Last week’s edition of the Waushara Argus included a letter by Mary Hanke of Pine River posing a number of questions to me in my capacity as County Administrator. Specifically, the letter relayed the erroneous belief Waushara and other counties have or may establish “Detention Centers” to house COVID-19 positive residents against their will. This allegation is completely false.
As Waushara County Administrator I do not tell people what they want to hear but rather what they need to hear. The following is what all of us need to hear but more importantly understand.
Ms. Hanke’s letter was spurred by an anonymous letter she read in the October 29th edition of the Berlin Journal. The author of that letter alleged the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors was planning to approve the establishment of so called detention centers to hold people against their will. That allegation is also completely false.
The anonymous letter writer and Ms. Hanke both referenced a supposed “60 page ‘Guide’ from Evers/Palm in order to control the lives of citizens through strict enforcement.” What is being referenced is actually a 95 page document entitled “COVID-19 Local Community – Isolation Site Operation Manual”. This document was provided to Wisconsin local governments and contains medical and operational guidelines for the safe and effective voluntary quarantine of individuals testing positive for COVID-19.
These Isolation (not detention) Centers have been established primarily to provide homeless individuals a place to voluntarily quarantine as they do not have a home to do so. This is because isolation of infected individuals for a period of time is an effective way to limit spread of disease. This is necessary as viruses spread easily from person to person regardless of an individual’s personal or financial situation.
Waushara County established a place to isolate but only used it once several months ago allowing a family to voluntarily quarantine there due to personal circumstances preventing them from doing so elsewhere. If necessary, we plan to use the facility for infected County first responders as a place to voluntarily quarantine so as not to risk exposing their families.
Having responded to Ms. Hanke’s letter, I believe it appropriate to take the opportunity to address COVID-19 and the threat it poses to the people of Waushara County. As I write this over 1,600 residents or 6.5% of our population has tested positive for COVID-19. Over four hundred residents are presently ill with the disease and six have died from it. This is something we must take seriously as COVID infections in Waushara County have more than doubled or increased 116% in the last month. Hospital beds throughout Wisconsin are filling rapidly posing danger to not only COVID patients but those suffering other illnesses and injuries.
The reason for our present situation is public health has been politicized resulting in a sizeable group believing simple effective measures (wearing a mask, social distancing, washing hands) are a ruse designed to infringe on personal freedom and civil liberties.
Normally personal health decisions such as diet, weight, and exercise only affects individuals making those decisions. However, poor personal health decisions during a pandemic not only endangers you but friends, family, and everyone in your community. For the same reason we do not allow people to drive 100 mph on roads. That’s because doing so not only puts the driver’s life at risk but imperils the lives of passengers, pedestrians, and other motorists.
Finally, we must be responsible consumers of information. Get your news from newspapers in print or online. That’s because they are established news sources with an identifiable, long term presence in the communities they serve. Additionally, what you read in a newspaper is vetted before publication. Most importantly, when newspapers make mistakes they readily print retractions and corrections.
As to medical information, your best source is professionals like physicians and nurses. They know the truth about medical issues such as COVID and their advice is well taken.
As to government action, consult with officials who are knowledgeable of the situation and actually make the decisions affecting you. If you believe there is a possibility people will be dragged away and locked up against their will, simply ask a law enforcement officer if this is true. Remember, these are the people who are not only a source of accurate information but our friends and neighbors. They can be trusted as they have dedicated their lives to making our community a better place to live for all of us.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic is a great challenge, Americans have experienced and prevailed over far worse. Dire situations like the Civil War, Great Depression, and World War II. But those victories were not magically obtained. They required determination, discipline, and selfless behavior from all good Americans. We need to remember the lessons of patriotism instilled in us as schoolchildren. By drawing on those lessons and acting accordingly we will get through this crisis as we have done so many times in the past.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and remain united. God bless you.
/s/Robert Sivick, Waushara County Administrator