2020 Hodag Country Music Festival Canceled
Published on 05/29/2020 under News This year's Hodag Country Music Festival in Rhinelander has now been canceled. The change comes just two days after the county approved a permit for the event. Organizers issued a statement saying, "The possibility of having the Hodag Country Festival has created stress and division in the Rhinelander area, and we are sincerely apologetic for this. It was never our intent." They went on to say, "The festival has always been about the community. We have been here for 43 years and have always supported the Northwoods area. Hodag hopes we can continue to have your support in the future." Ticket holders will have multiple options including a refund or rolling them over to next year's event. Prior to yesterday's cancellation, organizers had made a lengthy list of safety modifications including reducing attendance while encouraging social distancing, face mask use, and frequent hand washing.
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Lincoln County Health Encourages Businesses to Continue Safe Practices
Published on 05/29/2020 under News With businesses re-opening, the Lincoln County Health Department is encouraging owners to continue safe practices to protect both customers and employees. We were joined Friday by Lincoln County Health Director Shelley Hersil who discussed the continued use of masks, sneeze guards, and social distancing at area businesses. With more people mobile at this time, Hersil noted "Safe is smart." If an employee tests positive, it can lead to additional staff members having to go into isolation. For businesses that are re-opening, Hersil says the Health Department is available to assist in creating a re-opening plan with health precautions. Increase in Local Testing The conversation then turned to testing in Lincoln County. As we've previously covered, Lincoln County confirmed the 6th and 7th Covid-19 cases this week. Hersil highlighted an increase in testing overall. After previously averaging between 30 and 40 tests per week, they're approaching 200 tests this week. You can hear that entire conversation in the WJJQ audio center.
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Nicolet Offers Online Transfer Program; Enrollment Remains Strong
Published on 05/29/2020 under News Nicolet College continues to expand their online learning options, and the school recently announced the their 60-credit University Transfer program can be completed entirely online. Even before the coronavirus pandemic forced virtual learning, Nicolet had been expanding their online offerings to allow students greater flexibility.  Nicolet University Transfer Liberal Arts Dean Laura Wind-Norton says, "This is an excellent option for students who need the flexibility online classes offer and also for those who simply prefer online learning." Northwoods students interested in earning a bachelor's degree can now complete the first half of that credential entirely online with classes starting at Nicolet College this fall. The 60-credit college credential transfers to all University of Wisconsin campuses, as well as many other colleges. Previous Online Offerings Benefit Nicolet During Covid-19 Campus Closure Nicolet has been offering various online coursework for more than 15 years now, which was beneficial when campus closed earlier this year due to the Coronavirus. Wind Norton called the transition seamless, saying "It really was impressive to see how effectively we were able to make the shift." The school says that enrollment remains strong for both the summer and fall terms. Admissions manager Katie Ourada noted that they're seeing some students looking to stay closer to home. At the moment, the college plans to hold a full complement of face-to-face University Transfer classes in the fall. Wind-Norton says, "We're monitoring the situation closely and we'll adapt as conditions dictate.There are a number of unknowns at the moment but one thing we do know for sure is that student safety is and always will be a top priority at Nicolet College."
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Watch for Turtles Crossing Roads
Published on 05/29/2020 under News Conservation biologists are once again asking citizens to do their part to help the state's eleven turtle species. Each spring, female turtles travel to upland areas to lay their eggs. The DNR's Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program is asking residents to report turtle crossings and help protect nests in residential areas. Andrew Badje, who coordinates the Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program says, "We've seen tremendous growth in people reporting turtle crossings, sightings of rare turtle species, and in people actively protecting turtle nests on their land." Since the DNR began requesting turtle crossing reports in 2012, the public has provided 2,903 turtle crossing location reports, with nearly 1,000 crossings identified in 2019 alone. Of those, Badje and colleagues have identified 47 locations as particularly deadly for turtles. For those looking to offer a helping hand, first and foremost remember safety in exiting your vehicle along the side of the road. When relocating the turtle, carefully place it on the side of road where the turtle was heading. In addition to vehicles, predators also pose a threat to turtle eggs. Concerned residents can construct cages that protect the unattended nests. The Turtle Conservation Program has a website with information on reporting turtle crossings and constructing nest protection cages.
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Rhinelander Elementary Schools Holding End-of-Year Parades Friday
Published on 05/29/2020 under News With this abnormal school year coming to a close, two elementary schools in Rhinelander will celebrate with a parade. The district announced that Crescent Elementary School and Pelican Elementary School will be hosting their own individual Farewell Parades on Friday May 29th, from 3:00 -5:00 pm. Families have been invited to drive through the parking lot at those schools and are encouraged to wave goodbye and send "air hugs" and "air high fives" to teachers and staff. School staff will be there wishing everyone a happy summer.
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Langlade County Announces Mobile Testing Events June 4 and 5
Published on 05/29/2020 under News Another mobile Covid-19 testing event is coming to the Northwoods, this time in Langlade County. The Langlade County Health Department is partnering with their Emergency Management Team, Aspirus Langlade Hospital and the Wisconsin National Guard to offer two days of testing at the Langlade County multi-purpose building. The clinics are scheduled for June 4 and 5. Health Officer Meghan Williams says, "We are happy to be bringing this to the residents of Langlade County to provide our community with mass testing but also to give public health an insight into how widespread COVID-19 is in our communities." They'll test those who have experienced a wide variety of symptoms. They noted that those who are tested will be asked to self-isolate until the test results are returned, typically in 3-5 days. A similar event in Oneida County last week resulted in more than 280 people being tested. In Langlade County, they've reported just two positive cases of Covid-19. They have more than 480 negative tests. (Photo provided by Wisconsin National Guard. Teams of National Guard members have been operating mobile testing clinics around the state.)
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Oneida County Listing Public Places Where COVID-19 Patients Visited
Published on 05/28/2020 under News On Wednesday, the Oneida County Health Department announced another case of COVID-19, as well as plans to share more information about potential exposure from patients going forward. With the increased movement of people at this time, the Health Department says they "will begin to share more information about the public places people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been during their time of communicability if the time spent there could have resulted in significant exposure for others." Their hope is this will allow the public to better know their potential risk of coming in contact with someone who has tested positive._____ The Oneida County Health Department confirmed another case of COVID-19 Wednesday, the ninth overall in the county. They said that individual is in their 60's with no known contact with a positive carrier and no history of travel. The person is now self-isolating. Based on their latest efforts to inform the public of possible exposure, the release says the person visited Shopko Optical in Rhinelander May 14 and The Edge Bar and Grill in Hazelhurst May 15. We did hear from a Shopko employee this morning who noted that they do take necessary precautions to help protect their customers. With an increase in testing overall, Oneida County now has 1,018 negative tests. One resident remains hospitalized with Covid-19 symptoms.
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Lincoln County, Forest County Announce Two Additional Cases of Coronavirus
Published on 05/28/2020 under News The Lincoln County Health Department announced two additional cases of COVID-19 Wednesday afternoon. These are the 6th and 7th cases overall for Lincoln County. A news release from the health department says both individuals are in their 60's. They are believed to have been infected through exposure during travel. Both individuals are in isolation and the health department is notifying those who have had contact with the people. As of yesterday's update, the Lincoln County Health Department lists five people in isolation and two recovered. 637 people have been tested with negative results._____ Elsewhere in the Northwoods... The Taylor County Health Department has confirmed a second positive test. Forest County Health Officials announced two additional cases including the first not connected to the outbreak at the Bay at Nu Roc facility. Forest County now has 27 cases overall. One person has been cleared, one person is hospitalized, one has died; the rest remain in isolation.
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Oneida County Health Department Issues Statement on Hodag Fest Permit
Published on 05/28/2020 under News The Oneida County Health released a statement yesterday following the decision by the Public Safety Committee to grant a permit for the Hodag Country Festival. That statement from Director Linda Conlon read in part, "I have no independent authority as the Health Officer of Oneida County to stop the Hodag Country Festival. I would like the public to know that it was not a decision of the Oneida County Health Department to issue the large assembly permit for the Hodag Country Festival." The Health Department participated in that meeting Tuesday before the Public Safety Committee ultimately voted 4-1 to grant the permit. Organizers of the festival presented a 25 point plan in an effort to reduce the spread of Coronavirus.
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Rhinelander Fab Lab Receives Two Local Donations
Published on 05/28/2020 under News While school isn't in session, a high tech classroom in Rhinelander has received a pair of generous donations. Over the past few weeks, the Hodag Fab Lab received a pair of donations totaling nearly $10,000. Fabrication Laboratories, or Fab Labs are equipped with modern manufacturing equipment such as 3D printers and laser engravers. Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, the Rhinelander Lab has actually been used to printing masks. Associated Bank awarded the fab lab with nearly $7000 to purchase a garment printer. The printer will allow students to explore possible careers in a related field, express themselves through art, and design and promote their club, cause, or even a future business.  Fab Lab Director Mike Wojtusik said, "Students can be very creative with their work, but often don't have multiple means of making it come to life. This printer will help do that." A second grant came from the Rhinelander Partners in Education. With a number of their events canceled this spring, they took some of those funds to contribute $1,400 to help update lab software. A second contribution from the Partners group went towards appreciation signs for teachers that have been placed around the community. (Photos attached: Hodag Fab Lab Director Mike Wojtusik has been busy making PPE masks for community members.)
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DNR Resumes Burning Permits, Urges Continued Caution
Published on 05/28/2020 under News With the spring green-up across much of the state, the DNR is once again issuing burning permits, but urging caution. Back in March the agency suspended all of their burning permits based on both the fire conditions and to reduce the number of calls to protect responders from potential exposure coronavirus. While they are once again issuing permits, they are also asking people to think twice before burning and always check fire danger and daily restrictions. As of Thursday morning, Vilas County remained in 'moderate' fire risk, while the rest of the state is listed as 'low.' In May alone, Wisconsin has seen more than 150 wildfires. That includes 6 over the past week in Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas Counties alone. Three were the result of debris burning.
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Merrill Announces Aquatic Center, Playgrounds to Remain Closed
Published on 05/28/2020 under News The City of Merrill announced several summer cancellations yesterday including the Bierman Family Aquatic Center. After consulting with the Health Department, as well as state and national guidelines, they made the decision to keep the swimming area closed for the season. They said if they were to open, it would have been at 25% capacity and required additional staff and supplies to monitor and sanitize the area. Likewise, they've also decided to close their Summer Playground Program. Restrooms and playground equipment will also remain closed at this time. Shelter reservations have been canceled through June. They'll continue to evaluate the situation as the summer progresses. They said, "We understand the frustration and appreciate the cooperation. Our number one priority was, is, and will always be to provide safe and healthy recreational opportunities to everyone."
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Additional Cases of Covid-19 Reported Tuesday around Northwoods
Published on 05/27/2020 under News It was a busy day for Covid-19 test results in the Northwoods. The Oneida County Health Department reported their 8th case overall. The individual is in their 30's and is currently in isolation. The person was tested at the National Guard testing event last week. One resident remains hospitalized with Covid-19 in Oneida County. As of Tuesday, more than 1,000 people have tested negative. Also yesterday, Vilas County reported two additional positive cases. No information on ages was provided. One is in isolation, while the other is hospitalized. These are the 7th and 8th cases in Vilas County. Other local data updated by county health departments yesterday afternoon. •Forest County now has 25 positive cases connected to The Bay at Nu Roc facility. Just one person has been cleared from isolation while 22 remain in isolation; one person is hospitalized, while one has died. •Yesterday, Lincoln County reported the 4th and 5th positive tests. Of the five, two people have been cleared from isolation. The number of negative tests in Lincoln County is now more than 620. •Langlade County now has three cases, Price County two, and Taylor County one.
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Wausau Man Pleads Guilty in 2017 Fatal Tomahawk Shooting
Published on 05/27/2020 under News A Wausau man involved in a fatal shooting in Tomahawk in 2017 has pleaded guilty. Eric Moen was back in Lincoln County court for a plea hearing yesterday. The 35 year old was facing a single count of 1st degree intentional homicide. The shooting happened in November of 2017 outside the home of Charles Ramp. Investigators indicated the two men were friends. Moen asked Ramp for help fixing his truck. Once Ramp was in the driveway, he was shot multiple times. Judge Robert Russell accepted the plea agreement and scheduled a September 2 sentencing hearing. Moen remains jailed at this time.
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Permit for Hodag Country Music Festival Approved
Published on 05/27/2020 under News While many events are being canceled because of the Coronavirus, the Hodag Country Music Festival in July will go on, but with some additional precautions. At a virtual meeting yesterday, the Oneida County Public Safety committee approved a permit for the week-long concert series by a 4-1 vote. During public comment, there were concerns about bringing in thousands of people to the community, and the close confines that generally go with a concert. Organizers of Hodag provided a 25 point list of steps they'll take to reduce risk, the most notable is further limiting the attendence and eliminating the "chair line" to choose seating. They'll also screen workers and volunteers, and increase the messaging to encourage people to wear masks, sanitize and frequently wash hands. The Hodag Festival is the second week of July.
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