Editor’s Note: The Press 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.
At Miller and Sons Supermarket, employees have just been trying to keep up with demand.
That increased exponentially at grocery stores throughout Dane County and the state as concerns over spreading COVID-19 have prompted people to stock up on items – namely toilet paper, hand sanitizer and wipes – as uncertainty around the disease looms.
The cause for concern is the quickly spreading coronavirus pandemic, which has brought 47 active cases of COVID-19 in the state, with 10 in Dane County.
It has resulted in Verona Area 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 local food pantry and difficult choices for Verona-area businesses, who are either reducing hours or cutting staff.
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 on 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.
On a Monday, March 16 conference call, Evers announced a ban on gatherings of 50 people or more, based on CDC guidelines put out Sunday, March 15.
Grocery stores, food pantries, childcare centers, pharmacies and hospitals are exempt from that order, he said in a tweet. Evers directed Andrea Palm, state Department of Health Services secretary to impose the ban effective Tuesday, March 17.
Restaurants and bars across the state are required to operate at 50% seating capacity or less while keeping groups of patrons at least six feet away from one another, a news release states.
“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 on Monday, March 16, a day after it had ordered all schools to close two days earlier than the state’s mandate.
The county put a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people on March 13.
Verona’s reaction to the crisis started slowly but accelerated rapidly earlier that week, after confirmed cases in the county began to trickle in and the 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, the WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic and the NBA suspended its season after a player tested positive and the United States began restricting travel to Europe.
That day, the VASD banned all school-related travel and large-group events, Epic expanded its sick-leave and work-from-home policies and the WIAA banned fans from attending state tournament games.
As Major League Baseball, the NHL and NCAA basketball stopped play on March 12, Badger Prairie Needs network announced it would stop serving community meals and other weekend events began to be canceled. The school district canceled two international trips and local assisted living facilities went on lockdown. Statewide, the WIAA canceled all remaining sporting events.
As President Donald Trump declared a national emergency March 13, the state ordered schools to shut down the following Wednesday until at least April 6 and many other Verona area events were canceled.
That same day, Miller and Sons employees found themselves frantically restocking shelves with toilet paper, canned goods and its limited supply of hand sanitizer. And Verona officials finally closed the senior center, library and public works building to the public, following the lead of the school district.
During a March 15 news conference, county executive Joe Parisi said the aggressive actions the county 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.”