COVID closures, social distancing quiet communities

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By Correne Martin


The worldwide coronavirus pandemic is starting to have major impacts on southwest Wisconsin.

As of Tuesday, March 17, at 2 p.m., at least 72 Wisconsinites tested positive for the Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19), none closer than in Dane County, according to the state Department of Health Services. However, just across the river, two Allamakee County (Iowa) residents, including one child under 18, tested positive this week.

In Crawford County, Public Health Officer Cindy Riniker has remained on top of updates, reporting no positive cases in the county through Wednesday morning, at 8:30 a.m.

One of those testing positive in Wisconsin had recovered, according to DHS. As of the same time Tuesday, 1,038 of those tested were negative.

As of Tuesday, Iowa had 29 cases. As of Wednesday morning, Illinois had 160 cases, none in northwestern Illinois. In Minnesota, 60 positive cases had been identified as of early Wednesday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4,226 cases have been reported nationwide, with 75 deaths.

The latest health information is available at or at

“This is all continually changing as the situation develops, but it’s meant to safeguard us from the potential of any positive cases entering our county and to protect our health care resources from becoming overwhelmed,” Riniker said.

Riniker urged, if you are a Crawford County resident and have recently returned from traveling anywhere with widespread, ongoing community Coronavirus infections, you are asked to self-quarantine as much as possible. Only contact your health provider if you feel symptoms are arising. 

To ensure Crawford County is getting residents the testing and care they need, and to protect the community as a whole, public health is collaborating with Crossing Rivers Health medical center, Kickapoo Valley Medical Clinic in Soldiers Grove, as well as Gundersen, Mayo, and Crossing Rivers Health clinics in Prairie du Chien, according to Riniker.

Crossing Rivers Health Infection Preventionist Stephanie Koenig, added, “Anyone who is not experiencing life-threating symptoms but believes they may have been exposed, or is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, please call our emergency department, or your health care provider prior to entering any medical facility.” Visit to find the most current information regarding center’s efforts to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At all area hospitals, visitor restrictions have been put in place, where, in most cases, only one visitor/support person is allowed per patient, per day for the hospitalization. Visitors must be ages 12 and older. Some exceptions may be made for hospice patients or other specific circumstances. The public is, again, asked to call ahead to determine these guidelines for each location.

Gathering ban, schools & businesses close

The biggest news early this week was Gov. Tony Evers’ order for the state Department of Health Services to prohibit “mass gatherings” of 50 or more people through the duration of the health emergency declared by Evers Thursday. Yet, by mid-day Tuesday, that was upgraded to ban gatherings of 10 or more people.

The order includes public and private schools, restaurants and bars, auditoriums, theaters, movie theaters, museums, sports facilities, conference rooms, meeting halls, exhibition centers, taverns, health and fitness centers, recreation centers, licensed swimming pools, places of worship and religious gatherings.

The order excludes airports, schools “for noninstructional purposes,” child care facilities, group homes, residential care centers, hotels and motels (with restrictions), military and National Guard facilities, law enforcement facilities and jails including state Department of Corrections facilities, food pantries and shelter facilities, churches, residential buildings, hospitals and medical facilities, pharmacies, long-term-care and assisted-living facilities and senior centers.

Violation of the executive order is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

“Although they may not be popular decisions, changes already put into place in our county will help to curb the spread to our communities by limiting social interactions as much as possible, including canceling school, community events and travel plans,” Riniker stated. “Our focus is continuing to protect our vulnerable populations—those who are age 65 and older and those who have a weakened immune system or other medical conditions.”

Business plans, 


Prairie du Chien Area Chamber of Commerce President Bob Moses encourages local businesses to have their own infectious control plans, and to think ahead on how to best weather the effects this pandemic will have on their establishments. He also suggested that people buy gift cards from businesses, shop at local businesses online or by phone given that most have items available for pickup, order takeout or delivery from restaurants, and like/share/comment on social media posts from area businesses.

“We can’t control this, but we can try to come together and support one another through this,” Moses stated.

City government

Effective Wednesday, March 18, until further notice, Prairie du Chien City Hall is closed to the public to protect both staff and the community from the COVID-19 virus.

City Hall will remain in operation, according to City Administrator Chad Abram. To reach staff, call 326-6406 or email Payment options for utilities, room tax, municipal court, rent/lease, etc., can be sent as follows: 1) Drop box behind City Hall next to the flag pole, 2) Online at, or 3) Mail to 214 E. Blackhawk Ave., P.O. Box 324, Prairie du Chien, WI 53821.

City Hall and governments across the nation are encouraging absentee voting at this time. In Prairie du Chien, in-person voting can be done by appointment, Monday, Wednesday, Friday between 9 and 11 a.m., or Tuesday, Thursday between 2 and 4 p.m.

Absentee Voting by Mail options are: 1) Request an absentee ballot through MyVote Wisconsin,, 2) Request a ballot from the clerk’s office by mail at the address above, by fax at 326-8182 or email at

A photo ID is required for both absentee in-person voting or absentee voting by mail, unless the individual is indefinitely confined. Please do not mail the original photo ID. 

Traveling not recommended

The state Department of Health Services and the CDC recommend that all travelers avoid nonessential travel to countries listed as Level 3 by the CDC, including China, Italy and South Korea, as well as Level 2 countries, including Japan, for “older adults and those with chronic conditions.” Travelers going to Level 1 countries, including Hong Kong, are advised to take “normal precautions,” including avoiding sick people and avoiding touching eyes, noses and mouths. 

Travel on cruise ships is not recommended, especially for those with “underlying health conditions.” Older adults and those with “underlying health issues” are advised to avoid nonessential travel, long plane rides, and other “situations that put them at increased risk for more severe disease.”

DHS is recommending avoiding travel to states where the CHC has determined “sustained community transmission” of the virus — including, as of Wednesday, New York, California, Washington, Massachussetts and New Jersey, the five states with more than 200 reported cases. As of Wednesday morning, Illinois, Louisiana and Colorado were pushing that 200 person mark as well.

Steve Prestegard, editor of the Platteville Journal, contributed to this article.

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