January 29 Virtual Eggs & Issues: County leaders discuss the impact of COVID-19 and plans for the future during the annual State of Eau Claire County Address
On Friday, January 29 the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce hosted the annual State of Eau Claire County address in a virtual format this year. The event was streamed via Perigon at WIN Technology and presented by leaders of Eau Claire County. Eau Claire County Board Chair Nick Smiar and County Administrator Kathryn Schauf shared some highlights of the county’s work as the county developed a strategic plan to increase community development, navigated challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and look forward to this upcoming year.
Eric Killen, Director of Veteran Services; Tyler Esh, Emergency Management Coordinator; Sue McDonald, County Clerk; and Dave Riewestahl, Security Services Captain also shared the work they have accomplished the past year as the county worked to establish an effective emergency response to the pandemic, smooth elections in the spring and fall, and safe county jail operations.
County Board Chair Nick Smiar began to morning presentation noting 2020 has been a “rollercoaster year” and one in which the county has faced many challenges. However, despite the many challenges they have had to face, Smiar was confident that the past year has also been a time “to engage in some creative thinking and reworking of the work that we do.”
COVID-19 disruption and county response
At the start of last year, the county developed a strategic plan in an effort to increase community engagement and enhance the quality and equity of citizens’ lives. However, as the groundwork for this plan was beginning, COVID-19 came to the area and caused major disruption in the county’s work.
“In 2020, our local governments came together in new ways that we have not done in the past,” Kathryn Schauf, the County Administrator, said. Despite the unprecedented disruption brought on by the pandemic, the county’s 600 employees found ways to continue their work and keep the local government running. As many employees began working from home, meetings became electronic. Many county services also moved online. A Bridge Plan was created for financial sustainability and the COVID-19 Taskforce was established to help with operations going forward.
Tyler Esh, the Emergency Coordinator for the county explained that during a crisis the roles and responsibilities of county departments do not change. It is the responsibility of the emergency operations center is to step in and provide additional assistance when needed.
Eric Killen, the Veterans Service Officer served as the Emergency Operations Center’s (EOC) planning section chief from March through May. The purpose of the EOC was to provide a centralized location from public safety. Killen said its responsibilities could be boiled down to four words: “connect, coordinate, organize, and respond.”
There are four elections in a presidential election year and while the primary in February went smoothly, COVID-19 brought disorder to the April election and those going forward. With the general mistrust of election credibility, Sue McDonald, the County Clerk, explained that the county wanted to prepare for these concerns. While there was a larger number of absentee requests this spring and fall, the county was very organized and prepared for any recounts and other logistics that might occur during the November election.
County jail operations
Dave Riewestahl from the County Sheriff’s Office, explained that even though COVID-19 was going on crime was still being committed. In an effort to practice better social distancing, bookings at the jail were minimized. Although crime did not go down during the pandemic, Riewestahl said they had requested that their partners in law enforcement only bring people who were a security threat into the jail.
These preventative measures ensured that no outbreaks of COVID-19 occurred in the jail. Although there have been a few cases of the virus at the jail, these positive COVID-19 infections did not spread from the individual who first carried it.
COVID-19 also presented financial challenges for the county. Schauf explained that the initial sales tax projections were concerning, especially because sales tax is the primary funding source for many of the county’s operations. Mandatory furloughs and reduced travel expenses due to the pandemic helped reduce the county’s financial needs. As 2020 came to a close Schauf is cautiously optimistic that the county ended the year “in a positive position.”
Looking to the future
Although Smiar does see continual disruption from COVID-19 as he looks forward to 2021, there are also many exciting new beginnings to look forward to. The county hopes to begin construction on a new courtroom soon and add a sixth circuit court judge in 2022. The County Board put aside $24 million with plans for a new highway facility to begin construction this summer and be finished by fall of 2022. The county is also working to establish a passenger rail service here in the community. Finally, while it is unlikely that any new census data will be available until July of this year, the county looks forward to receiving this data so that they can work on redistricting and preparing ballots for the 2022 election.
Eggs & Issues PowerPoint Visuals (Eau Claire County; click to download pdf)
County leaders talk COVID, emergency preparedness (Leader-Telegram $)
Eau Claire County Website
Posted by Grace Hanson, Governmental Affairs Intern
Chippewa Valley Book Festival Hosts Virtual Event with New York Times Bestselling Author Brit Bennett
For the first time in 21 years the Chippewa Valley Book Festival will be bringing authors to our community on a virtual stage. Registration is now open for a virtual event on Friday, February 12, with award-winning and New York Times bestselling author, Brit Bennett as she discusses her blockbuster novel, The Vanishing Half.
Moderated by Allyson Loomis, Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire, the program will include a casual conversation with Bennett as well as a question-and-answer segment allowing for audience participation. This FREE event requires registration. Learn more at www.cvbookfest.org/festival-events/bennett.
Winner of the 2020 Goodreads Historical Fiction Award, #1 New York Times Best Seller, and one of Barack Obama’s favorite reads of 2020, The Vanishing Half is an emotional family story about African American identical twin sisters in the 1950s and ‘60s. One passes for white and moves to California while the other returns to her tiny southern community to raise her dark-skinned daughter. The Vanishing Half touches on themes of race, class, family, gender, community, love, and the cost of secrets. HBO also recently purchased the rights to develop The Vanishing Half into a limited series with Bennett as an executive producer.
The February 12 event featuring Brit Bennett, is one of two virtual events hosted by the Chippewa Valley Book Festival this winter. Brandon Taylor, author of Real Life, will be taking the virtual stage on Friday, March 12, at 7:00 p.m. CST. More details about that event can be found at www.cvbookfest.org/festival-events/taylor.
Author photos, book jacket graphics, social media graphics, as well as Chippewa Valley Book Festival logos can be found at: www.cvbookfest.com/media
The Chippewa Valley Book Festival partners with the Pablo Center at the Confluence, and the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire Foundation to provide literary programming for all Chippewa Valley residents
Billy Felz named interim vice chancellor for enrollment management
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt announced today that Billy Felz has been named interim vice chancellor for enrollment management. The two-year appointment is effective Jan. 25.
Felz has worked as the executive director for enrollment management, the special assistant for the vice chancellor of enrollment management and the executive director of the Advising, Retention and Career Center (ARCC) prior to taking on his current role.
“Since March, Billy has overseen our Admissions, ARCC, Barron County director and Blugold Central student service functions. During that time he has demonstrated strong leadership in advancing our recruitment and retention efforts at our UW-Eau Claire campuses,” Chancellor Schmidt says.
“Our planning for 2025 calls for a clear focus on enrollment, and under Billy’s watch we have seen applications increase by more than 50%. I am confident that Billy will bring the vision and leadership needed to support and guide the Enrollment Management division and to serve our students well.”
Nursing research team educates teens and young adults about dangers of vaping
The COVID-19 pandemic has elevated concerns about the significant number of teens and young adults who vape, with early reports showing that the coronavirus poses a greater danger to young people who use the products than to their non-vaping peers.
With that in mind, a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire nursing faculty-student research team is leading an effort to educate young people and the adults who interact with them about the effects and dangers of devices like vapes and e-cigarettes.
“Preliminary reports are finding that young people who had used e-cigarettes are five times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than never-users,” says Lindsey Boehm, a senior nursing major from Eau Claire. “It’s critical for young people and others to understand the dangers associated with vaping.”
Boehm and Dr. Lorraine Smith, assistant professor of nursing, are leading a project titled “Implementing an Educational Initiative on Electronic Cigarettes and Vaping: A Nurse Led Intervention.”
Their work builds on an initiative that Dr. Diane Marcyjanik, a nursing professor who passed away in April 2020, and her students began two years ago, shortly after vaping was deemed a national public health epidemic among teens and young adults.
The original project focused on educating school staff about electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) such as vape pens and electronic cigarettes. Before COVID-19, Marcyjanik and her students presented their research to more than 100 middle and high school staff members in Wisconsin.
Smith and Boehm are continuing their work, though adjusting their focus because of the pandemic.
UW-Eau Claire expert says suicide is not just a behavioral health issue
Anyone can become suicidal, not just patients with mental health issues, and most are looking for help, says Dr. Jennifer Muehlenkamp, a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire psychology professor and nationally recognized expert on self-injury and suicide during a recent presentation at Mayo Clinic Health System Northwest Wisconsin Academic Grand Rounds.
"Most people want their suffering to end, not their lives," says Muehlenkamp, who is director of UW-Eau Claire’s Suicide Prevention and Awareness Research Collaborative. “They want to find a way to live but their hope is starting to fade away.”
During the Academic Grand Rounds presentation titled "Preventing Patient Suicide: A Guide for Providers," Muehlenkamp said health care professionals need foundational knowledge to detect risk factors in an effort to help prevent suicide.
The Academic Grand Rounds virtual presentation was a vehicle to showcase what is coming from the master collaborative research agreement between Mayo Clinic Health System and UW-Eau Claire, says Dr. Andrew Calvin, a cardiovascular medicine specialist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire and Bloomer who helped coordinate the presentation.
The research agreement is intended to increase opportunities for research collaboration between the institutions, provide new learning opportunities for UW-Eau Claire students and improve the health and wellness of the community.
COVID-19 tests available to community at UW-Eau Claire beginning Feb. 2
Free rapid-response COVID-19 surge testing will be available to the community in February on the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus.
The community surge testing, which was conducted at Memorial High School the past two months, will now take place at Zorn Arena on UW-Eau Claire’s lower campus. Antigen testing for UW-Eau Claire faculty, staff and students is also being conducted at Zorn Arena, but community members will be tested at different times than the campus community.
The surge antigen testing is for people without COVID-19 symptoms and will be available to the community on Tuesdays and weekends in February. The first testing window for the community will be from 4:30-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 2. On weekends in February, the testing will be available from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
“We are excited to be able to offer this testing to the community again in February,” says Grace Crickette, vice chancellor for finance and administration at UW-Eau Claire. “We have put an excellent system in place at Zorn Arena, and we will be able to help thousands of people monitor their health as we work to stop the spread of the virus in the community.”
The antigen tests are possible thanks to the University of Wisconsin System’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Approximately 140,000 BinaxNOW tests will be available to residents across the state at UW System campuses this spring. Confirmatory PCR tests will also be available at the sites.
Antigen testing will also be available to the Rice Lake community on the UW-Eau Claire – Barron County campus on Tuesdays in February. Beginning, Feb. 2, the testing will be conducted from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Tuesdays in the university gym at UWEC-BC.
Members of the community can register for antigen testing by going to www.doineedacovid19test.com and setting up an account.
Community members coming to campus for testing are encouraged to park in the Hibbard Parking Lot, just west of State Street. Visitors can park in any available "F," "COVID-19 Testing" or ADA-designated parking stall after 3 p.m. Parking is available in "G" designated parking stalls after 6 p.m. No permits or payment are required in "AMP Timed Parking" zones during weekends.
Individuals are asked to bring a smartphone capable of accessing their email account when they visit Zorn Arena for a scheduled test.
Registration Open for Rock the Riverfront Featuring the Charity Classic | Royal Credit Union (rcu.org)
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – Registration is open for the RCU Foundation Rock the Riverfront featuring the Charity Classic. The event will celebrate 27 years of running and walking to support organizations that make a difference in the communities that Royal Credit Union (Royal) serves. Proceeds from the event will benefit three partner charities: The Heyde Center for the Arts in Chippewa Falls, Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild in Eau Claire and Northern Star Theatre Company in Rice Lake. Arts organizations were the first to close their doors at the start of the global pandemic and will likely be the last to reopen. This partnership will help these groups operate during this time of great need. Rock the Riverfront featuring the Charity Classic is raising the curtain, supporting the arts, and letting you set the stage for your own adventure! Registration for this virtual event will be open through June 26 with special early bird pricing ending on April 4. Participants can run or walk the 10K or 2 mile routes and youth can take part in a 1/2 mile course anytime between June 5 and June 28. Registration details are available at www.rcu.org/race. The first 100 people to register will receive an exclusive Rock the Riverfront 23-ounce stainless steel water bottle valued at $25. Two registration box options are available starting at only $35 for adults and $15 for youth. The Classic Race Box includes an event t-shirt, a finisher medal, a race bib, a charity vote, and results posting; Royal Race Box includes everything from the Classic Box plus exclusive Rock the Riverfront sunglasses and extra goodies. Every registration includes a free charity vote and additional votes can be purchased at $2 each. The charity with the most votes will receive $15,000, second place will receive $7,500, and third will receive $5,000.
Course maps will be available at www.rcu.org/race for those interested in running the traditional 2 mile or 10K or ½ mile routes. We have partnered with RunSignUp and the RaceJoy app for an enhanced registration and race experience. Racers will be given the option to record their time online to qualify for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place awards in their age group. Rock the Riverfront featuring the Charity Classic offers beautiful running routes and the opportunity to benefit three organizations that are making a positive impact in our communities. Even non-runners can participate in activities like the Rock Hunt, Chalk your Walk, and a Coloring Contest as a way to support the RCU Foundation and the charities it has committed to help in 2021. Find all the details for these activities at www.rcu.org/race.
About RCU FoundationThe RCU Foundation (Foundation) was established in 2012 to support organizations and initiatives in communities where Royal Credit Union operates in western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota. The Foundation focuses on large-scale, capital projects that help build community and create the spaces where people come together. Focus areas include education, health, and the arts. The Foundation hosts the annual Rock the Riverfront-Charity Classic event in Eau Claire. Currently, it has awarded more than $4 million in grants. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
About Royal Credit Union
Royal Credit Union is a federally insured credit union proudly serving over 230,000 Members in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Royal is driven by a core ideology built on a strong purpose and values. You can open an account or apply for a low-rate loan at Royal Credit Union if you live or work in 26 counties in western Wisconsin or 16 counties in Minnesota. Counties served in Wisconsin include Adams, Ashland, Bayfield, Barron, Buffalo, Burnett, Chippewa, Clark, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson, Lincoln, Marathon, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Portage, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, St. Croix, Taylor, Trempealeau, Washburn, and Wood. Counties served in Minnesota include Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Goodhue, Hennepin, Isanti, Olmsted, Pine, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne, Wabasha, Washington, Winona and Wright. Realtors in the state of Wisconsin or Minnesota are also eligible to join the credit union. Visit rcu.org or call Royal Credit Union at 800-341-9911 for more information.
Now in Menomonie: Prevea Pediatrics
WNB Financial is pleased to announce the promotion of Amanda Wenzel to Controller.
In her new role, Wenzel will manage the Bank's Accounting Department and ensure financial reporting by the Bank and its affiliates is timely, accurate, and in compliance with GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) and regulatory standards.
Wenzel has been an employee of WNB for 17 years, primarily within the Business Banking Area. Read More below.
Wisconsin Public Radio
Jason Anderson, executive director of the Pablo Center at the Confluence in Eau Claire, will be joining host Al Ross this week on “Spectrum West” at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 7 on The Ideas Network stations 88.3/Menomonie-Eau Claire and 88.7/ River Falls. The show will also be featuring an Eau Claire singer/songwriter, an Eau Claire teacher and author, and the organizer of a Menomonie film festival.
Host Al Ross will welcome back frequent guest Executive Director Jason Anderson to talk about the ongoing situation at the Pablo Center at the Confluence in Eau Claire. Anderson will share information about some of the grants and government relief packages that are helping the venue, which has postponed the majority of its in-person programming through March 2021.
Parker Reed, a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Journalism graduate, will be visiting with Ross this week. Reed contributes to both The Chippewa Herald and Eau Claire’s Volume One and is both a singer and songwriter. He distributes much of his work via Facebook and YouTube.
Eric Rasmussen, a Memorial High school English teacher, will be joining Ross to share about his various activities as a teacher and writer for Volume One and his blog www.theotherericrasmussen.com. The two will reflect on 2020 and hopes for the new year.
Red Cedar Film Festival originator Peter Galante, a University of Wisconsin-Stout professor, will be on to talk about the festival, which was cancelled last summer due to the pandemic. The festival of 28 films will be held virtually this month, from Jan. 14 through 21.
An update on the state of the coronavirus pandemic in western Wisconsin, and prospects for public access to vaccinations in the region will be the focus on “The West Side” 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 8 on The Ideas Network stations of Wisconsin Public Radio: 88.3/Menomonie-Eau Claire and 88.7/River Falls.
Host Dean Kallenbach will welcome Angela Weideman, director of the Chippewa County Department of Public Health; A.Z. Snyder, public health director for Pierce County; KT Gallagher, director of the Dunn County Health Department; and Audrey Boerner, who is serving as the Public Information Officer for COVID-19 Response with the Eau Claire City/County Health Department.
“The West Side” is broadcast each Friday at 10 a.m. on The Ideas Network stations 88.3 Menomonie/Eau Claire and 88.7/River Falls and online at wrfw887.com/listen-live.html. Listeners may call in with questions and comments during the program at 800-228-5615. Archives of “The West Side” are available at wpr.org/programs/west-side.
NEW YEAR, NEW STATION!
99.9FM is now WGNW The Family
The Family’s mission is to broadcast the hope of Jesus Christ to strengthen and encourage listeners. The Family looks forward to connecting with their new listeners in the 99.9 FM area through their hope-filled music and messages of encouragement. They are also excited to support local crisis programs in the Chippewa Valley through their annual “Help for the Homeless” hygiene drive and “Christmas Blessing” fundraiser.
“It’s always exciting to see a family grow! For more than 50 years The Family has been broadcasting hope to listeners in Northeast and then later, Central Wisconsin. We couldn’t be more thrilled to include the Eau Claire and Chippewa Valley communities in our listening areas!” said Sonia Barham, CEO of The Family Radio Network, Inc.
The Family Radio Network currently covers Central Wisconsin (Wausau/Stevens Point) via 88.5FM, Northeast Wisconsin (Appleton/Oshkosh) through 91.9FM, Green Bay and the Lakeshore at 91.5FM, and Plymouth/Sheboygan via 91.3FM.
The 99.9FM coverage area is roughly a 65-mile radius, which will include Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, Menomonie and many other communities throughout the Chippewa Valley and Western Wisconsin. The station can also be heard on The Family Radio Network’s App and streaming online on https://999.TheFamily.net. You can also connect with The Family on Facebook (@thefamilyfm) or the 99.9 The Family’s Facebook group. For more information go to www.thefamily.net.
CVTC Has Critical Role in Supplying Healthcare Workers
COVID-19 has increased the importance of CNA’s, LPN’s
During the time of COVID-19, that work has become more important than ever. There has long been a shortage of CNA’s in the Chippewa Valley, and throughout the nation, but recently, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation has become critical.
CNA’s take care of patients’ day-to-day needs, including feeding, showers, bathroom assistance, getting patients in and out of bed, and sometimes administering of medications. Their work is essential to the operations of healthcare facilities.
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Eau Claire Chamber
The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has more than 1,200 members.