Editor’s Note: The Observer has a print deadline of Tuesday afternoon. Some of the information included in this reporting is reflective of accurate information at that time. We will be updating our online stories with developments.
Ross Berndt-Kindschi has worked for Bill’s Food Center in Oregon for 10 years. He usually orders between 12-25 cases of items for aisles 15-18, which includes items like soaps, bleach and hand wipes.
This week, he ordered 200.
As busy as Bill’s has been, other businesses, including Firefly Coffeehouse and Artisan Cheese and Charlie’s on Main among other restaurants, have closed to the public, only offering curbside options for now.
The cause for concern is in the quickly spreading coronavirus pandemic, which has brought 72 active cases of COVID-19 in the state, with 19 in Dane County.
It has resulted in the Oregon School District closing schools at the direction of the state, civic services like the library and the senior center being shut off to the public, limitations for the Oregon Area Food Pantry, emergency powers for the Village of Oregon and difficult decisions for business owners.
Schools tentatively planned to reopen Monday, April 6. In the meantime, the district will begin virtual learning from Tuesday, March 31 through at least Friday, April 3.
The first cases of COVID-19 were seen in China in late 2019, and the disease has since spread internationally, affecting 182,000 people and killing 7,400. COVID-19 was deemed a worldwide pandemic March 11 by the World Health Organization, the first since H1N1 influenza in 2009.
Both local and state officials are taking action to prevent the spread of the virus.
Gov. Tony Evers announced the mandatory closure of all public and private schools on Friday, March 13. On Monday, March 16, Evers announced during a conference call the ban of gatherings of 50 people or more, based on CDC guidelines put out Sunday, March 15.
On March 17, he ordered the DHS to drop that number to 10, with bars and restaurants able to serve takeout or delivery only.
Grocery stores, food pantries, childcare centers, pharmacies and hospitals are exempt from that order, he said. He directed Andrea Palm, state Department of Health Services secretary to impose the ban effective Tuesday, March 17.
“This isn’t a decision I made lightly, and we understand this will have an impact on Wisconsin workers, families, businesses and communities, but keeping folks safe and healthy has to be our highest priority,” Evers said.
The county declared a state of emergency Monday, March 16, a day after it had ordered all schools to close two days earlier than the state’s mandate.
The county had put a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people on March 13.
Oregon’s reaction to the crisis had started slowly but accelerated rapidly earlier that week, after confirmed cases in the county began to trickle in and national response ramped up.
The first Dane County case was announced Feb. 5, the second March 9, and eight more were added over the next week. Then, as national and international responses increased, local responses did, too.
On March 11, WHO declared it a pandemic and the NBA suspended its season after a player tested positive and the United States began restricting travel to Europe.
As Major League Baseball, the NHL and NCAA basketball stopped play March 12, Oregon High School canceled any large events, memory care facility Sienna Meadows, assisted living facility Sienna Crest and Kettle Park Senior Living went on lockdown, the village was talking with county and state officials. Statewide, the WIAA canceled all remaining sporting events.
As President Donald Trump declared a national emergency March 13, the girls basketball team was told its first appearance at state in 40 years was canceled, the state ordered schools to shut down the following Wednesday until at least April 6, the Oregon Correctional Center canceled all jail visits and many other Oregon area events were canceled.
That day, two more cases of COVID-19 were confirmed, and shoppers were flooding to the stores to stock up on toilet paper, pasta, canned goods and cleaning products.
Berndt-Kindschi said he has never seen anything like it before. He is ordering 10 times as much product as he usually does, and the aisles are being stocked constantly.
“Although people might not need toilet paper for the virus, they are hearing stores are running out so they are buying it up,” Berndt-Kindschi said.
Bill Faust Jr., owner of the store, said he was so busy he wouldn’t have much time to talk. Bill’s Food Center has extra employees being scheduled and employees coming in early to stock shelves.
Faust said when talking to his distributors almost everything is on backorder.
“If people keep panic buying, it’s just going to get worse,” Faust told the Observer. “We are swamped here and just doing the best we can.”
On Sunday, March 15, before the county held a news conference to announce the immediate closure of schools and limitations on gatherings, some churches limited their gatherings to online sermons.
On Monday, March 16, the Village of Oregon declared COVID-19 a public health emergency, granting powers to village administrator Mike Gracz to oversee meeting cancelations and finances. Village departments halted all non-essential services.
At the March 15 new conference, county executive Joe Parisi said the aggressive actions it and the state took are being done to slow the spread of COVID-19 before it becomes a major problem.
“Communities come together during challenging times to reassure and care for one another,” Parisi said in a news release. “We are ready for whatever lies ahead.”