500 and could be put in jail for up to six months.

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UPDATE April 20, 6:05 p.m.

State works to increase testing capacity

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday that Wisconsin is taking big steps to increase COVID-19 testing capacity throughout the state.

Working with the Wisconsin Clinical Lab Network, the state has grown the number of labs performing COVID-19 tests from just eight labs one month ago to 36.

The state plans to continue public-private partnerships to add more labs and more testing capacity in the days and weeks ahead. However, in order to sustain the existing and expanded clinical lab network’s efforts, the state will need federal partnership to ensure availability of reagent and other critical supplies in Wisconsin.

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UPDATE April 26, 12:30 p.m.

Shawano issues open letter on COVID-19 pandemic

SHAWANO — The city on Thursday issued the following open letter to residents and businesses on the COVID-19 pandemic and the toll it’s taking in this community and across the country:

“To our Shawano Residents and Business Community:

“The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forced our community, our country and the world into unknown territory. We recognize this is a frightening time and that many in our community have experienced both health and economic impacts. As we face these unusual circumstances, it is important to remember that we are a community, and we will get through these challenging times together.

“The impact we are experiencing is different from anything we have faced before; therefore, it is possible that the stress and strain on our everyday way of life may lead to feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and frustration. Please know that we are sympathetic to these feelings and are working hard to find ways to support both our residents and local business community.

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UPDATE April 23, 5:30 p.m.

Shawano offering emergency grants for businesses

SHAWANO — The city of Shawano is offering an emergency grant program to help local businesses with occupancy costs during the economic shutdown being forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The temporary relief program is designed to assist small businesses with immediate grant assistance of up to $5,000 to help cover occupancy expenses for up to 60 days — including rent, mortgages, utilities, insurance and other property-related business expenses.

“Businesses are struggling,” Mayor Ed Whealon said. “Even though the federal money is out there and the banks have been working with a lot of the businesses, there are a few that are falling between the cracks. We wanted people to reach out and help keep them going if we can.”

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UPDATE May 2, 8:45 p.m.

Small Shawano group protests Safer-at-Home order

SHAWANO — A small group of protesters took to downtown Main Street in Shawano Saturday afternoon to protest the statewide Safer-at-Home restrictions put in place to combat the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Six people, or seven counting a baby in a stroller, marched up and down Main Street with signs calling for stores to be opened up.

They occasionally stopped marching to plant themselves in front of closed businesses and held their signs out to passing traffic, receiving frequent honks of support from passing cars.

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UPDATE May 2, 8:45 p.m.

Kropfs, Hanke’s see little supply chain disruption

SHAWANO — Beef, chicken and pork, including bacon and ham, should remain in good supply on grocery store and butcher shop shelves but don’t be surprised if they cost more.

That’s how several businesses see the situation as meat shortages have been reported due to the COVID-related closing of more than 44 meat plants and slaughterhouses closing around the country including JBS Beef in Green Bay.

“The biggest question mark will be the price, not the supply,” said Keith Diers, meat manager at Hanke’s Sentry Foods in Wittenberg.

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UPDATE April 30, 9 p.m.

Library doors open slightly for curbside pickup

SHAWANO — Not even libraries are immune to the coronavirus shutdown that has keep most nonessential businesses and other facilities closed to the public for over a month, but things are looking up for Shawano County’s library patrons.

Gov. Tony Evers revised his Safer at Home order in mid-April. Among the changes was the ability for public libraries to offer curbside pickup for books and other materials that patrons were able to easily get their hands on before Evers’ original order closed the libraries in March. The service started Monday.

Patrons will be able to contact any of the libraries to request items. Staff members will schedule a specific time for pickup, staggered to maintain social distancing requirements, and patrons can pick up the items just outside the entrances at their appointed times, according to Kristie Hauer, library director.

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UPDATE May 9, 7:50 a.m.

HSHS, Prevea, resume some services

OCONTO FALLS – Prevea Health and Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) hospitals in Wisconsin are resuming some non-COVID-19-related services and procedures that were placed on hold beginning in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Affected facilities include the Prevea Oconto Falls Health Center and HSHS St. Clare Memorial Hospital, 853-855 S. Main St., Oconto Falls.

“We are continuously monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic, and with carefully-designed infection prevention protocols in place, we are able to resume many of our essential health care services and provide our patients the care they need in the safest way possible,” said Dr. Ashok Rai, president and CEO at Prevea Health.

Prevea Health provides primary and specialty health care in locations across Eastern and Western Wisconsin. Prevea Health providers also see patients and perform procedures at all six HSHS hospitals in Wisconsin.

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UPDATE May 7, 11:20 a.m.

Event roster wiped out by coronavirus

SHAWANO — Tourism is a career field where people are encouraged to come into a community’s backyard, but the recent shutdown from the coronavirus has tourism officials instead saying, “Get off the lawn.”

Many restaurants are providing curbside pickup, since their dining areas have been closed by Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order, while others have shuttered completely for the time being. Big summer events, like Sun Drop Dayz in Shawano and Pulaski Polka Days, have announced their 2020 installments are canceled. Visitors with summer homes in the northwoods have been actively discouraged from making the trip up north for fear of spreading the virus.

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UPDATE May 7, 11:20 a.m.

SAM25, SAFPARC get $5,000 from CoVantage

SHAWANO — Two Shawano nonprofit organizations will each receive $5,000 from the CoVantage Credit Union.

Sam’s House, the homeless shelter and resource center operated by Shawano Area Matthew 25 in Shawano and the Shawano Area Food Pantry and Resource Center (SAFPARC) each received $5,000, according to a CoVantage spokesperson.

The CoVantage Credit Union Board of Directors has authorized donations totaling $100,000 in support of 19 area nonprofit organizations located throughout several communities served by the financial cooperative.

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UPDATE May 7, 11:20 a.m.

WisDOT offers new ways to obtain driver licenses without visiting DMV

MADISON — The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) announced on May 5 that there will be two pilot programs that will safely address a backlog of demand.

The first pilot program is for eligible persons with a Wisconsin driver license will be able to renew it online.

The second pilot program will allow individuals under age 18, who successfully complete their required training and have the endorsement of a parent or guardian will be able to get their probationary driver license without completing a road test.

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UPDATE May 9, 7:50 a.m.

Shawano reports 20 COVID-19 cases

SHAWANO — The Wisconsin Department of Health Services lists 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Shawano County and two confirmed cases in Menominee County. Oconto County reports 27 cases.

There continues to be only one workplace investigation in Shawano County, according to a press release from the Shawano-Menominee Counties Health Department. Some individuals have recovered and been released from quarantine and isolation. Active cases and close contacts are under isolation and quarantine, as outlined by local, state and federal recommendations. The health department is in contact with these individuals to assure their health continues to improve and they have the support they need to remain isolated.

“As Wisconsin plans ahead for returning business to normal, we know that we will be living in a ‘new’ normal. We cannot forget that the risk for COVID-19 will continue, and we will need to keep our social responsibilities and follow quarantine and isolation guidelines if necessary to help protect the public’s health,” said Vicki Dantoin, health officer.

The health department continues to learn more about COVID-19 every day. There have been some recent updates to recommendations for release from isolation. Health department officials get a lot of questions about quarantine and isolation.

Read the full story at

UPDATE May 12, 4:30 p.m.

Standalone retail shops can reopen in limited capacity

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday that restrictions on non-essential businesses through Safer at Home were loosening up to add even more opportunities for Wisconsin businesses to get back to work in a safe and responsible way.

Emergency Order 36, signed by Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm, allows all standalone or strip-mall based retail stores to offer in-person shopping for up to five customers at a time while maintaining required social distancing practices.

Additionally, the emergency order allows drive-in theaters to operate with some restrictions. All businesses must continue to follow all safety precautions and guidelines as outlined in the Safer at Home order.

“In addition to added flexibilities and steps we have already taken for businesses, this is another disciplined turn of the dial that will allow Wisconsin’s business owners to safely get back to work and Wisconsin consumers to support their favorite local spots,” Evers said in a press release. “Both customers and workers need to be confident in their safety, so we need everyone to be diligent in following best safety practices so we can continue to move our state forward while keeping our neighbors, families, and communities safe and healthy.”

Monday’s order builds upon the Safer at Home order and the last adjustment through Emergency Order 34, which together allowed golf courses to operate, aesthetic and optional lawn and construction services provided by a single employee, curbside pick-up for public libraries, and every business to provide deliveries, mailings, and curbside pick-up and drop-off services.

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UPDATE May 12, 4:30 p.m.

COVID-19 cases reach 22 in Shawano

SHAWANO — The Wisconsin Department of Health Services now lists 22 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Shawano County and two confirmed cases in Menominee County. Oconto County reports 27 cases.

No deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in those three counties.

As of May 10, the State of Wisconsin saw 105,163 negative test results; 10,219 positive test results; 1,820 hospitalizations (18%) and 400 deaths due to COVID-19.

UPDATE May 7, 11:20 a.m.

State revenue shortfall could impact schools

SHAWANO — An expected $2 billion shortfall in revenue for the state might have an impact on local schools unless a budget repair bill is passed by the Wisconsin Legislature.

The news of the state budget in flux due to the ongoing pandemic prompted officials with the Shawano School District to tell the Shawano School Board on Monday that there might be fewer dollars coming from the state when the district passes its 2020-21 budget later this year.

“I’m not sure yet what the impact for the school district’s budget is going to be,” said Nick Curran, district business manager.

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UPDATE May 12, 4:30 p.m.

Waukechon Wildcats deliver dairy favorite

SHAWANO — If there ever was a time for comfort food, this is it.

The Waukechon Wildcats 4-H club decided that they could provide comfort to the community by way of grilled cheese sandwiches. With the help of local business and individual donors, the club packaged 50 trays of Kwik Trip bread, 400 pounds of Mum’s Best cheese and 14 cases of Grassland butter to supply 500 households with grilled cheese sandwiches.

The items were packed in promotional plastic bags and given away to the public, first on Friday at the Shawano Community Middle School and again Monday, in coordination with the Shawano School District lunch program distribution at the Franklin Park. The bags were given both to student families and to anyone who wished to claim one.

Any bags that went unclaimed were donated to Save Haven, said Nancy Ainsworth, one of the club’s leaders.

Ainsworth said the project was a way to support dairy farm families, feed community members and help 4-H members learn some cooking skills.

The bags included recipes for traditional as well as new versions of the grilled cheese sandwich, including apple, onion and cheddar and jalapeño popper grilled cheese. Videos of the club members making the sandwiches are posted on the club’s Facebook page.

Recipients of the bags were surprised and grateful, said Joanne Edwards, another Wildcats leader.

UPDATE May 12, 4:30 p.m.

Masks from China sent to Tribal Clinic

KESHENA — A tiny congregation in Neopit, a 95-year-old volunteer in Winneconne and the Menominee Tribal Clinic have formed a connection to a group of anonymous Christian donors in China.

The connection is through face masks, handmade covers to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The connection has led to over 200 homemade masks coming from a group of seamstresses in Winneconne and over 100 masks — including hard-to-find N95 masks — from a church in China.

The route to the masks starts in Zoar.

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UPDATE May 12, 4:30 p.m.

Town of Wescott warrior rallies volunteers

GREEN BAY — Saving lives, one mask at a time.

That’s how Liz Benecke describes the operation of the Wisconsin Face Mask Warriors — Zone 4.

Benecke, a nurse, lives in the town of Wescott and works in Green Bay. Recently, when she is not working a nursing shift, Benecke has been spending her time at a little strip mall on Green Bay’s Velp Avenue, coordinating the distribution of thousands of medical-grade masks to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Under her direction, the Zone 4 operation has sent out more than 258,148 free homemade masks to individuals and businesses in an 11-county area — at least, that was the number as of Tuesday. The operation is a community effort that combines the purposeful drive of a military campaign, the coordination of a perfect NFL play, the logistics of Amazon at Christmas and the dedication of hundreds of people wanting to help others.

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UPDATE May 12, 4:30 p.m.

Legion baseball season wiped out by COVID-19

The American Legion Department of Wisconsin canceled its programming of American Legion baseball within the state for the 2020 season.

The recommendation was made by the Wisconsin American Legion Baseball Association (WALBA) Board of Directors on a video conference May 6. The department executive committee then made the final decision on Saturday.

It marks the first time since 1927 the Department of Wisconsin will not crown an American Legion baseball champion.

“We fully expect to have our program return in 2021 and be played at a high level,” stated the Wisconsin American Legion Facebook page.

UPDATE May 12 4:30 p.m.

Wittenberg chamber cancels Community Days

The Wittenberg Area Chamber of Commerce has canceled Wittenberg Community Days this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The celebration, which was scheduled for June 13-14, is traditionally a combination of community events.

Homme Home Strawberry Fest is a food and music celebration on the Sunday of the event and canceled early to help protect residents and staff. The American Legion, which handles food and beverage sales at the shelter in Washington Park, decided to cancel as well.

Walls of Wittenberg had to cancel the Emerging Talents art show, which showcases student artwork from the Wittenberg-Birnamwood School District. They also canceled the mural wagon ride.

The chamber considered hosting a smaller event with the band they had booked. But when Fireworks Country wasn’t sure about being able to get product for their popular fireworks show, the chamber decided to cancel the event for this year, rather than trying to postpone it to another date in summer.

UPDATE May 12, 4:30 p.m.

Conducting treatment during the pandemic

WITTENBERG — Homme Youth and Family Programs is a self-contained residential treatment facility, so they have been able to keep operations going during this pandemic with a few adjustments. All home and campus visits, part of the therapy process, were suspended March 12 due to COVID-19. Homme now uses video conferencing to aid in connecting youth with their families while following the Safer at Home edict from the governor.

According to HYFP Director Pamela Cotten, campus visits give the youth and their families the opportunity to have in-person family therapy sessions, and the residents get to practice the skills they learned in therapy to interact with their families differently. Generally, family therapy occurs once or twice per month, Cotten said, depending on the family’s level of engagement and availability.

“Campus visits give therapists and staff a look at family dynamics at play, which are not always clear from court reports or telephone contact,” said Cotten, who added that she appreciates the option to use video conferencing. “It’s an opportunity to see more clearly if a youth is ready to transition to some in-home visits, in preparation for a return home.”

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UPDATE May 12, 4:30 p.m.

Prevea, HSHS, Bellin opening back up

OCONTO FALLS — Hospitals in Oconto Falls and Oconto are among facilities that announced last week they are resuming some non-COVID-19-related services and procedures that were placed on hold beginning in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prevea Health, Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) hospitals, and Bellin Health announced they are welcoming patients back to healthcare with the resumption of procedures and non-urgent appointments that were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Affected facilities include the Prevea Oconto Falls Health Center and HSHS St. Clare Memorial Hospital, 853-855 S. Main St., Oconto Falls, as well as Bellin Oconto Hospital and Clinic, 820 Arbutus Ave., Oconto.

Read the full story at

UPDATE May 12, 4:30 p.m.

Oconto County campgrounds partially reopened

OCONTO — Oconto County Health Officer Debra Konitzer on Monday announced the issuance of Health Officer Order No. 5, which allows Oconto County’s public and private campgrounds to open non-seasonal campsites for campers with independent units only, meaning self-contained bathroom facilities.

The order, which is effective at 8 a.m. Tuesday, contains requirements that Konitzer said were intended to protect the health and safety of campground staff and occupants. It will remain in effect as long as the state Safer at Home Order is in effect, including any extensions of the order or as otherwise ordered by Oconto County Public Health, she said.

“Oconto County officials have been working together to monitor the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state and county,” Konitzer said. “After careful consideration, we will allow the opening of the campgrounds, within the provisions of the Safer at Home Order.”

Read the full story at

UPDATE May 12 4:30 p.m.

Some taverns reportedly violating stay-at-home order

A number of Shawano County bars and taverns were reportedly open for business over the last several days, in spite of the statewide Safer at Home order aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

While some were open only for food take-out, in compliance with the order, others reportedly had patrons inside eating and drinking, according to complaints received by the Shawano County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff Adam Bieber posted an open letter to Gov. Tony Evers on his Facebook page last month implying he would not enforce the order.

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UPDATE May 17, 6:15 p.m.

Area schools try to finalize graduation plans

The closure of all K-12 schools through the end of the academic year has required high schools to rethink one of their biggest events of the year — graduation.

Most area schools schedule their gradations at the end of May or early June, but the coronavirus pandemic has already caused the cancellation of the in-person ceremonies for those times. As a result, administrators, staff and some students came together to decide whether to delay graduation to later in the summer, hold ceremonies via the internet or some other alternative.

Read the full story at

UPDATE May 17, 6:15 p.m.

Embarrass Fun Daze canceled due to COVID uncertainty

EMBARRASS — The Embarrass Volunteer Fire Department has canceled the 2020 Embarrass Fun Daze in the wake of uncertain COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings.

The event was scheduled to be held July 25.

Read the full story at

UPDATE May 17, 6:15 p.m.

2 businesses now affected by COVID

SHAWANO — Shawano County’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose to 25 as of Tuesday, with two workplaces now affected and under public health investigations, according to the Shawano-Menominee Counties Public Health Department.

Shawano’s Dairy Queen confirmed on Facebook Monday that it was the second business to be impacted by the coronavirus and has closed “until it is safe for our staff and fans to return.”

Franchise owners John and Patty Seidel said they were working with the health department and look forward to opening in the coming weeks.

Public Health Director Vicki Dantoin said the health department was conducting contact tracing to determine the extent of the potential coronavirus contacts.

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UPDATE May 24, 7:30 p.m.

Shawano Speedway given the green light

SHAWANO — After several weeks of careful planning, race tracks around the state are opening up. Shawano Speedway has a practice night scheduled for May 30 before the first week of the season on June 6.

Brad Luepke, the speedway’s marketing and promotions manager, spent about 50 minutes on Facebook Live on Thursday detailing what things would look like on a race night, at least to begin the season. The full video can be found at

The speedway’s grandstands are open to spectators (both on practice night and regular race nights), but fans are to follow social distancing guidelines. Luepke said families or groups that are comfortable being around each other are free to sit near each other, but to sit at least 6 feet away from other groups in the stands.

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UPDATE May 19, 11:50 a.m.

Shawano's Memorial Day service to be held on May 25

SHAWANO — The parade is cancelled, but traditional Memorial Day services will be go on at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Shawano.

The program will be held on May 25 at 10 a.m. at 1115 E. Green Bay St., Shawano.

Master of ceremonies will be Dennis Bohm. The main speaker will be Brent Miller, Shawano County administrative coordinator.

The ceremony will include placement of a wreath, a rifle volley and presentation of the song “Taps” by Brent Buettner, Emma Foster and Amelia Rademacher. Other music in the program will be presented by Ralph Beversdorf and Tim and Tina Gouine.

The program is organized by the Allied Vets Council, which includes the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 22, Veterans of Foreign Wars 2723, American Veterans (AMVETS) Post 10, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 206 and American Legion Post 117.

The full story can be read at

UPDATE May 19, 11:50 a.m.

Memorial Day services canceled, adjusted in Wittenberg area

Local VFWs and American Legions have had to cancel or adjust plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Birnamwood Darling-Gunderson American Legion Post 341 has canceled the parade and Memorial Day service at the Birnamwood Elementary-Middle School gym and the Legion chicken dinner at Chet and Emil’s. A group called Friends of the American Legion will be hosting a drive-thru chicken dinner in the park behind Chet and Emil’s. Reservations can be made by calling Steve Nelson at 715-253-3912 or sending a message via his Facebook page.

The Birnamwood Legion will still hold graveside ceremonies at St. Francis Catholic Cemetery, Norrie, 7 a.m.; Norrie Cemetery, Hill Crest, 7:15 a.m.; St. Philomena’s Catholic Cemetery, 8 a.m.; Hogarty Cemetery, 8:45 a.m.; Aniwa Cemetery, 9:30 a.m.; Town Line-St. John’s Cemetery, 9:45 a.m.; and Forest Cemetery 10:15 a.m.

The Elderon VFW 8086 has canceled graveside ceremonies for Memorial Day. They have also canceled the annual Fourth of July parade, picnic and activities for this year.

The Wittenberg Bloecher-Johnson American Legion Post 502 has canceled graveside ceremonies but will be placing flags on the graves.

UPDATE May 19, 11:50 a.m.

Drive-by parade to replace traditional memorial in Oconto Falls

OCONTO FALLS — American Legion Post 302 plans a drive-by parade down Main Street in Oconto Falls on Monday as a coronavirus-safe alternative to the traditional Memorial Day ceremony at the city cemetery.

Spokesman Bob Maloney said cars are asked to assemble at East Side Beach starting around 10 a.m. At about 10:45, the group will proceed down North and South Main Street, turning at North Farm Road past the new veterans monument next to the Oconto Falls School District Office.

A group of about 10 veterans will be stationed at the monument, spaced in accordance with health guidelines, for the parade participants to wave and honk, Maloney said. Arrangements were worked out with city administration and health officials.

Most Memorial Day observances, which usually attract a crowd, have been suspended this year in recognition of federal and state guidelines that caution against large gathering, Oconto County Veterans Services Officer Ron Christensen said.

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UPDATE May 17, 6:15 p.m.

48 Shawano businesses got boost from city grant program

SHAWANO — The city is reporting that 48 Shawano businesses have received money from an emergency grant program aimed at helping local businesses with occupancy costs during the economic shutdown that was forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city awarded a total of $175,098, with businesses receiving an average of $3,500.

The temporary relief program was designed to assist small businesses with immediate grant assistance of up to $5,000 to help cover occupancy expenses for up to 60 days — including rent, mortgages, utilities, insurance and other property-related business expenses.

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UPDATE May 17, 6:15 p.m.

Shawano encourages continued COVID precautions

SHAWANO — City officials are encouraging residents to continue following social distancing rules and other precautions to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the wake of a state Supreme Court order striking down the extension of the governor’s Safer at Home order.

The city is also keeping its public facilities closed for the time being while it evaluates how to reopen safely.

“We’re going to take a week, because there’s a lot of things we’ve got to figure out,” City Administrator Eddie Sheppard said.

Sheppard said that includes whether the recreation center and civic center should be reopened.

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UPDATE May 19, 11:50 a.m.

Virtual ceremony brings grads together — in spirit

MARION — There is no second take in a traditional graduation ceremony.

Once the graduates march down the aisle, whatever happens next is there forever — stumbling on the stairs, forgetting to turn the tassel, skipping a section of the valedictory speech.

Marion High School graduates aren’t going to have to worry about that happening as they go through the school’s first virtual graduation, a necessity due to schools being closed through June 30 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The school is one of two in the area — the other being Bonduel — that plans to have a virtual graduation on May 22, the same night it had planned its original graduation.

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UPDATE May 19, 11:50 a.m.

Coronavirus changes delivery of summer school in Shawano

SHAWANO — School buildings are still closed through June 30 due to the coronavirus pandemic, making it necessary for the Shawano School District summer school program to go virtual like regular classes.

The Shawano School Board received an update on plans for summer school Monday, learning that the virtual learning was the only feasible way to keep summer school going altogether.

“We’ve gone through a few different plans, hoping we’d be able to open up,” said Rod Watson, the district’s summer school coordinator. “It doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to do that this year.”

A survey was sent out to parents in the district to see what would be preferred. Watson said the virtual option was not the most popular, but that parents understood it was the best choice during the pandemic.

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UPDATE May 19, 11:50 a.m.

Summer school canceled in Oconto Falls, Gillett

OCONTO FALLS — The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision on extending shelter-in-place orders last week let stand Gov. Tony Evers’ executive orders that closed school buildings through the end of June.

The decisions disrupted not only the high school graduation ceremonies, originally scheduled this week and next, but plans to hold summer school starting in mid-June.

After reviewing its options – including an effort to conduct a “virtual” summer school online — the Oconto Falls School Board decided May 11 to cancel this year’s sessions planned for the months of June and July.

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UPDATE May 17, 6:15 p.m.

Health department urges continued COVID precautions in wake of court decision

SHAWANO — The Shawano-Menominee Counties Health Department is continuing to urge residents to practice physical distancing and personal hygiene as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control in the wake of a state Supreme Court decision Wednesday striking down the governor’s Safer at Home order.

“We know that COVID-19 is easily transmittable and is present in Shawano and Menominee counties,” the health department said in a statement. “This virus knows no boundaries and therefore, the most effective way to prevent, control, and suppress this virus is to take a statewide approach.”

The health department said it is waiting for further statewide guidance on how to proceed from here.

The department said it is strongly encouraging local businesses to protect customers and staff by adopting appropriate safety guidelines.

“Shawano-Menominee Counties Health Department continues to monitor the situation closely and will notify the public of any updates,” the statement said. “The health department continues to isolate and conduct investigations with any individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and implement quarantine for any close contacts. We thank you tremendously for your cooperation with isolation and quarantine as well as your continued support of following the guidelines to help protect the community.”

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UPDATE May 17, 6:15 p.m.

Oconto County releases reopening guidelines

The Oconto County Public Health Department released a four-page set of guidelines Friday to assist business, individuals and event organizers in reopening while remaining vigilant of the coronavirus threat.

“We appreciate the great sacrifice from Oconto County businesses and residents as we move through the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Debra Konitzer, Oconto County health officer. “We have full confidence in our businesses and residents that they will implement these guidelines in order to keep their customers and staff safe.”

Oconto County is not issuing an order to extend Safer at Home or any other mandated restrictions. However, Konitzer said her office continues to reserve the right and duty to take such action in the event COVID-19 overwhelms the health care system or jeopardizes public health.

“While the order has changed, the virus has not,” she said. “Personal responsibility and accountability are essential to keep the spread of COVID-19 low.”

The guidelines can be found at this link: include information for bars, restaurants, churches and salons, to name a few. There is also individual guidance for residents which includes frequent hand washing, staying home when sick and wearing a mask in public.

“We are aware that best practices may change over time, and we continue to monitor the situation,” Konitzer said. “We can all do our part to keep Oconto County safe. It’s in our hands, Oconto County.”

For information, call the Oconto County Public Health Department at 920-834-7000.

UPDATE May 17, 6:15 p.m.

Menominee Indian Tribe COVID-19 state of emergency orders remain in effect

KESHENA – In response to the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision to reverse the Wisconsin Safer at Home order, Menominee Tribal Legislature has issued a reminder that the tribe’s adopted guidelines and emergency orders remain in place through May 25, or until modified by the tribe.

On March 12, the Menominee Tribe declared a state of emergency related to the COVID-19. As a sovereign nation, the tribe enacted emergency orders and actions to help protect the safety and health of tribal members, tribal employees and the community, according to a press release from the tribal chairman’s office.

These orders including establishing a curfew, limiting gatherings, restricting camping, remain in place. Menominee tribal government continues to operate with essential services, and continue to remote work and modify programs and services.

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UPDATE May 27, 12:45 p.m.

Temporary quarters for county supervisors

OCONTO — Holy Trinity Parish Hall will serve as the meeting place for the Oconto County Board for at least two more months, county officials said May 21.

Supervisors were seated at folding tables in a room that allowed officials, staff and the general public to provide at least 6 feet of space between everyone. Many people wore masks as recommended by some health officials.

The quarters were spacious in comparison with the County Board chambers at the courthouse down the street, where the board is seated side by side and spectators bunch together in church-style pews.

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UPDATE May 27, 12:45 p.m.

Ms. Senior Homemaker reset for August

The annual Ms. Senior Homemaker Pageant will go on this year, just a little later than originally planned due to COVID-19 concerns.

This event has been resscheduled for Aug. 18, 12-4 p.m.

A lunch will be served from noon-1 p.m. and the program will begin at 1:30 p.m. at the Shawano Lake County Park pavilion.

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UPDATE May 27, 12:45 p.m.

Annual spring outdoor market is canceled

According to Diane Hartleben, manager of District #3 Antiques, the annual spring outdoor market that had been scheduled for May 30 has been canceled due to the pandemic.

The antique store, located next to Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Meat retail store at 1390 E. Grand Ave., Wittenberg, generally has about ten vendors that participate in the event.

District #3 Antiques has been closed since the original Safer at Home order went into effect March 17. Hartleben did not have a date set for the store to reopen and has not made a decision regarding the fall outdoor market.

UPDATE May 24, 7:30 p.m.

Shawano Farmers Market still to open

SHAWANO — The Shawano Farmers Market had finally found a beautiful home last year in Franklin Park, but due to the pandemic, it’s back out on the street.

Hopefully, that’s temporary, according to Barb Mendoza, executive director for the FRESH Project, which took over the market’s operation this year. It is necessary in order to keep with social distancing guidelines set up to curb spreading the coronavirus, she said.

The farmers market will open June 20, its originally scheduled opening date, and continue through Oct. 3, but the market will not be set up in Franklin Park like it was last year. Mendoza said the market will be set up in the 200 block of South Washington Street, where it had been for several years before improvements on Franklin Park were implemented, and the market will be set up with one entrance and one exit.

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UPDATE May 24, 7:30 p.m.

Virtual sales to assist local farmers goes live on Facebook

SHAWANO — A Facebook page aimed at supporting local farmers and raising money for the FRESH Project was set to go live Saturday, and will offer online purchases of Shawano County dairy and farm products.

The virtual farmers’ marketplace is an extension of the “Shop Local Shawano County” Facebook page started by Nitta Charnon, finance director for Shawano County, in response to business closings caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Charnon has held two virtual sales events for local businesses so far, with six businesses participating in the first and 19 in the second.

The events allow businesses to promote and sell their goods online and make them available via curbside pickup or delivery.

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UPDATE June 2, 4:30 p.m.

Shawano school mulls re-opening

SHAWANO – The Shawano School Board wrestled Monday night with how to reopen local schools this fall.

Randi Anderson, district administrator, said the schools are weighing four approaches to reentry, ranging from a continuation of 100% virtual instruction to having all 2,300 students and 300-plus staff back for face-to-face instruction.

Anderson said several times during the meeting, “Absolutely. I want our students, our staff back in our buildings.” She said she was not advocating 100% virtual instruction, “but we have to be ready for it.”

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UPDATE, June 3, 4 p.m.

Dairyland League to play ball this summer

The Dairyland League will play baseball this summer, with games scheduled to start on June 14.

The league made the announcement on its Facebook page ( on Tuesday evening.

The post said schedules would be posted after June 10 and that COVID-19 guidelines would also be published.

UPDATE June 2, 4:30 p.m.

BABA won’t play sanctioned games this summer

The Badger Amateur Baseball Association has canceled the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The league announcement was published on it’s webpage,

“A number of teams are not allowed to use their parks for group activities; thus, scheduling would have been almost impossible,” stated the BABA.

The BABA did point out that some parks and fields would be available for tournaments or exhibition games, but they wouldn’t be sanctioned by the league.

This year was supposed to be the BABA’s 75th season, so the league will have to wait until 2021 to celebrate it.

UPDATE, June 2, 10:45 a.m.

No pop, bang or sizzle this year

WITTENBERG — This time of year normally sees Jerry Bamke ramping up business at Fireworks Country, which he owns with wife Sally, and preparing for their annual Fireworks Extravaganza. Last year’s show brought 10,000 people to the event to eat, drink and be merry all day, then watch a spectacular fireworks show from the bleachers at night. With order sheets in hand, customers could mark off the fireworks displays they were interested in purchasing.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, this year’s 20th annual event fizzled before it even started.

“I was planning on having the event if professional baseball was up and running, since they deal with more people and are in areas that have more cases of the virus,” said Bamke. “But when nothing was happening by Memorial Day, I had to make the tough decision to cancel the extravaganza.”

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UPDATE June 2, 10:45 a.m.

Local plant making millions of gowns

SHAWANO — A Shawano manufacturer is stopping the COVID-19 virus millions of times every month.

Novolex, 3100 E. Richmond St., Shawano, has employees working around the clock to make protective gowns for health care workers. On April 21, the packaging company started making gowns on one of its production lines. By mid-June, they will be making 870,000 gowns a week, said Galen Killam, senior product and technical manager in Shields Organization, which includes Novolex in Shawano.

There is a lot of demand from health care workers, especially first responders, said Leann Gueths, Shawano’s plant manager.

Read the full story at

UPDATE June 2, 4:30 p.m.

Walls of Wittenberg's first summer concert is canceled

Walls of Wittenberg has canceled the first of it’s three Summer Concert in the Art Park series due to COVID-19. The concerts are held on the second Tuesday of the summer months of June, July and August.

Bands still scheduled include Quarry Road on July 14 and The Drovers for Aug. 11 and WOW will determine at a later date whether or not to cancel either of those concerts.

The concerts are free and the bands are paid for through the proceeds raised by Crossroads Community Theatre.

UPDATE June 3, 4 p.m.

WFCA All-Star Games canceled

The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association canceled the 2020 All-Star Game because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement was made Wednesday on the WFCA webpage (

“We realize that this is disappointing to the players, parents, coaches and fans of the games, but the current situation without the use of college campuses makes it logistically impossible to hold the All-Star Games this year,” said the WFCA Executive Board in a statement.

Shawano’s Brayden Dickelman, Gillett’s Logan Block and Suring’s Logan Stuart and Chad McVeigh were named to all-star rosters.

The Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, which partners with the WFCA, will be contacting players about receiving their all-star jerseys, incentive wear and game programs.

UPDATE May 29, 5:30 a.m.

USDA offers help to farmers hit by COVID-19 impacts

MADISON — Agricultural producers can now apply for USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which provides direct payments to offset impacts from the coronavirus pandemic.

The application and a payment calculator are now available online, and USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) staff members are available via phone, fax and online tools to help producers complete applications. The agency set up a call center in order to simplify how they serve new customers across the nation.

“We know Wisconsin producers are facing a tough time now, and we are making every effort to provide much needed support as quickly as possible,” said Sandy Chalmers, state executive director for FSA in Wisconsin. “FSA is available over the phone and virtually to walk you through the application process, whether it’s the first time you’ve worked with FSA, or if you know us quite well.”

Applications will be accepted through Aug. 28. Through CFAP, USDA is making available $16 billion for vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a 5%-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities.

“We also want to remind producers that the program is structured to ensure the availability of funding for all eligible producers who apply,” Chalmers said.

UPDATE May 27, 12:45 p.m.

Hoping bar business springs back this summer

WITTENBERG — Memorial Day weekend can be hit or miss, according to Xena’s Village Inn owner Amy White.

“For a holiday weekend the turnout was very good,” said White, “They’re very unpredictable — it’s usually all or nothing.”

In a couple of weeks White will be celebrating 20 years of bar ownership and if there is one thing she has learned to count on, is to never count on anything.

White had not planned on opening earlier than the May 26 end date for the Safer at Home order, but when the order was knocked down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, she got on the phone and placed inventory orders with her vendors so that she could be open for the holiday weekend.

What a difference a couple of months can make.

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UPDATE June 2, 10:45 a.m.

After popping the question, a pop-up wedding

SHAWANO — “We do.”

May 30 was the date three couples tied the knot, each using the same venue, floral backdrop, officiant (“Have License Will Marry”), DJ and live-streaming service.

The concept is a pop-up wedding, and it is a way for couples to share their commitment and joy with friends and families, but also split the cost with other newlyweds. Although the project was launched with donations, in the future, the couples will pick up the tab.

In times when large gatherings are on hold due to the coronavirus, the pop-up is also a way to share the day safely.

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UPDATE May 28, 4:15 p.m.

Ski Sharks shows on hold

SHAWANO — The Shawano Ski Sharks announced that the start of their summer shows will not begin at the start of June as they have in the past because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The organization announced the news in a Facebook post Thursday afternoon. Dave Passehl, the president of the Ski Sharks, confirmed that the start of shows are on hold.

“After MANY meetings and planning changes we have decided that until we are allowed to have large groups gather we will not be able to hold shows for crowds, perform our acts with many people on the water at the same time, host our annual learn to ski program for the Shawano youth, and also our adaptive ski day,” stated the post.

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UPDATE May 27, 12:45 p.m.

Prevea offers free COVID testing in Oconto Falls

OCONTO FALLS — Prevea Health has announced it is able to offer free drive-through COVID-19 testing until further notice at HSHS St. Clare Memorial Hospital Prevea Oconto Falls Health Center, 853 S. Main St., Oconto Falls.

Testing is available to anyone in Northeast Wisconsin experiencing any of the following symptoms of COVID-19: cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or a new loss of taste or smell.

Registration on MyPrevea is required for testing, although patients do not have to be an established Prevea patient to set up an account on MyPrevea or to access a free test.

Those tested will be able to access their results within two to seven days, at their own convenience, through their MyPrevea account, For more information, call 920-431-1810.

UPDATE May 27, 12:45 p.m.

Bonduel grads ‘Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’

BONDUEL — Traditional graduation exercises often feature a solemn rendition of “Pomp and Circumstance.” The playlist for the Bonduel’s socially-distant graduation event on May 22 featured a different kind of classic.

“Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” a 1980 Police hit, and Bob Seger’s 1973 classic, “Turn the Page,” along with a locally-produced tribute to Bonduel, were among the songs playing as graduates and their families drove into the Shawano Moonlight Outdoor Theater to see a video version of high school commencement.

Graduation night started at the Bonduel fire station. Bonduel fire trucks led a parade of student vehicles past the school, where posters honoring the graduates were displayed on the football field fence. As they drove through downtown Bonduel, well-wishers and Bonduel alumni waved banners and sprayed color bombs and confetti.

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UPDATE May 27, 12:45 p.m.

Celebrating from a distance

OCONTO FALLS — There was no high school graduation ceremony, no community festival or parade for Memorial Day 2020 in Oconto Falls, as there usually would be, but the community found ways to celebrate the unofficial first weekend of summer anyway.

A “senior drive” Sunday afternoon down Main Street had a parade-like atmosphere, with hundreds of friends and family lining Main Street standing and in lawn chairs, occasionally scrambling to grab candy tossed toward them from the passing vehicles.

On Monday morning, a line of vehicles drove past a small group of veterans gathered at the new Oconto Falls Area Veterans Monument in a Memorial Day parade, waving and saluting them from a distance.

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UPDATE May 27, 12:45 p.m.

County Board delays vote on emergency powers

OCONTO — The Oconto County Board hesitated to authorize sweeping new communicable diseases enforcement powers and penalties during its May 21 monthly meeting, sending an ordinance amendment back to committee on a 17-11 vote.

Some board members were more hesitant than others.
“This is the scariest thing I have read since ‘1984,’” shouted Supervisor Gary Frank, not necessarily emotional as wanting to be heard in the expanse of Holy Trinity Parish Hall, which was equipped with only one microphone that was used sparingly.

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UPDATE June 12, 6:15 p.m.

State Fair cancelled for 2020

WEST ALLIS — Wisconsin State Fair Chairman John Yingling has announced that for the safety of fairgoers, staff, vendors, entertainers, exhibitors, sponsors, suppliers and the broader community, the 2020 Wisconsin State Fair has been canceled.

The fair board and staff have been closely monitoring COVID-19 data from local, state and federal health officials during this time. While some restrictions have recently been lifted and businesses are beginning to re-open, most are requiring strict safety measures, including social distancing, the wearing of masks and temperature checks. The evidence that this disease spreads quickly and easily when people are in densely populated areas has led several agencies to continue their recommendation to avoid mass gatherings.

Considering the Wisconsin State Fair is the largest event in the State of Wisconsin, drawing more than one million people over the course of 11 days, this weighed heavily into the decision to cancel the 2020 Wisconsin State Fair. The safety of all fairgoers and staff, as well as the above-mentioned partners who are so important to putting on a successful fair, has always been the number one top priority.

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UPDATE June 10, 5:45 p.m.

The F.R.E.S.H. Project – Shawano Farmers Market Continues

SHAWANO — The Shawano Farmers Market, hosted by The F.R.E.S.H. Project, will open its 13th consecutive season on June 20 and continue every Saturday through Oct. 3.

The market will be located on the 200 block of South Washington Street, near Franklin Park in downtown Shawano.

The market will be open from 8 a.m. until noon for shoppers to purchase healthy, locally produced vegetables, fruit and meats.

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UPDATE June 10, 5:45 p.m.

Summer baseball on deck for several area teams

Even though a couple of baseball leagues were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, several teams will still be taking the diamond this summer.

High schools aged teams from Shawano and Clintonville plan to play, while Oconto Falls had hoped to play but now looks like it won’t be. The Dairyland League (amateur ball) also announced it was going to play its season.

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UPDATE June 10, 5:45 p.m.

Entities get $3,700 from AbbyBank

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago (FHLB) offered a COVID-19 relief program consisting of a $20,000 grant to support member institutions and the communities they serve, and six Shawano area organizations benefitted from some of the funding.

The AbbyBank board of directors felt they could help make an even larger impact if they matched the $20,000 grant from FHLB. Craig Stuedemann, president and CEO, asked each location to decide where the funds are most needed in their communities.

In Shawano, employees distributed $3,700 between six local deserving organizations. Those organizations were; Shawano Area Matthew 25, Shawano Area Food Pantry and Resource Center, Wolf River Habitat for Humanity, Safe Haven Domestic Abuse Facility, Georgia’s House and The FRESH Project. Employees also purchased $2,000 in gift cards to hand out to those in need.

“Everyone was so thankful, and it was wonderful to hear the surprise in their voices when we thought of them for our donations. In times like these, it really makes your heart feel good to give back,” said Lisa Acra, a personal banker for AbbyBank in Shawano.

AbbyBank is an independent, community owned bank with assets of $550 million, serving customers and shareholders with offices in Gresham and Shawano and online at

UPDATE June 9, 3:30 p.m.

Shawano County COVID cases continue to tick up

SHAWANO — Health officials are encouraging continued precautions against the spread of the coronavirus as confirmed cases in Shawano County continue to increase at a slow but steady rate.

Shawano County’s confirmed COVID-19 cases rose to 59 on Monday, with the county averaging at least one new case every day.

“We’re not really out of the woods,” said Vicki Dantoin, health officer for the Shawano-Menominee Counties Health Department. “We still have some stuff ahead of us.”

Shawano County’s ratio of positive cases to population works out to about 109.7 per 100,000.

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UPDATE June 9, 3:30 p.m.

Oconto Falls Chamber resumes meetings

OCONTO FALLS — This week, the Oconto Falls Area Chamber of Commerce plans to hold its first monthly membership meeting since February.

Chamber members are invited to the Senior & Community Center, 512 Caldwell Ave., Oconto Falls, from 7:30-9 a.m. Thursday, June 18. The Center and Home Respite will provide a light breakfast.

Social distancing is planned to accommodate COVID-19 concerns. Members should RSVP by Monday at 920-846-8306 or

UPDATE June 9, 3:30 p.m.

State issues payments for unemployment

MADISON – The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) began issuing determinations and payments for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) applicants May 21. Those who are eligible for PUA are being notified via USPS as well as in their claims portal. For eligible applicants, a link will go live in the claims portal that will allow weeks to be claimed for benefits.

The department received over 80,000 PUA applications since April 21.

“Due to PUA being a brand-new federal program and in order to ensure accurate payments, DWD conducted additional testing prior to deployment. While understanding the potential impacts of a minor delay in deployment, we felt it prudent and responsible to prevent any widespread issues that could cause even greater delays and hardship. We understand many claimants have been patiently waiting for PUA. Please know that DWD is committed to paying out eligible benefits as fast as possible,” the department release said.

Processing PUA is different from other unemployment claims,so it takes much longer to process an application. the department said. Much of the information has to be entered manually into the benefits system.

Now that the PUA platform is deployed, the department has staff dedicated to processing new determinations and will continue to onboard more over the coming weeks.

UPDATE June 9, 3:30 p.m.

Wittenberg opens village parks to community

WITTENBERG — After a spirited debate, the Wittenberg Village Board voted 6-1 on June 3 in favor of opening all the parks and restrooms.

Casey Long, a business owner in Wittenberg, asked the board what kind of legal implications they would face if they opened the parks.

Trustee Dave Timm said that the insurance would not cover the village if anyone could prove they contracted COVID-19 while attending the parks, but that it would be very hard for someone to be able to prove that.

Trustee Paul Yaeger said he felt people should be allowed to decide for themselves whether they want to spend time in the parks. He felt the fewer restrictions the village placed on park usage would minimize liability to the village, and there would be no way to enforce any restrictions.

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UPDATE June 9, 3:30 p.m.

Oconto Falls library remains closed for now

The Oconto Falls Community Library closed March 17, anticipating shutdown for two weeks. Many of you know that we are part of a large consortium of libraries across eight counties, from Appleton to Florence, Shawano to Washington Island. This involves more than 50 libraries, large and small, across northeast Wisconsin. As we all know, the hiatus lasted more than two weeks for all of us.

During the shutdown, staff continued to work from home or at the library. Returns from patrons were quarantines and checked back in. Due dates were extended until the end of May until people could be more mobile. All fines were and will continue to be waived. For the library, everything was shut down. We were not getting any materials from other libraries, because InfoSoup was also shut down. With no end in sight, we could not have patrons ordering things that would create a huge backup when libraries began to open up.

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UPDATE June 12, 6:15 p.m.

HSHS hospitals relax visitation rules

GREEN BAY — With COVID-19 showing signs of decline in many regions of Eastern Wisconsin, HSHS hospitals have updated their visitor policies to allow more patients to safely receive visitors.

“We understand how important it is for our patients and their loved ones to be able to connect, and we thank everyone for their understanding during what has been a very challenging time for all,” said Andrew Bagnall, president and CEO of HSHS Wisconsin. “As we move forward in allowing for more visitors, we continue to take every step possible to keep our patients and colleagues safe as COVID-19 still exists in our communities.”

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UPDATE June 9, 3:30 p.m.

Oconto Falls ER always open, even in COVID crisis

OCONTO FALLS — Heart attacks, strokes, accidents and injuries. These are just a few examples of medical emergencies that can occur at any time, in any place and to anyone – even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

HSHS St. Clare Memorial Hospital in Oconto Falls reminds area residents that it is open and available to provide all types of emergency medical care, 24/7, regardless of the current public health crisis.

A recent report from the American College of Emergency Physicians states some emergency departments across the country are seeing a reduction in patient volumes, as well as patients delaying seeking medical care for non-COVID-19 related emergencies – potentially due to patients being concerned about contracting COVID-19 during a hospital visit or overwhelming health care workers.

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UPDATE June 9, 3:30 p.m.

Don’t delay emergency care

APPLETON — When Peggy Diemer and her husband moved to the Fox Valley area late last year, they had no idea the roller coaster of change they would soon experience.

“It’s been a long few months,” Diemer said. “I think everyone might be feeling that way.”

The family’s immediate health issues escalated in February 2020. Both Peggy and her husband were admitted to the hospital for acute respiratory infections. Ten days after she was released from the hospital, Peggy fell ill again, this time with different issues. Through a call to ThedaCare, it was recommended that she be seen in one of the COVID-19 Respiratory Care Clinics where she tested negative for the virus. Peggy continued to recover and began to feel better. Then in April, things took a turn when she began experiencing new symptoms.

Read the full story at

UPDATE June 9, 3:30 p.m.

Learning continues in Shawano

SHAWANO — Parents could be suffering from virtual online learning fatigue after two or three months of having to keep their children’s lessons going during the pandemic, but the Shawano School District is hoping the lessons will be more fun and manageable in summer school.

The school district is officially starting its summer school platform June 15 and continuing through July. But unlike previous years, where students would come and pack a couple of schools to learn in the same place, it is offering classes online individually and through group chats where possible.

“I know there’s a reason why we build schools and house them with teachers — it’s more fun and it’s a better way to learn,” said Rod Watson, the district’s summer school coordinator. “When we can do that, we’re going to, but in the meantime, we want to make sure we keep students’ brains engaged and help them to learn new skills — at least to not forget the skills they’ve honed.”

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UPDATE June 9, 3:30 p.m.

Oconto Falls School Board reviews issues regarding fall school reopening

OCONTO FALLS — A couple of Oconto Falls parents have expressed concern about the prospect of reopening school with students in masks and required to stay 6 feet apart from each other.

“There is no justification for not opening school in typical fashion come fall,” Carrie Pagel wrote in a letter read at the beginning of Monday’s Oconto Falls School Board meeting, citing statistics that show the COVID-19 virus has not seriously affected children or adults younger than 40. “We should focus our efforts on coming up with common-sense solutions for safe alternative education for the few students that may need it, and the few staff with personal concerns could take personal safety precautions as they see fit or ask for a different job description.”

Parents should be the ones who decide if they need to take extra precautions to guard their children’s health and safety and make decisions accordingly, Pagel said.

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UPDATE June 9, 3:30 p.m.

Menominee Indian School District unveils summer classes

KESHENA — Menominee Indian School District officials are vowing to have interesting and engaging virtual summer school classes for every grade.

Keshena Primary School will start summer school June 15 and hold classes Mondays through Thursdays until July 9.

Students can sign up for up to three classes, with 16 to choose from. To participate in summer school, students will need to have a device at home that connects to the internet. A teacher will invite them to be part of their Google Classroom where the daily lessons will be held. Students may check in any time during the day to be part of the class.

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UPDATE June 12, 6:15 p.m.

2020 Lena Lions Fish Fry canceled

After several postponements of the Lena Lions Club annual fish fry, the club voted at its June meeting to cancel the event due to all the restrictions with the COVID-19 pandemic until next spring.

The club issued an apology for the inconvenience and thanked all the sponsors of the event, who will receive a refund. The club also thanked everyone who purchased a raffle ticket, which will still be drawn.

A drawing will be held at McGuire’s Sports Bar, 211 S. Rosera St., Lena, at 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9, to determine the winners of the Big Money Raffle. Along with the Big Money Raffle that day, the club will also do some paddle wheel prize raffles.

UPDATE June 17, 4:15 p.m.

Not too early to think about absentee voting

OCONTO — Among the many ways the COVID-19 pandemic has changed normal life is at the ballot box.

Almost two-thirds — about 6,900 — of the 10,675 votes cast in Oconto County in this year’s spring election were absentee ballots, County Clerk Kim Pytleski said last week.

“That’s a significant increase,” Pytleski said. “Municipal clerks who usually may only see a dozen or so absentee voters were hitting requests over a hundred.”

With the next election less than two months away — the fall election primary is Aug. 11 — the clerk wants to get the word out for people who may be voting absentee for the first time.

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UPDATE June 12, 6:15 p.m.

Oconto youth fair canceled

SHAWANO - The Oconto County Youth Fair board has been canceled for this year, the fair board announced on June 11.

In a letter released June 11, the fair board noted it had tried to stay positive and continue its preparations but added, “Our fair traditions and our youth are very important to us, but nothing is more important than the safety and health of every person that may join us at the Oconto County Youth Fair. That is our number one priority.”

The letter continued, “While we strive to provide an entertaining and educational event for people of all ages, we must do it in a safe and secure environment.”

The letter added the board’s decision was reached after communicating with Oconto County health officials, the Wisconsin Association of Fairs (WAF), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), insurance companies, and officials from other fairs.

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UPDATE June 17, 4:15 p.m.

Pick-your-own patches to open — cautiously

Strawberry picking will be available this year, but two local growers requested cooperation with Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) guidelines — including wearing masks and social distancing.

In discussing this year’s harvest, Troy Porter, owner of Porter’s Patch south of Bonduel, said the COVID-19 pandemic has pretty much changed everything about operating his farm for this year.

He pledged to make changes day-to-day if necessary to keep customers safe.

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UPDATE June 17, 4:15 p.m.

Banner gives $20K to first responders

BIRNAMWOOD — Banner Banks has announced that it recently partnered with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago to provide financial assistance to area first responders.

The bank selected the following organizations to receive $5,000 each, due to the fact that they have been on the front lines providing essential services to communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: Birnamwood Area Emergency Services, Inc.; Wittenberg Area Fire/Ambulance Protective Services District, Inc.; Hatley Area Fire and Ambulance District; and the Antigo Fire Department

The bank recently secured a $20,000 grant through the FHLB-Chicago’s COVID-19 Relief Program and distributed these funds equally between emergency service organizations in the four communities where the bank has offices.

“We are extremely grateful for the selfless efforts of our area first responders,” said Shannon Blakley, president and CEO of Banner Banks. “It is our hope that these funds will assist these organizations in obtaining the essential equipment they need in order to continue to provide for the health and safety of our communities and their members.”

UPDATE June 17, 4: 15 p.m.

Breakfast club bids farewell, citing health issues

SHAWANO — A senior citizen breakfast club is another victim of the disruption caused by COVID-19.

Gundi’s Breakfast Club, also known to some members as “The Old Farts Club,” will no longer meet, according to Mary Jo Brunner, one of the organizers.

The group has been meeting for about eight years for regular breakfasts plus an annual picnic. The picnic will not be held this year, she said.

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UPDATE June 25, 11:15 a.m.

Ski Sharks plan to return July 1

The Shawano Ski Sharks are set to start performing shows on July 1.

The organization made the announcement on their Facebook page Wednesday morning, and Dave Passehl, the team’s president, confirmed the news.

Read the full story at

UPDATE June 25, 11:15 a.m.

Gillett parade, fireworks are on again
GILLETT — Organizers of the Roy Hubbard Memorial Truck Show in Gillett have agreed to run the city’s annual Independence Day parade and fireworks this year after the Gillett Civic Club dropped out, citing COVID-19 concerns.

The parade is scheduled at its usual time, 2 p.m. July 4, although the parade route will be altered somewhat because part of the traditional route is under reconstruction this summer, and judging of floats will not take place this year. The parade theme is “Saluting Our 2020 Seniors.”

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UPDATE June 25, 11:15 a.m.

Revenue stream reduced due to COVID-19

The village of Wittenberg is facing a significant loss in revenue from the water and sewer department due to the closure and limited operations of local businesses during the Safer at Home order, which had been in place since mid-March.

According to Village Clerk/Treasurer Traci Matsche, the total loss since the pandemic started is $23,508.79 and due mostly to the largest commercial and industrial businesses either being completely shut down or working at a much lower rate. Schools and several restaurants and bars were also closed.

Commercial customer usage went down by almost 1 million gallons of consumption, industrial down by 417,000 gallons, public authority such as schools, churches and municipal buildings went down by over 400,000 gallons, said Matsche.

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UPDATE June 25, 11:15 a.m.

Summer reading program goes virtual

Summer fun, reading and activities have begun at the Shawano County Library and run through Aug. 8.

Participants can track their reading through several options: online at; through the app Beanstack Tracker; or by paper method.

The children’s early literacy challenge is for ages 0-2. Parents, grandparents, guardians or older children can help younger children complete the reading challenge. The challenge consists of 25 short literacy activities. The children’s challenge is for ages 3-12 and consists of 12.5 hours of reading (or being read to). Once the challenge is completed, children will receive a free book to keep, vouchers to Pizza Hut and Milwaukee Public Museum and a brag tag.

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UPDATE June 17, 4:15 p.m.

Shawano County Fair going ahead

SHAWANO — The Shawano County Fair will go on as scheduled in September, in spite of numerous other fairs statewide — including the Wisconsin State Fair — canceling this year over COVID-19 concerns.

The Shawano Area Agricultural Society voted at a meeting Monday to go forward with the fair as planned, according to its president, Dale Hodkiewicz.

Hodkiewicz said the agricultural society did not consult with the Shawano-Menominee Counties Public Health Department about going ahead with the fair, but they previously consulted with the department on opening the Shawano Speedway.

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UPDATE June 25, 11:15 a.m.

Ho-Chunk Gaming reopening casino June 29

Ho-Chunk Gaming Wittenberg will be reopening its casino doors Monday, June 29. The new hours of operation are Sunday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to midnight, and Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.

According to General Manager Fletcher Collins, just the casino will reopen with the possibility of bar service, but the hotel and food venues will not be open.

Collins noted that the Nekoosa and Madison properties opened recently with great response, and they are anticipating the same for Wittenberg, Black River Falls and Wisconsin Dells locations, all scheduled to open the same day.

Read the full story at

UPDATE June 25, 11:15 a.m.

Grace Lutheran resumes in-person services

Grace Lutheran Church has resumed in-person services in its sanctuary at 501 S. Main St., Oconto Falls.

Three services are being provided each weekend, including a service for high-risk individuals at 5 p.m. Saturday for which face masks are required.

A traditional service is scheduled at 8:30 a.m. Sunday and a contemporary service at 10:45 a.m. Sunday. For those services, face masks are encouraged and will be provided on request.

UPDATE June 25, 11:15 a.m.

Ice Cream Social and Tractor Show canceled

The Gillett Area Historical Society has canceled its annual Ice Cream Social and Antique Tractor Show, which was to have been held at the museum on July 11.

The society said it hopes conditions will be such that the event can resume in 2021.

The museum, 110 W. Main St., Gillett, is open for small-group tours from 1-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through August. Appointments for a tour can be made by calling 920-598-1910.

UPDATE June 25, 11:15 a.m.

Fewer than half of Wisconsin shoppers mask up

An observational study of grocery store customers in 20 Wisconsin counties last month shows less than half the shoppers wore masks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that people wear face coverings in public places to reduce spread of the new coronavirus. There is concern among health officials about whether people are taking this precaution.

“We think of masking as this seemingly simple intervention, but it’s rather complex,” said Dr. Nasia Safdar, associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Read the full story at

UPDATE June 25, 11:15 a.m.

Construction projects at Shawano schools on ‘pause’

The summer months are usually very busy for construction crews at area schools as reduced student counts allow for maintenance and construction capital projects to commence.

This summer, however, the hammers and saws in Shawano schools are silent as many of the planned projects are on hold, according to Shawano School District Superintendent Randi Anderson. She announced the news last week during a meeting with the district’s buildings and grounds committee.

“All major projects have been put on pause,” Anderson said.

Read the full story at

UPDATE June 25, 11:15 a.m.

Witt-Birn School District focusing on changes for new year

As I write this newsletter, I can honestly say this has been an unprecedented end to one school year and equally, has provided similar challenges in our preparation for the next. That goes without saying. It has likely been a similar experience for everyone in their respective professions and walks of life.

I have certainly, and understandably so, had my share of “So what do you think the start of next school year will look like?” questions. The reality at this point of summer is, we are continuing to address and work through a host of questions and decisions to make before our schools reopen.

Read the full story at

UPDATE July 1, 10:15 a.m.

Families find ways to connect

At a time when everything is turned on its head, something as simple as a family gathering becomes, unexpectedly, news.

When the Rusch/Jeske family reunion met for its 24th time at Shawano’s Memorial Park on Sunday, they weren’t trying to make news. They were trying to remake connections.

“Over the years, we still enjoy just seeing all the new little ones coming into the family. It’s good fellowship, food, games for the kids,” said Joan Beardsley, Oostburg. “We are a pretty close group — enjoy each other’s company.”

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UPDATE June 25, 11:15 a.m.

Prevea Health expands access to free COVID testing

Prevea Health has expanded access to free COVID-19 testing.

“The ability to test more people for COVID-19 is critical in curbing the spread of the virus throughout our communities,” says Dr. Ashok Rai, President and CEO, Prevea Health. “This is especially important now as we see the state of Wisconsin trending upward in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days, and as we see an increase in the number of patients with symptoms of the virus seeking testing.”

As of Tuesday, the number of cases reported by the State of Wisconsin Department of Health was 70 in Shawano County; 49 in Oconto County and four in Menominee County.

Read the full story at

UPDATE June 25, 11:15 a.m.

Bellin offers free COVID testing in Lakewood

Northern Oconto County residents will have two opportunities to receive free testing for COVID-19.

Bellin Health will sponsor a no-cost COVID-19 testing site June 24 and July 15 in the parking lot of the Krist station, 17215 State Highway 32, Lakewood, across the street from Bellin Health Lakewood. The site will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days.

The Lakewood testing site will be open to any symptomatic or asymptomatic community member. Tests will be done via drive-thru, with no appointment or provider order required.

UPDATE July 1, 10:15 a.m.

Schools figuring out best way to reopen

Schools in the area are preparing for a new year, but it’s not likely to be the same as in years past.

After almost four months without students attending daily classes in the buildings, school districts are trying to determine how to reopen the halls of learning while minimizing the risk of spreading coronavirus. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released guidelines to schools last week outlining the various steps needed to make sure education continues.

There are three recommended learning environments outlined by DPI — in-person learning, virtual learning, and physically distanced learning. The physically distanced learning would combine in-person and virtual learning by dividing students into shifts to reduce numbers in the classrooms at one time.

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UPDATE July 1, 10:15 a.m.

Speedway among gatherings tribe warns to avoid

Public health officials continue to warn against large gatherings in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin has taken that guidance a step further with a plea for the public to avoid specific activities and events.

Dr. Amy Slagle, the tribe’s COVID-19 incident commander, issued a statement Saturday imploring the public to “stay out of restaurants, bars, flea markets, races, parties and gatherings.”

The Shawano-Menominee Counties Health Department issued guidance in May recommending against large gatherings in accordance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.

The department reiterated that guidance in a press release Tuesday but did not go as far as warning against specific events or activities.

Read the full story at

UPDATE July 1, 10:15 a.m.

Younger generations account for most COVID cases here

Younger generations have accounted for most of the confirmed cases of coronavirus in Shawano and Menominee counties so far, according to health officials.

The elderly population seen as being at most risk for serious illness or death as a result of COVID-19 have had relatively few cases, according to data released by the Shawano-Menominee Counties Health Department on June 25.

Of the 73 confirmed Shawano County cases reported on June 25, seven were under 20 years old; 28 were between 20 and 39 years old; nine were age 40-49; 13 were 50-59; 10 were 60-69; and five were over 70.

Health Officer Vicki Dantoin said the numbers are in sync with what is being seen across other Wisconsin counties.

Read the full story at

UPDATE July 8, 9:30 a.m.

Bucks close practice facility following COVID-19 testing

The Milwaukee Bucks have closed their practice facility following the team’s latest round of testing for the coronavirus.

Bucks officials confirmed Sunday that they had closed the facility and that they aren’t planning to reopen it before leaving for Florida on Thursday to prepare for the NBA’s resumption of the season at Walt Disney World.

The news of the closing was first reported by ESPN, which said the Bucks closed the facility after receiving results from Friday’s testing.

The Bucks owned an NBA-leading 53-12 record when play was suspended in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Their magic number for clinching the Eastern Conference’s top seed in the playoffs is two as they chase their first NBA title since 1971.

Milwaukee is scheduled to resume play July 31 against the Boston Celtics, its first of eight games to close the regular season.

UPDATE July 8, 9:30 a.m.

Plans to reopen Wittenberg-Birnamwood schools this fall are being developed

s we approach the middle of July, we are working with our staff on reopening plans for the 2020-21 school year. There are many details to work out related to all aspects of school operation, but as I write this update, our intent is to open in full capacity with obviously a number of safety precautions we must take.

Regarding our timeline, the administrative team is communicating with staff the week of July 6 and then sharing our reopening plan with the Board of Education on July 12. Once approved, we will communicate the plan in its entirety with our parents and families the week of July 13. Please know, whatever design we agree to, it will need to be fluid to address changing conditions in our school environment.

Additionally, we are working out details regarding extra-curricular events and schedules. We will be sending out a request to fill out a quick survey on family transportation intentions (whether your children plan to ride the bus or not), as well as schedule an opportunity for parent feedback on the proposed plan. Please look for this more definitive information to be shared the week of July 13.

I hope you are all enjoying your summer and look forward to the start of the coming school year!

UPDATE Julu 8, 9:30 a.m.

Antigo Tater Trot goes virtual

Due to COVID-19 and the recommendations to avoid large gatherings, the 2020 Antigo Tater Trot, presented by CoVantage Credit Union and Volm Companies, will be a virtual-only event as the committee considers the health and safety of its participants a priority.

Tater Trot participants can register online by Aug. 1 for the 10K run, 3.75 mile run/walk, or 1 mile run. Registration for the Virtual Event will only be available online.

Run or walk your race anytime between Aug. 3-9; you can run any course you would like while adhering to physical distancing guidelines that are in place at that time. Results will be submitted electronically, and participants will receive a race shirt via mail or pickup.

Individuals can visit for more information or to register. Complete details and procedures for this event will be published prior to the race and emailed to those who have registered.

UPDATE July 8, 9:30 a.m.

Packers to play before significantly smaller Lambeau crowds

The Green Bay Packers will play before significantly fewer fans at Lambeau Field this year, if they play in front of any at all.

The Packers told season ticket holders Friday to prepare for a football season unlike any the NFL has experienced because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The team is preparing to have fans in attendance with new policies and safety measures to allow for appropriate social distancing, which will require the stadium’s seating capacity to be significantly reduced,” Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy wrote to season ticket holders. “Face coverings also will be required, and other necessary precautions will be in place. As a result, the special experience to which fans are accustomed at Lambeau Field will look and feel very different.”

The letter made it clear that games could even be played with no fans, but in any case there would be “significantly fewer.”

Packers fans, who had a June 1 deadline to renew their season tickets, can opt out of this season’s games without losing control of their seats for next season. Season ticket holders can request a refund or ask that their payment be carried over to next season.

UPDATE July 8, 9:30 a.m.

Mask debate extends to school athletics

What was listed as an update on buildings and grounds in the Shawano School District on Monday turned into a heated discussion on whether high school athletes can be required to wear masks in a world where coronavirus is still considered a threat.

Shawano Community High School spring sports teams were allowed to return to practices this week after their seasons were cancelled due to schools, parks and most other facilities being shut down by Gov. Tony Evers through measures like the Safer at Home order. However, new rules have been put in place, according to athletic director Joel Wondra, including one that would have athletes wearing masks during practice except for when aerobic activity is taking place, due to Shawano County presently being designated as moderate risk by the state.

The new policy would also have athletes wear masks at school for a minimum of 14 days after attending a mass crowd activity or visiting a hotspot where coronavirus cases have had a sharp uptick.

Read the full story at

UPDATE July 14, 4 p.m.

School boards to review reopening plans

The Oconto Falls and Gillett school boards will be getting briefed this week on their administrators’ plans to open the 2020-21 school year under COVID safety guidelines.

“It is our goal to create a multi-faceted educational plan that effectively meets the learning needs of our students while providing the flexibility to modify operations as needed in response to changing levels of risk,” Oconto Falls Superintendent Dean Hess said in a July 1 letter to parents.

That probably will mean a combination of face-to-face instruction and the virtual learning that occurred during the last three months of the 2019-20 school years after Gov. Tony Evers ordered school buildings closed through June, Hess said. The plan will include the flexibility to convert back to an all-virtual model if deemed necessary, he added.

Read the full story at

UPDATE July 8, 9:30 a.m.

Local Aspirus clinics reopen

Several central Wisconsin Aspirus clinics are reopening to patients after having been temporarily closed in April to allow staff and providers to support operational and COVID-19 surge planning needs at other Aspirus locations.

Aspirus Birnamwood Clinic, 75 Main St., Birnamwood, and Aspirus Wittenberg Clinic, 1660 Sue Alan Drive, Wittenberg, both reopened July 6.

Reopening dates vary by clinic as staff and providers transition back to their previous locations. Patients will receive information related to these changes during scheduling and through appointment reminders and other means.

Read the full story at

UPDATE July 8, 9:30 a.m.

Aspirus health center reopens in Antigo

The Aspirus Health & Performance Center, located at 112 E. Fifth Ave. in Antigo, opened to members Monday. The center is taking a phased reopening approach for the safety of members and staff.

Hours of operation during phase one will be Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. This will allow staff to frequently clean equipment and common areas. Locker rooms, towel service and drinking fountains are currently not available. Aspirus Langlade Hospital is providing current members with the month of July at no cost. As billing resumes in August, the members will only be charged for half of their August membership to offset the closure time in March.

Read the full story at

UPDATE July 15, 12:25 p.m.

Packers won’t have fans for training camp practices

The Green Bay Packers announced Wednesday that there will be no fans in attendance at 2020 training camp practices, Packers Family Night and any home preseason games.

“The tremendous support of cheering fans at Lambeau Field motivates all of us in the Packers organization,” said Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy. “But after consulting with local health officials and reviewing league and CDC guidelines, we felt we needed to make this difficult decision. We will miss seeing so many of our fans, particularly the young ones, during this exciting time of year. We will continue to work on the protocols and logistics in the hope that we can welcome fans back to Lambeau Field for the regular season without jeopardizing the health of our players, team personnel and fans.

“We ask our fans to help us in this effort by wearing masks and staying six feet away from non-family members when out in the community in the coming weeks.”

Packers Family Night, presented by Bellin Health, will still take place in Lambeau Field and will be televised to a statewide audience. The date and time of the event is still being finalized.

Plans for regular season ticket holder attendance are being finalized with details to be communicated in the near future. Season ticket holders have the option to “opt in” or “opt out” on the chance to reserve tickets. New policies and safety measures will be implemented for the games.

UPDATE July 22, 10:35 a.m.

Resistance to contact tracing, negative social media complicating battle

Health officials working to contain the spread of COVID-19 are increasingly facing the additional challenges of negative social media backlash and a growing number of people refusing to cooperate with contact tracing.

It is not just a local problem.

“This is happening across the state as well,” said Vicki Dantoin, health officer for Shawano-Menominee Counties Health Department, at a meeting of the Shawano County Board of Health Monday.

Read te full story at

UPDATE July 15, 9:15 a.m.

Fledgling businesses make comeback after shutdown

While all local businesses were impacted to some extent by the two-month COVID-19 shutdown in Wisconsin, two downtown Shawano businesses had their operations scuttled before ever getting off the ground.

“We were all planning to open,” said Aaron Gilling, co-owner with his brother, Eric, of Stubborn Brothers Brewery, 220 S. Main St.

“We were ready to rock and roll. We were excited. We had a great team all together,” he said. “Things unfortunately didn’t go as we wanted.”

Read the full story at

UPDATE July 16, 9:40 a.m.

Abrams theater cancels 2020 season

Abrams Spotlight Productions Inc. has decided to cancel performances for the remainder of the year due to concerns over COVID-19. “My Fair Lady” and “Elf the Musical” are canceled for the 2020 season.

“It is with great sadness that we made this decision, but we know it’s the right decision in order to protect the health of our cast and crew, our volunteers and our audience,” said ASPI President Bill Koehne. “We look forward to reopening the theater to the community in 2021 to provide live performances once again.”

Performances of “My Fair Lady” were originally scheduled in March but were postponed after Gov. Tony Evers issued the “Safer at Home” executive order that barred most public gatherings. The company recently announced performances of the musical would take place in late September, with tickets to go on sale July 15, but Tuesday’s announcement reversed that decision.

“Elf the Musical” had been scheduled as Christmas season fare in early December.

Patrons who purchased tickets have two options. They can receive a refund or donate the cost of the ticket back to the theater. Volunteers will call ticket-holders in the coming weeks to process refunds. For more information, call the box office at 920-826-5852.

The organization said its Facebook page will have up-to-date information on upcoming fundraising campaigns as well as the announcement of its 2021 season.

UPDATE July 15, 5:10 p.m.

Leadership Oconto County postpones 2020-21 program

Organizers of Leadership Oconto County (LOC) have decided to postpone the third year of their program because of ongoing concerns about the possible spread of coronavirus.

LOC is a cooperative effort of the Oconto County Economic Development Corp. and the University of Wisconsin-Extension of Oconto County. The goal of the leadership program is to build a pool of citizens with broad knowledge of the ideas, issues and concerns faced by local communities.

“With all of the challenges COVID-19 has brought, we, too, must make a decision on the future of our program and the safety concern of all it involves,” said Katie Daul, LOC chair. “The Steering Committee determined that we will be postponing the program year ‘20-‘21 and focus our energy on a 5-10-15-20-year strategic plan and alumni efforts to ensure the best possible program experience going forward.”

LOC will continue to accept applications but plans to hold them for program year 2021-22, Daul said.

UPDATE July 14, 4 p.m.

County’s libraries reopening on a limited basis

Shawano County’s libraries will be reopening to the public on a limited basis beginning next week.

The Shawano library will be open on Mondays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The other five branch libraries will open for one day each week, and curbside pickup will remain available at all libraries on the other days that the library would normally be open. Hours at the branch libraries will be: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays for Bonduel; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays for Wittenberg; 2-6 p.m. Tuesdays for Mattoon; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays for Birnamwood; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays for Tigerton.

There will be other restrictions in place, as well. Besides the usual rules about masks, social distancing and hand sanitizer, there will be limits on the number of people in the building, and only two people per household will be allowed to permit as many different families to use the library at one time as possible. The time limit for visits is one hour.

Read the full story at

UPDATE July 17, 5:10 p.m.

County Board Supervisor Dan Miller resigns

Shawano County Supervisor Dan Miller has resigned from the County Board after the executive committee vote denied him the opportunity to attend meetings remotely as a precaution against the COVID pandemic.

The committee voted 5-2 Wednesday to leave in place a County Board rule that allows board members to participate in a meeting by phone only once a year.

“That’s what I attempted to get changed to more reflect the situation that we’re in and provide greater protection for board members and others in the public,” Miller said. “It was just setting an example that I felt we needed to do a little bit more to help ensure precautions around the COVID pandemic.”

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UPDATE July 15, 5:10 p.m.

Transporting students to school still sticky issue

The problem of busing students to school in an age of social distancing and fear of coronavirus is one that all school districts are grappling with, and Shawano School District isn’t sure where it’ll be regarding buses once school starts in September.

Superintendent Randi Anderson said she is working with Kobussen Buses to figure out a plan for busing students next year. The buses currently have a 72-student capacity, but the social distancing requirements will bring the maximum down to 35, she said.

It’s unclear how many more buses will be required in the fall, Anderson said, because many of the buses had only been at 60-80% capacity even before the pandemic closed the schools in March. Also, the district has been surveying parents, and many of them are considering using alternative transportation, such as parents transporting students and carpooling.

Read the full story at

UPDATE July 16, 9:40 a.m.

Sports suspended at UW System branch campuses

Intercollegiate sports at 10 branch campuses within five University of Wisconsin System institutions have been temporarily suspended for the 2020-21 academic year.

UW-Eau Claire, UW-Green Bay, UW-Oshkosh,UW-Platteville and UW-Stevens Point are the five institutions that made a joint decision on Tuesday. The 10 campuses affected are in Baraboo, Barron, Fond du Lac, Manitowoc, Marinette, Marshfield, Menasha (Fox Cities), Richland, Sheboygan and Wausau.

“The one-year pause in sports reflects the additional challenges of facility cleaning and disinfecting, providing athletic trainers and other logistical issues posed by the current coronavirus pandemic,” a news release from the UW System schools stated.

The 10 campuses, which feature a few area graduates, play in the Wisconsin Collegiate Conference. The WCC includes 13 two-year campuses in total.

UPDATE July 14, 4 p.m.

WBSD approves plan to reopen for 2020-21

The Wittenberg-Birnamwood School District met Sunday and approved plans to reopen the schools this fall for the 2020-2021 school term.

Superintendent Garrett Rogowski and Director of Student Services Megan Marcks explained the three-part plan put together by administrators. The first section of the plan consisted of the expectations recommended in order for students and teachers to return to the classrooms. The second listed expectations for student absences and instructions from staff when dealing with COVID-19 related absences. The third was a plan to put into place in the event that the school district faces a mandatory shut-down like what happened mid-March of this year.

Each section was divided into two columns of expectations of the students and parents or caregivers and the expectations of the staff which included teachers, assistants, custodians, drivers, cafeteria workers and administrative members.

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UPDATE July 15, 9:15 a.m.

Local tribes emphasize masks to curb spread of COVID-19

The Stockbridge-Munsee and Menominee Indian tribes this past week issued statements in support of wearing masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

While the Stockbridge-Munsee Community has required the use of face masks by all employees and those visiting tribal businesses and government services, the Menominee Tribe last week went a step further by issuing a resolution requiring the use of face coverings across the reservation.

The Menominee Tribal Legislature adopted a resolution on July 9 stating that all residents and visitors to the reservation age 10 and older are required to wear a clean face covering if they are in contact with people who are not household members in public or private indoor settings.

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UPDATE July 28, 4:45 p.m.

Oconto Falls schools grapple with return-to-class issues

Elementary school students would attend class in person four days a week and secondary students would rotate between face-to-face and virtual learning under a back-to-school plan presented to the Oconto Falls School Board on July 20.

The board hoped to make a final decision at a special meeting Wednesday night. Watch for an update at

Introducing a lengthy presentation about the administration’s recommendations, Superintendent Dean Hess said the district has conflicting priorities that didn’t used to be in conflict — protecting children’s safety while providing in-person education.

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UPDATE July 28, 4:45 p.m.

WIAC among four conferences that alter sports seasons

Four conferences that include colleges from within the state announced changes to athletics on Monday.

The biggest news came in the evening, when the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference announced it was canceling the conference seasons and championships for several fall sports — football, women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s cross-country. It was also announced that women’s golf and women’s tennis competitions were moving from the fall to the spring.

The Midwest Conference announced that it was suspending league competition through Dec. 31. The Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference announced it was postponing all conference regular-season competitions through Dec. 31.

The College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin announced it was postponing all fall conference competition and championships.

Several area graduates play within the four conferences.

UPDATE July 22, 10:35 a.m.

Gillett aims for in-person school reopening

The Gillett School District is planning to start the 2020-21 academic year on time in September with in-person classroom instruction and is aiming to hold an Aug. 8 graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020. But an uptick in COVID-19 cases in Oconto County may change those plans.

The number of positive tests for coronavirus among Oconto County residents has doubled during the month of July. After reporting 59 positives through June 30, the county had 61 more cases through Sunday for a total of 120 since March.

Members of the Gillett School Board approved the purchase of 65 Chromebooks for kindergarten students, using $14,900 of CARES Act funds, and voted to enter into a $19,970 contract with Acellus Digital Curriculum, an online program that administrators said can be aligned with in-person teaching to provide a seamless learning experience.

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UPDATE July 28, 4:45 p.m.

Positive COVID-19 tests on upswing in Oconto County

The Oconto County Board has extended the local COVID-19 emergency declaration through Sept. 24, ratifying its chairman’s action with a unanimous vote July 23.

The original emergency proclamation was set to expire July 17.

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UPDATE July 28, 4:45 p.m.

Wittenberg requires masks for anyone coming into Community Center

At the village of Wittenberg’s July 21 board meeting, the trustees addressed the issue of keeping their employees safe from exposure to illnesses during the pandemic.

Trustee David Timm made a motion that anyone coming in to the Wittenberg Community Center during business hours be required to wear a mask until further notice.

The village has three full-time and two part-time employees. According to Timm, if any one of the employees was unable to work for a long period of time, the village operations could be compromised. Each the employees has a very specific job, and there is not a lot of crossover training between the employees to be able to handle long absences due to illness, he said.

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UPDATE Aug. 1, 2 p.m.

Talking to children makes it easier to don masks

Donning a face mask when venturing outside your home is the new norm. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says face coverings help slow the transmission of COVID-19 by people who unknowingly have the virus.

“When they breathe, speak, cough or sneeze, virus particles will be trapped in their mask, protecting other people from being infected,” said Dr. Jennifer Frank, chief medical officer at ThedaCare. “Respiratory droplets can spread the virus that causes COVID-19.”

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UPDATE July 28, 4:45 p.m.

Shawano schools pushing for face-to-face learning

The Shawano School Board took its first look at a plan to reopen school doors to students again after having to shut down the buildings three months early via state order due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the pandemic has not subsided, districts around the state are planning to be in school in some form or fashion beginning Sept. 1, the earliest that state law allows public schools to start.

The Shawano School District is planning to have a face-to-face setup five days a week, according to Superintendent Randi Anderson. However, it will depend on Shawano County’s health risk at the given time.

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UPDATE July 28, 4:45 p.m.

Unusual year brings unusual graduation

To say it’s been an unusual year for education is a bit of an understatement. In an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus, schools closed down in mid-March.

The senior class at Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School had to adjust to school online — with no sports, prom, theater, band or the many other activities associated with school life.

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UPDATE July 28, 4:45 p.m.

Mask issue causes tempers to flare between board members

Tempers flared briefly during a Shawano School Board workshop Monday regarding school reopening plans when board member Mart Grams claimed a staff member had been told masks would be required in school.

Grams said he had heard from a teacher who claimed to be told by an administrator that, despite the proposed plan that states masks would not be required but highly encouraged by students and staff with some exceptions, the coverings would be a requirement at all times in school. He would not identify specifically who made the claim or which school the charge comes from, saying that administrators would retaliate.

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UPDATE July 27, 4:45 p.m.

Menominee tribal offices closed for 2 weeks

Citing the continued rise in tribal and local community COVID-19 cases, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin is temporarily closing its tribal government offices and facilities for a two-week period, starting Tuesday until Aug. 11.

According to data, the Menominee Reservation COVID-19 positive cases have nearly doubled within a week’s time. The reservation, which shares boundaries with Menominee County, has 17 positive cases with 8 being active cases as of Monday.

Tribal government employees in four different departments have tested positive and employees in three other departments have had direct contact with positive cases.

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UPDATE Aug. 1, 2 p.m.

Evers issues order requiring face coverings statewide

Gov. Tony Evers declared a public health emergency Thursday and issued an emergency order requiring individuals to wear face coverings when indoors and not in a private residence, with some exceptions as clarified and defined in the order.

The order is effective at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday and will expire on Sept. 28 or by a subsequent superseding order.

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UPDATE Aug. 4, 5:30 p.m.

COVID testing available locally

A negative COVID-19 test is good news, but the celebration may be short-lived.

Tests for the public — for people who have been exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms — are available in several locations in northeast Wisconsin. However the test, like so many other aspects of COVID-19, does not provide 100% reassurance against having the virus.

A negative test means that the person tested is not currently sick or does not have enough virus yet to show up in a test. Vicki Dantoin, Shawano-Menominee Counties health officer, noted that if someone is exposed to a person with COVID-19, self-quarantine remains an important way to stop the spread of the disease.

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UPDATE July 28, 4:45 p.m.

MISD reopening schools with hybrid learning

Menominee Indian School District announced last week the details for a school reopening plan where students will be attending schools two days a week and learning virtually during the other three.

Beginning Sept. 21, students living in Keshena will be attending school on Mondays and Tuesdays, while students living on the rest of the reservation and in Shawano will attend Thursdays and Fridays. The school buildings will be closed Wednesdays, when schools will do deep cleaning to further prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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UPDATE Aug. 1, 2 p.m.

Menominee order closes gambling, bars

Gambling on the Menominee Reservation has been closed and restrictions have been imposed on restaurants, bars and other businesses in an emergency order by the Menominee Indian Tribe ‘s COVID-19 incident command.

Incident command also ordered public safety actions within businesses, in response to growing public health threat posed by COVID-19, according to their press release Friday afternoon.

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UPDATE Aug. 1, 2 p.m.

Oconto Falls school board approves 4-day week in person

The Oconto Falls School Board has asked administrators to move forward with a four-day in-person class schedule for all students this academic year.

Board members also voted July 29 to require face masks for staff, students and visitors in school buildings and buses, with exceptions considered for medically certified conditions and certain other situations.

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UPDATE Aug. 4, 5:30 p.m.

Shawano School Board approves reopening plan

The Shawano School Board approved the district’s reopening plan Monday, with the current first week of school looking to be a hybrid model unless the county’s health risk drops or a newly forming committee determines otherwise, whichever comes first.

Under the hybrid model, students at Hillcrest Primary School and Olga Brener Intermediate School would be in school five days a week, but Shawano Community Middle School and Shawano Community High School students will attend two days a week while spending the other three days learning online.

Some parents commenting on the issue at the board meeting want to see all the schools providing in-person education five days a week. Parent Brent Polzin submitted a letter supporting the idea and urging the district to make it a reality on day one. He also wrote that he had a petition with more than 500 signatures in support of in-person education.

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UPDATE Aug. 4, 5:30 p.m.

Gresham eyes 4-day school week with Wednesday break

The Gresham School District is planning to have students in the classroom four days out of the week, closing Wednesdays for deep cleaning.

Whether that plan goes into effect will depend on the results of a survey being sent out this week and the decision of the Gresham School Board later in August. Superintendent Newell Haffner hopes the proposed reopening plan will be an acceptable compromise between those who believe schools should be open five days per week and those who believe it’s too risky to open until the coronavirus is under control.

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UPDATE Aug. 4, 5:30 p.m.

Sacred Heart plans ‘blended learning’ for school year

Sacred Heart Catholic School believes it has everything it needs to have students in the classroom five days a week for the 2020-21 school year — although like other schools, it’s taking things one day at a time with the coronavirus.

Sacred Heart will be implementing “blended learning,” according to principal Gary Cumberland, with online learning taking place if the school has to close due to an outbreak within the school or a state order like the one Gov. Tony Evers gave in March. Most classrooms are already around 10 or 11 students, Cumberland said, but those that are larger will be broken up between the teacher and classroom aides to avoid having too many people in one location.

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UPDATE Aug. 4, 5:30 p.m.

COVID dismissed as cause for complaint uptick

A fistfight, even one in a cemetery over a remark about a deceased relative, wouldn’t normally be a big item of interest.

The Shawano County Sheriff’s Department responded to such an altercation in the Town of Wescott on July 29, according to George Lenzner, chief deputy. Two men, ages 41 and 67, admitted to the fight and were issued disorderly conduct citations, Lenzner added.

Emergency responders checked the older man’s injuries, but nothing serious was reported, Lenzner said.

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UPDATE Aug. 4, 5:30 p.m.

Oconto County sheriff clarifies approach to mask mandate

Oconto County Sheriff Todd Skarban says his office supports individual actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but deputies will not be dispatched to respond to complaints if the only problem is that someone is not wearing a mask.

The sheriff issued a statement July 31 after Gov. Tony Evers declared that anyone age 5 or older must wear face coverings indoors or in enclosed spaces when non-family members are nearby.

As of Monday, Oconto County had recorded 183 positive tests for coronavirus and 5,618 negative tests, although the number of positives jumped by more than 120 since June 30. No deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in the county.

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UPDATE Aug. 17, 6:30 p.m.

Businesses need a COVID plan

Have a plan.

That’s the best way to cope with the news that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, according to Melissa Olson, the human resources expert for KerberRose, SC — a northeast Wisconsin accounting firm.

Olson, who also serves as a consultant for other businesses, said that a strategy with a strong communications focus will help businesses best prepare for bad news.

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UPDATE Aug. 17, 6:30 p.m.

No easy answers to COVID-19 response

If, then.

If someone tests positive for COVID-19, if an employer has an employee with symptoms, if a restaurant has a regular customer who has symptoms of COVID-19, what is the next course of action?

The answer is, it depends.

“There are a lot of variables,” said Vicki Dantoin, Shawano-Menominee counties health officer. “If this, then that. It’s not the same for every place.”

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UPDATE Aug. 17, 6:30 p.m.

Bonduel schools plan 5 days in classrooms

Bonduel School District is being bolder than most districts in northeast Wisconsin, pushing for traditional education five days per week despite the ongoing threat of the coronavirus.

While other districts are going with a hybrid model of learning, with a couple planning to do four days per week, Superintendent Joe Dawidziak said families in the Bonduel area are overwhelmingly in support of five days in the regular classrooms.

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UPDATE Aug. 17, 6:30 p.m.

Positive tests for COVID-19 surge in Oconto County

Oconto County recorded its first death from COVID-19 on Aug. 12, according to data from the state Department of Health Services (DHS).

The county has seen a surge in positive tests for the potentially deadly virus since the end of June, when 59 positive tests had been listed. In the next month more than 100 additional positives came in, for a total of 164 on July 31, and another 100 were recorded by Aug. 15.

As of Monday, Aug. 17, DHS was reporting 290 positive tests in Oconto County, and that number was an increase of 14 from 276 the day before.

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UPDATE Aug. 17, 6:30 p.m.

WIAA maintains fall sports plan, with spring option provided

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association unanimously approved a plan to maintain its current fall sports options but provided an option should schools need to move fall sports to the spring. The decision was made during Friday’s WIAA Board of Control meeting.

The plan also adjusted season start and end dates for winter and spring sports.

No decision was made on any state tournaments, with the board saying those determinations would be made about a month before they start.

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UPDATE Aug. 11, 3 p.m.

Big Ten Conference axes fall sports season

The Big Ten Conference announced the postponement of the 2020-21 fall sports season, including all regular-season contests and Big Ten Championships and Tournaments, due to ongoing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In making its decision, which was based on multiple factors, the Big Ten Conference relied on the medical advice and counsel of the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.

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UPDATE Aug. 11, 3 p.m.

Lambeau Field won’t host fans during first two home games

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact communities around the country and throughout Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers announced Thursday that Lambeau Field will not host fans at the first two home games this season.

The Packers’ third home game is on Nov. 1 against the Minnesota Vikings. Whether fans can attend this game and others later in the season will depend on the status of the virus. The Packers will continue to evaluate a variety of factors in consultation with local medical and public health officials.

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UPDATE Aug. 11, 3 p.m.

Public libraries slowly reopening

The six municipal libraries in Oconto County are open to the public again, although hours are more limited than they were before they were closed because of COVID-19 concerns.

The Suring Area Public Library is scheduled to reopen Tuesday, with up to five people at a time allowed inside from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays starting Aug. 11. Curbside service and entry by appointment is available 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and curbside service only takes place 9 a.m.-noon Friday.

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UPDATE Aug. 13, 9:45 a.m.

Higher risk of Shawano schools starting virtually

The increase in coronavirus cases in recent weeks could push Shawano School District into starting out with virtual learning instead of the hybrid model touted for weeks, district officials announced Thursday.

The news came during the first meeting of a new re-entry committee looking at ways to adjust when it’s appropriate to have students in school more frequently or less. Superintendent Randi Anderson showed committee members a county map with census tract data that showed several sectors of the district in a high risk area for contracting the virus.

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UPDATE Aug. 11, 3 p.m.

SCHS grads finally walk the stage

More than 120 Shawano Community High School graduates walked across the stage Aug. 7 to get their diplomas.

In a summer where graduations have gone virtual or been canceled entirely, SCHS officials waited until almost the last minute to decide whether to give members of the Class of 2020 the opportunity to have an actual graduation ceremony.

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UPDATE Aug. 11, 3 p.m.

Tigerton schools plan four days of in-person learning

Tigerton School District will be holding classes in school four days a week, with Wednesdays being student-free for deep cleaning.

Kelley Strike, the new superintendent, said the school board approved the new plan, which has cleaning staff coming in on Wednesdays and Saturdays to do major cleaning, although basic daily cleaning is also expected to take place. Students will be in school on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, unless families opt to pursue virtual learning with the district.

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