With face masks now commonplace, and a fight over whether to postpone a statewide election, constant change was the norm in Stoughton during the fourth week in which the coronavirus and COVID-19 has turned our lives upside-down.
Stoughton began discussing how to replace the loss of Syttende Mai and its economic impact on businesses and nonprofits and Stoughton Hospital eliminated all visits, even from close family members, as did other hospitals in the area.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the country more than doubled to 360,000 as of Monday, April 6, the number of deaths more than tripled in the past week to 10,000. The illness crept further into Dane County, which reported more than 300 cases as of Tuesday.
Updated information on the spread of the virus led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend the use of face masks – even homemade cloth ones – for any public outing. Many people here took that advice to heart.
As stores, among the few public gathering places left, got more stringent about social distancing, they posted signage urging customers and employees to take more health precautions.
People in general continued to exercise outdoors and enjoy the sunshine, sometimes socializing by having conversations from their front lawns.
Meanwhile, American politicians continued to fight over how to provide hospitals and communities with the resources necessary to combat the spread of the disease.
They debated projections that COVID-19 could claim 200,000 or more American lives this year and how much our efforts to stay at home and practice social distancing might pay off. But with the onset of the illness on average coming two weeks after contracting the virus, President Donald Trump warned the nation that the hardest week was yet to come.
Closer to home, a legal battle raged at an ever increasing pace in the days leading up to the April 7 election, leaving many to wonder whether they could – or should – vote in person, whether the absentee ballots they requested would arrive in time or even whether votes they sent in would be counted. The state Supreme Court overruling the governor’s executive order to postpone the election to June just 14 hours before polling places opened, and the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal order to extend voting to April 13.
Polling places were consolidated as election volunteers were in such short supply, the governor ordered the National Guard to work the polls.
Dane County joined the many government and nonprofit efforts to buoy the countless closed or struggling businesses during the pandemic pandemonium, increasing the total allocation to the Small Business Pandemic Support Grant Program from $250,000 to $800,000 in a matter of days after receiving hundreds of responses. And the Madison Community Foundation distributed $4 million to area nonprofits to prepare for extreme needs or make up for sharply limited fundraising efforts.
Stoughton Hospital began its own Coronavirus Relief Fund, pledging a matching $25,000 donation it planned to disburse to area nonprofits.
More large events in the area announced cancellations, including the postponement of the Dane County Farmers Market’s entire outdoor season.
Hospitals joined a national project to study using antibodies from recovered patients and UW-Madison researchers began working on vaccines. And many area dairy farms began dumping unused milk, now in excess with schools no longer setting the demand.
Local governments, still needing to take care of business, began meeting again, with the use of teleconferencing software.
Stoughton Area EMS director Lisa Schimelpfenig said her department has just barely enough personal protective equipment after getting help from local organizations and the national stockpile.