Preventative restrictions announced on gatherings
by Brian Wilson
March 12, 2020-- Taylor County Public Health Director Patty Krug and Medford Mayor Mike Wellner issued a joint statement today (March 12) that all non-essential gatherings of more than 250 people are to be suspended for the next 30 days.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) recommends that all non-essential gatherings of 250 or more people be cancelled or postponed statewide to help protect Wisconsinites from the spread of COVID-19, particularly those who are most vulnerable to infection and severe disease. DHS supports the decisions of any event organizers that elect to cancel or postpone events with less than 250 attendees in order to protect their communities. Organizers should consider the following:
Potential for attendance from older adults, individuals with underlying health care conditions, or other vulnerable groups
Potential for attendance from individuals from a wide range of geographic areas across Wisconsin, the United States, or other countries
The setting of the event, particularly if it involves sustained interaction between attendees in close physical proximity
The directives have resulted in the cancellation of the Twisted Threads Quilt Show, the Medford Area Chamber of Commerce Home and Business Expo, Health and Wellness Expo and Bridal Shows scheduled to take place next weekend at the school campus and Simek Recreation Center. In addition, the Dr. Seuss’s Birthday Celebration at the Frances L. Simek Memorial Library scheduled for March 14 is canceled.
The statement came after a press conference this morning where Gov. Tony Evers declared a public health emergency due to COVID-19. According to Krug, the state recognizes that these aggressive measures are disruptive to people’s lives and they are not undertaken lightly. Krug said the state is being aggressive in combating the virus with the hope of preventing deaths that have occurred in other states.
Krug was quick to note that essential gatherings include schools, government meetings, factories and most places of employment, stores and restaurants. All of these will remain open and operational during this time.
Krug has advised the churches where there may be more than 250 people gathered to ask people to attend other services or remain home.
In accordance with Wis. Stat. ch. 250, on limiting all non-essential gatherings of over 250 people in order to slow the spread of this disease within and between communities in Wisconsin. Mass gatherings and large community events bring people from multiple communities into close contact with each other, which has the potential to increase COVID-19 transmission. One method to slow the spread of respiratory virus infections, including COVID-19, is by increasing social distancing (reducing close contact). There is evidence from the scientific literature that limiting the size and number of mass gathering events is an effective tool for preventing the spread of disease and slowing the progression of epidemics.
By implementing limitations on mass gatherings, DHS is intending to slow the spread of this epidemic to a level such that the healthcare system is able to maintain quality care for patients. Mass gatherings during an outbreak of a particularly infectious disease such as COVID-19 have the potential to result in large numbers of ill people that can quickly overwhelm local hospitals and clinics.
At this time DHS is not recommending closing schools as part of this guidance. However, there are also important considerations for essential gatherings. Essential gatherings include health care facilities, schools, most routine business operations, manufacturing, and government meetings. While in operation these facilities should employ enhanced precautions to reduce the potential for spread of disease. These operations may also be suspended to control an outbreak in individual facilities and communities depending on local conditions at the authority of local public health officials.
The city’s statements came after similar statements from the WIAA which is limiting access to athletic competitions. In addition state, regional and national organizations including the NBA and NCAA have imposed restrictions or suspended their seasons. Earlier this week, President Donald Trump announced a travel ban for travel to and from the European Union.
Krug advises people not to panic, noting the actions at this point are preventative to hopefully contain the spread of the disease in the state.
People should continue to follow simple steps to avoid getting sick including:
Frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water.
Covering of coughs and sneezes.
Avoiding touching your face.
Staying home when sick
Krug directs people to the county website at https://www.co.taylor.wi.us/ for the most current updates impacting Taylor County residents.