Covid-19 case confirmed in county

Public health official says one resident in Ozaukee, two in Washington County have tested positive
Ozaukee Press staff

Ozaukee County’s first case of coronavirus was confirmed Wednesday morning, the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department announced. 

The news comes on the heels of the department’s announcement earlier in the day that Washington County had its second confirmed case of Covid-19, Department Director Kirsten Johnson said. 

“I’m sure this will be the first of many,” Johnson said of the Ozaukee County case.

The patients are being treated and are quarantining at their homes, she said.

The department is conducting an investigation to identify and follow up with any people who had close contact with the patients, according to the Health Department. 

Those who were in close contact with the patient will be monitored by health department staff members who will conduct daily symptom and temperature checks, and directed to self-quarantine, she said.

The department does not release information about the patients’ gender or where they are from, Johnson said.

That announcement made the coronavirus real to many residents who have been struggling to get used to what is becoming a new normal.

Late Tuesday Gov. Tony Evers ordered a moratorium on all gatherings of 10 or more people with few exceptions.

Those exceptions include child care centers, hotels, government facilities, food pantries, health care facilities, polling places, office spaces where people can implement social distancing, manufacturing plants, utilities and job centers.

Evers’ order also closed restaurants and bars except for take-out and delivery orders, leaving many eateries closed on what would normally be a busy St. Patrick’s Day Tuesday and into the foreseeable future.

Schools have been shuttered indefinitely, leaving parents scrambling for child care and teachers hustling to offer online instruction. Libraries are closed, and recreation programs and virtually all other community activities have been canceled.

Churches are closed and services canceled in the midst of one of the holiest seasons of the year.

Funerals are being limited to immediate family, often with larger memorial services planned for after the coronavirus outbreak has been quelled. 

Nursing homes, including the Lasata Senior Living Campus in Cedarburg and Capri Community senior homes in Port Washington and Grafton, are also closed to the public, and hospitals and clinics are limiting visitors. 

Senior centers and congregate meal sites also closed their doors since they cater to those who are most vulnerable, and volunteers who deliver meals to the homebound are being screened daily.

Grocery stores and other retailers are experiencing a run on basic supplies such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies as well as food including canned goods, flour, eggs and other staples.

Government offices are primarily closed, their function for now limited primarily to elections. The Ozaukee County Board canceled its Wednesday, March 18, meeting, which was supposed to be Youth Government Day, when high school students join their representatives to learn how county government works, and many county committees have canceled their meetings.

In addition, Ozaukee County and many municipalities have declared a state of emergency, which may qualify them for state and federal aid if it becomes available.

But even as more and more places are closed, people are coming up with unique ways to serve the public. The Niederkorn Library in Port Washington on Tuesday announced it would have a window open where residents can pick up books from the library’s collection — people are asked to call ahead to reserve materials — and the Oscar Grady Library in Saukville announced it was planning to place donated books in Free Little Libraries around the community.

The coronavirus outbreak, which was declared a pandemic last week by the World Health Organization, has changed the way things are being done everywhere. 

The first shock came when school districts across the county announced last week they would close for a month to try and stop the spread of the virus.

While some parents are being asked to work remotely, allowing them to care for their children from home, others are scrambling to find child care.

Child care centers are exempt from the governor’s ban on mass gatherings, and Community Learning Center in Port Washington is expected to stay open “as long as we don’t have cases here,” Director Lori Gramoll said Monday, adding that many parents “don’t have any options. They need us.”

But a number of parents who are now working from home have taken their children out of the center for now, she said. 

Many of the measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to combat the virus “are things we do as a matter of course,” Gramoll said, adding that the state has recommended that child care centers remain open.

As more and more people stay home, they have also been out in force buying groceries and cleaning supplies.

Pat Fox, president of Fox Bros., which operates the Piggly Wiggly stores in Port Washington and Saukville, said the markets have seen runs on such things as potatoes, bananas, toilet paper and paper towels.   

“It’s been across the board. Every day it’s changing,” he said. “I think there’s a bit of panic buying going on.”

The stores have been restocking its shelves as quickly as they can, he said, adding the supply chain hasn’t been affected.

Fox noted that his stores typically have their busiest days of the year in the week leading up to Christmas.

“Since last Thursday, it’s been like Christmas Eve every day,” he said. “Consumers have definitely been stocking up. It’s unprecedented.”

Sendik’s, which has a store in Grafton, has designated 7 to 8 a.m. daily as a time for shoppers who are most vulnerable to the Covid-19 virus, such as senior citizens and those with underlying medical conditions and compromised immune systems, to shop as a way of helping protect them from the virus.

The Food Pantry in Port Washington has also changed its operations to deal with the coronavirus, filling bags and boxes with items before clients arrive and distributing them curbside.

“This is a first for everybody,” Food Pantry Board President Phil Groothousen said.. “We will do the best we can but there will be a learning curve.”

Many churches have suspended services, and the St. John XXIII Men’s Club has also cancelled its March 27 Lenten fish fry.

The club held a fish fry last week, and while attendance was down, Pastoral Coordinator Bill Henkle said there was a long line for carry-out meals.

“I think that helped offset the lack of attendance,” he said.

In addition to Masses, all religious educations programs are canceled through the end of the month, when the situation will be re-evaluated, Henkle said.

“It’s a very strange situation,” he said. “It’s kind of unsettling, deviating from the norm so much. There’s nothing to compare it to .... nothing close.”

It’s hard to imagine Holy Week without services, Henkle said, “but you really have to wonder how long this is going to last. It would be wonderful if this would miraculously clear up by Easter, but I don’t think that will happen.”

First Congregational Church in Port Washington has suspended all services and programs through the month, but the congregation is implementing a YouTube video series “Worship in the Gap” to help the members remain connected.

Many churches are open for funerals,, which often draw a large group of mourners together, but the services are being scaled back considerably, Joe Eernisse of Eernisse Funeral Home said.

“We’re working with the churches to have private services for immediate family so they can have closure with memorial services to be scheduled at a later date,” he said. “I have families going through incredible pain with this, but there’s nothing we can do. Our hands are tied.”

Weddings, both church ceremonies and civil services, will also have to be scaled back considerably.  Ozaukee County Clerk of Courts Mary Lou Mueller said they are asking wedding parties to bring no more than six guests.

Court hearings are also being affected by the virus as officials try to reduce the number of face-to-face hearings while dealing with as many cases as they can.

“We have not canceled any cases but we have prioritized cases,” Mueller said.

Small claims cases have been rescheduled while evictions, bail bond hearings and mental illness and alcohol commitment hearings remain on the schedule but are being handled remotely, she said.

“We are doing as much as we can telephonically and by video as we can,” Mueller said.

At the Ozaukee County Jail, measures are also being taken to restrict public access.

People who are arrested are undergoing health screenings before they enter the jail, and physical visits with prisoners have been suspended until further notice, officials said.

The Jail Literacy Program and other programming has also been suspended.

“The jail has medical staff on-site who are prepared and trained to provide correctional medical services and deal with infectious diseases,” Undersheriff Christy Knowles said.

“We are prepared to adjust our plans and operations on a daily basis, if needed.”

Emergency medical services aren’t making any major changes to their operations, Port Washington Fire Chief Mark Mitchell said, noting that EMTs and paramedics take direction from the department’s medical director and receive daily updates from the Department of Health.

“Our personnel are always in gloves,” Mitchell said. “If there’s some kind of respiratory thing, they’ll mask up and get a mask on the patient too.

“We’re not going into this blindly.”

The medical dispatch program has dispatchers asking patients about their symptoms, Mitchell said, so ambulance personnel know the type of situation they’re walking into before they get there.

Fredonia Fire Chief Brian Weyker also said that his department has also purchased additional supplies of personal protective gear such as masks to handle the situation.

Ozaukee Press reporter Dan Benson contributed to this story.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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