On Friday morning Rhinelander mayor Chris Frederickson announced that the March 23 meeting of the Common Council had been postponed due to concerns about the coronavirus. A few hours later, Frederickson issued a proclamation announcing a state of emergency in the city regarding the virus.
In a phone interview Friday, Frederickson said the plan, at this point, is to reschedule the council meeting for March 30.
"We still have business to take care of," Frederickson said. "There's logistics around it. We're supposed to keep the social spacing (distancing) to what's available and how to keep open meetings requirements taken care of."
Frederickson also noted that he has reached out to a local media outlet to possibly do a Facebook Live feed of the meeting.
"I'm trying to figure out all of those little intricacies. Just because the governor allowed an extension for government, he didn't really make it possible to not break the (open meetings) law."
Frederickson said city attorney Steve Sorenson has been "meeting with (other) city attorneys daily" to get updates on the latest procedures.
"That way, when they navigate through the law, at least they're doing it as a group of cities, not just each one on their own," he said.
Starting on Monday, Frederickson said he will be doing a two-minute segment on WJFW Channel 12 focusing on the latest problem the virus is causing the city and ways the city is trying to work through the problem.
One major concern is the upcoming spring election, scheduled for April 7.
"Even the ballots, voting right now, that's still a mess as far as determining how to do that and how to not limit it," Frederickson said. "We've probably had a record for people just coming in to vote early. The problem is, you have to limit (people voting at one time) and how do you protect your employees? Day-by-day we're figuring it out."
"Obviously the social distancing and people staying home is the key," he added. "So as we get closer to a larger percentage of the population doing that, the flatter the curve gets. I've watched those projections, they're pretty significant. We have a pretty good hindsight in other countries as to what to do and what not to do. Now it's just to do it correct and as efficient as possible to keep people safe."
Late Monday afternoon, city officials issued another advisory explaining that Rhinelander City Hall will be closed except for in-person absentee voting and voter registration.
In-person absentee voting and voter registration will be appointment only from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., according to the release. Call 715-365-8600 EXT. #1 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
"You can also register or request absentee ballot online at www.myvote.wi.gov," the release notes. "Be prepared to upload photo ID. Please deposit absentee ballot applications (with photo ID copy) and any payments in the drop box on the King/Pelham Street side of the building."
Being a respiratory therapist by profession, Frederickson has unique insight into how the coronavirus affects the human body.
"I do understand a lot of the logistics right away, that's for sure, when it comes to the spread of a virus," he said. "When they talk about contact locations and the virus staying alive on it, when they talk about the spread and the mortality rate, these are things that for 20 years I've watched and seen."
Frederickson said he followed the recommendation from the Centers For Disease Control and shaved off his beard to help keep himself safe.
"It was the whole thing of humanity over vanity," he said. "Because it is a minute part of you, but you might touch your face and that is a contact place. But it's large enough for two other people getting it, so it is worth it."
"We (the city) will just keep following those recommendations and keep moving forward," Frederickson added.
Jamie Taylor may be reached at email@example.com.
The Northwoods River News | Walker Communications, LLC 232 S. Courtney Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501 | Office (715) 365-6397 | Fax (715) 365-6361
Corporate billing office: The Lakeland Times / Lakeland Printing Inc. | P.O. Box 790, Minocqua, WI 54548 | (715) 356-5236 | Fax (715) 358-2121 Members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Community Papers, Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce