This is a news story followed by some editorial remarks.
A late resolution was added to the Kewaunee County Board meeting scheduled for Tuesday night (March 17): “A resolution declaring public health emergency.”
The resolution submitted by County Board Chairman Robert Weidner acknowledges that “the existence of confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the United States and Wisconsin constitutes a condition within Kewaunee County posing an imminent threat of disaster that will impact the health, security and safety of the public and could impact critical systems of Kewaunee County.”
Weidner – and whoever succeeds him as chairman should the declared emergency last beyond the April 7 election and reorganization – would be given the authority, with County Administrator Scott Feldt, “to order, subject to ratification if practicable, whatever is necessary and expedient for the health, safety, protection, and welfare of persons and property within Kewaunee County in the emergency.”
The resolution also allows the chair or a designee to declare the need for, and hold, virtual meetings of the board or its sub-units that are “reasonably accessible consistent with Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law” if they are prevented from meeting physically during the course of the state of emergency.
It was the 13th resolution on an agenda that was already unusually full and also included final approval of two ordinance changes.
And now, the personal thoughts.
It’s been my habit to attend Kewaunee County Board meetings and report on what I see and hear on this website. But this time around, I joined eight of the 20 supervisors who decided not to go.
I have an old friend who has lived in Italy the last few years. On Sunday she posted a heartbreaking description of what’s happening in that country, and how the hospital in her small town has been overwhelmed, accepting new patients every hour. I heard today that the death toll has leveled off at about 350 Italians a day. That’s 1,000 dead since Sunday.
I have another friend who just got back from New York, where she saw firsthand what’s happening with this virus where great crowds gather, and she literally begged me not to go to a place where dozens of people would be together in a medium-sized room for several hours.
In my mind I’m still a young guy trying to make his mark in the world, but by certain standards – mainly the calendar that says I’ll be 67 years old by the end of the month – I’m in the at-risk category for this thing.
And so I made arrangements to pick up a recording of the meeting first thing Wednesday morning, and that’s the reason I won’t have any morning-after reports about what happened Tuesday evening. They ought to start coming later in the day.
I figured I owed you an explanation of why I can’t yet tell you how the board voted on up to $3.635 million in General Obligation Refunding Bonds, the salaries of county officials who will be elected in November, support for a National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Michigan including offshore Kewaunee County, and preservation of 420 acres of Black Ash Swamp with continued financial support to local units of government – to mention four of the other 12 resolutions on that big agenda.
I understand why Weidner went ahead with the meeting: None of the 70-odd cases of coronavirus in Wisconsin are in Kewaunee County. The board had a lot of work to do. I also understand why eight supervisors, most of them older than I am, decided to take the advice of all the health experts who say gatherings of 10 or more people are not a good idea just now.
Watch this space for those stories.