Economic Recovery Team briefing provides insight on COVID in Portage County
By Taylor J. Hale
PORTAGE COUNTY – County officials and other area leaders gathered online to discuss the COVID-19 updates during the third Economic Recovery Team briefing on April 29. Portage County Health Officer Gary Garske and Attorney Dan Schmeeckle gave presentations offering insight on how the virus has impacted the county and its residents, health care system, and local businesses.
Portage County COVID-19 Update
Portage County Health Officer Gary Garske said the county saw its fifth confirmed case of COVID-19 on April 28. All four other residents affected with the illness have since made a complete recovery.
Garske noted that two of the five cases were related. The remaining cases were independently exposed.
Garske said that National Guard members would arrive in the county during the week of May 11 to help with supplemental testing. The additional troops are slated to help test over 500 residents for the infectious illness. Around 30 tests a day are being performed in the county at time of story publication.
Garske added that roughly 11,000 tests are being administered weekly, but state leaders hope to increase that number to 85,000 tests a week in the near future, along with expanding contact tracing programs for those with and without confirmed COVID-19 test results.
“All three of our medical systems here in Portage County have increased their testing,” Garske said.
Garske and his peers recommend following state guidelines and noted that the Badger Bounce Back plan could provide a path to reopening the state.
COVID-19 for local businesses
Attorney Dan Schmeeckle, of Anderson O’Brien in Stevens Point said existing documents and laws could offer aid and guidance during Safer at Home.
Schmeeckle provided resources to help with liability issues when reopening their businesses, from an employer standpoint, focusing on how to prevent a scenario where an employee or guest is exposed to the virus, and what to do if a case arises.
He stated that business owners should check the OSHA Guidance on “Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19” document at www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf and follow CDC and Wisconsin DHS information.
Schmeeckle noted that workplaces should hang CDC informational posters, giving employees visual reminders of what to do if they feel sick during the workday. Employers should also offer protective masks when possible, practice social distancing, and follow new guidelines as they emerge moving forward.