Area COVID-19 cases continue to spike

Door and Kewaunee Counties saw another big uptick in positive tests for COVID-19 on Wednesday.  Door County reported 25 more cases and one new recovery so active cases are up to 116.  Kewaunee County added 20 more coronavirus cases with 21 new recoveries.  Active cases stand at 124 in Kewaunee County.  At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Health Director Sue Powers revealed that there have been 13 people hospitalized with COVID-19 since March in Door County.  Kewaunee County Health Official Cindy Kinnard reported three current hospitalizations as of Tuesday.  Statewide, the Department of Health Services says 1,762 new cases were detected. That is up about 20% from what was announced a week ago (1,408). 



Election ruling creates uncertainty for some area cities

A Federal District judge has ruled that Wisconsin clerks must continue to count absentee ballots they receive through November 9th, six days after the election is held. Municipalities across Door and Kewaunee Counties are split on whether it will have an impact. Village of Sister Bay Clerk Heidi Teich says that there aren’t enough voters in her jurisdiction to require election day-level staffing for an additional week.


City of Kewaunee Clerk Terri Decur says she is waiting for Wisconsin officials to weigh in on the matter.


Decur says it feels a lot like April when rules changed almost daily. Legal challenges for that contest went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Judge William Conley has stayed his own order from going into effect until September 28th. The Wisconsin GOP has filed an appeal.


Under the Stars Night Market canceled for rest of 2020

Destination Sturgeon Bay has canceled the Under the Stars Night Market for the final four dates it was supposed to run this year. The outdoor shopping concept debuted over the summer on Third Avenue between Michigan and Jefferson Streets on Saturday night and was met with a lot of enthusiasm. Originally slated to be done at the end of August, the market was continued into October. Marketing Director Carly Sarkis says that the COVID activity level in Door County has reached a level that made a public event harder to justify.


The market was designed with safety in mind, including well-ventilated outdoor spaces, required masks, and hand sanitizer stations. Sarkis says no cases had ever been traced back to the events. She expects it to return next year, possibly in the West Waterfront area, depending on how development there progresses.


Forestville fire displaces family

A family is displaced and without several pets after a Forestville fire Tuesday morning. Southern Door Fire Department was called to a fire at 7057 Maplewood Road at 8:40 AM. At that point, heavy smoke was already pouring out of the first floor. A farmworker hauling silage noticed something was wrong while driving by and alerted authorities. Chief Gary Vandertie says that personnel were forced up to the second floor of the residence to keep the blaze from spreading. The cause of the fire is not yet known.


Vandertie says the family consists of school-age children and their parents. The kids had already been dropped off, and no one was in the home when the fire started. Unfortunately, several pets did not survive.
Vandertie also wanted to highlight another incident involving a pickup truck rear-ending a silage hauler at State Highway 42/57 and Emerald Drive, which happened Tuesday evening. He would like to remind motorists that they should expect extra farm traffic relating to the ongoing harvest. 


Rare deer disease found in Northeastern Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recently reported the deaths of seven deer in Oconto County from Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, and are asking the public across the region to be on the lookout for potential spread. The illness is more common in the southern and western parts of the United States, with only sporadic, localized outbreaks reported in Wisconsin. The worst of those killed a little over 300 deer in Dane County. District Wildlife Supervisor Jeff Pritzl says EHD requires dry conditions to spread.


A midge is a biting insect similar to a gnat or small fly. It dies out with the first hard frost. That’s already occurred on the western side of the bay, but not in Door or Kewaunee Counties. Another potential area of concern is the Forestville flowage. Water has receded there by design as the dam has been opened to facilitate a drawdown. What is left are mudflats and increasing vegetation that could provide a fertile habitat for midges. 

EHD is characterized by sudden onset, with death happening in just days. There are no telltale symptoms that present on the outside of the body like a rash or similar feature. Pritzl is hoping to get the word out quickly so that the disease can be contained before an outbreak occurs. Oconto County is as far north as the state has ever seen the illness. Human beings have never been affected by EHD, even if they have eaten meat from an infected animal.


Literacy group aids in-person and virtual tutoring

Literacy Partners of Kewaunee County is stepping up efforts to keep its current tutors and recruit more despite COVID-19 challenges.  Many of the current volunteers are 40-years-old and older.  Most of them prefer teaching in one-to-one meetings with clients as opposed to doing virtual sessions because they're not comfortable with apps or online options.  Coordinator Anne Laurent says the organization is working to address those concerns and benefit clients and tutors.




New tutors are welcome to join Literacy Partners of Kewaunee County.  More information can be found at

Late season boating comes with dangers

More people are on the water in Door County this fall, and that comes with potential dangers not present in warmer months. Lou Pasquesi of the Coast Guard Auxiliary says that hypothermia kicks in when the body’s temperature goes below 96 degrees. That’s not too far from average. He says that with cold nights, the water temperature is down to around 60 degrees. Being immersed in cold water has a more sudden impact compared to exposure to chilly air temperatures. Shock sets in quickly if a person goes overboard.


Hypothermia attacks muscle function, so it is imperative that a life vest is worn at all times. Pasquesi says his advice applies even more forcefully to kayakers, given that they are more likely to be alone. He would also recommend that kayakers actively practice how to get back into their vessel from open water since it is easy to overturn in them. Rough winds or the wake of a passing boat are all it takes.


Photo from America's Boating Club of Door County website.


County's harassment policy gets high marks

Jodi Traas, a Senior Risk Analyst with Wisconsin County Mutual Insurance, which handles liability for government at different levels across the state, gave a presentation to the Door County Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning on harassment within the workplace. She said that she has done work with over 50 counties in the state, and Door’s policy is as good as it gets. Traas said she wouldn’t change any aspect of the document, even though it’s now 11 years old. Strong guidance helps fuel a strong culture, and less harassment at work creates benefits for employers, says Traas.


Traas’ talk is part of a series by the Wisconsin Counties Association on good governance. They will happen monthly with additional training occurring when needed. Traas also works with school districts, including Gibraltar, and will be back in the area in November to do a seminar on implicit bias training.


The history of the Peshtigo Fire goes virtual

The history of the “Great Fire of 1871”, known locally as the Peshtigo Fire, lives on with a special virtual presentation from the Belgian Heritage Center.   Historian Barb Englebert Chisholm of Sturgeon Bay will be featured at 1 pm Saturday, October 3rd on a live stream.  Chisholm, a fifth-generation American of Belgian descent with ancestors who survived the devastating fire 149 years ago, will dress in character as her great-great-grandmother.  Chisholm will share a 20-minute story of the Englebert family’s survival.  Belgian Heritage Center Co-chair Joe Alexander says although there won’t be any in-person viewing of the presentation, commemorating the Peshtigo Fire is vital as is the message of perseverance.



The Peshtigo fire took place on October 8, 1871, and swept through northeast Wisconsin, including much of the southern half of the Door Peninsula.  The Belgian Heritage Center will be offering a drive-thru booyah pick-up from 11 am until 1:30 pm on the day of the virtual presentation, October 3rd.


(Photo courtesy of Belgian Heritage Center from 2019 presentation) 


Grocery shopper patterns changing with pandemic

Since the pandemic hit in March, local supermarkets have seen considerable changes in the buying routines of shoppers.  Even after the Safer at Home Order ended, trips to the grocery stores have trended down compared to before COVID-19.  Alex Stodola, store manager at Stodola’s IGA in Luxemburg, says people are filling their carts even more and limiting visits to once a week, rather than two or three times.  He notes that people are definitely purchasing more produce and frozen foods instore.



Produce sales are up 11 percent nationally this year, according to the Produce Marketing Association.  The American Frozen Food Institute reports that frozen foods sales remained up almost 18 percent last month.  Stodola adds that online shopping has leveled off but is still strong since implementing the digital option back in March. 

COVID-19 cases continue to spike in area

Door and Kewaunee counties continue to see a surge of positive tests for COVID-19.  
Door County confirmed 29 new cases on Tuesday with a positivity rate of 50 percent.  There were four recoveries with active cases now up to 92.  Kewaunee County reported 13 new cases of the coronavirus with a positivity rate of 11.3 percent.  The active cases stand at 125 with three hospitalizations in Kewaunee County and 19 new recoveries noted.  Governor Tony Evers issued a new mask order on Tuesday as COVID-19 cases continue to spike throughout the state.  Wisconsin reported an all-time high for hospitalizations on Tuesday with 474, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association website. 



Election brings fair maps to forefront

Voters in 11 counties including Door County are weighing in on gerrymandering during this fall’s election. The advisory referendum questions if drawing legislative and congressional maps should be left to a non-partisan review board. The Door County Board approved the question to be added to the November ballot in June and has previously supported efforts to end gerrymandering through a resolution. Supporters of redistricting look to the Iowa model for drawing district lines, which relies on a non-partisan review board to do the heavy lifting before the state’s legislatures vote on it. Opponents say it should continue to be a duty of the legislature and the governor elected by the people, not by appointees. During Wednesday’s virtual presentation, Mike Brodd of the Door County Fair Maps Task Force hopes people see why redistricting reform is needed.

Co-sponsored by the Door County Library and the League of Women Voters of Door County, the session answering questions about the redistricting efforts and the referendum is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. via Zoom.



Virtual event gives second chance to fundraiser

It is already about second chances, but the United Way of Door County hopes its virtual event this weekend gives new life to its efforts locally. The organization is hosting its annual second-chance prom Saturday night, but it will take place virtually due to COVID-19 concerns. That means its tables of silent auction items will be moved online, decorations will be replaced with Zoom call backgrounds, and the dance floor might double as your living room. While planning for the virtual event has presented its own challenges, executive director Amy Kohnle believes attendees will still have fun while supporting a great cause. is partnering with the United Way of Door County to help make the event a reality, which will take attendees back to the Roaring 20s. You must call the United Way of Door County to secure your Zoom link for the event. More details can be found below.



Kewaunee dedicates Native American statue

The city of Kewaunee is giving a nod to its past with a statue dedicated last week.  Sculpted by Dr. Bill Faller and funded by the Kewaunee Rotary Club, the new statue features two young Menominee Indians fishing for sturgeon on their ancestral lands. The statue originally depicted the young men fishing for trout, which was thought to have a deeper connection to the area. Mayor Jason Jelinek hopes having members of the Menominee Nation weigh in on the statue and be present at last week’s statue dedication builds more bridges between them in the future.

The statue entitled “Bring Forth Sturgeon” sits near the water in Kewaunee’s Harbor Park. The dedication comes over 10 years after Kewaunee High School ditched the Indians moniker after a complaint was filed with the state.


Picture from City of Kewaunee



Governor extends mask mandate, issues new public health emergency

People above the age of five will have to wear a mask indoors and in enclosed spaces for another 60 days following a new face coverings order from Governor Tony Evers on Tuesday. The mask mandate, which was paired with a new public health emergency, was supposed to expire on September 28th. The reopening of schools and college campuses are thought to be driving a recent surge in positive COVID-19 test results and the emergency order. Wisconsin currently has eight of the top 20 cities in the country in terms of COVID-19 case growth, six of which are home to University of Wisconsin campuses. In addition, the emergency order says there have been at least 76 facility investigations that have occurred at elementary, middle, and high schools since their years got underway earlier this month.  The state has also seen its daily number of cases grow almost threefold since the end of last month, from 678 on August 31st to 1,791 on September 21st. Some of the state’s highest totals have occurred in the last week, including a record 2,533 on September 18th.


Read the new Public Health Emergency here

Read the new Mask Coverings mandate here

Chicago woman dies in Gibraltar crash

A rear-end collision in the town of Gibraltar killed an 82-year-old Chicago woman and injured another person over the weekend. According to the release from the Door County Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday, deputies responded to the scene just north of Cottage Row Road on State Highway 42 Saturday afternoon. The initial investigation shows the woman driving a sedan struck a sports-utility vehicle from behind as it waited to turn into a business. The driver of the sports-utility vehicle, a 33-year old Hortonville woman, and her passenger had no apparent injuries. The woman driving the sedan and her passenger were transported to Door County Medical Center for treatment of their injuries. The woman was then airlifted to a Green Bay hospital where she later died. The Door County Sheriff’s Department was notified of the death on Sunday. No other information about the victims is being released at this time until family members are notified. State Highway 42 was closed for about 45 minutes on Saturday before it was reopened shortly before 5:30 p.m. Door County Emergency Services, Gibraltar Fire Department and Gibraltar First Responders also responded to the incident.


Picture taken from an incident earlier this year by the Door County Sheriff's Department

Fans like televised Packer gatherings, not empty stadium

Packers fans in Door County are adapting well when it comes to watching the games with others.  The empty stands at Lambeau Field, however, are hard for many to accept.  Stone Harbor Resort has held game day gatherings and fans have adjusted to social distancing, the loss of buffet dining, and other COVID-19 precautions.  Though General Manager Nancy Bertz says fans don't like seeing the green and gold play without cheering throngs.



Bertz says Stone Harbor will likely continue placing TV's on the outdoor patio after the pandemic passes.

Record-setting visitors to Door County Parks

The use of the 19 county parks in Door County has seen a drastic increase this year as more people are enjoying the outdoors.  Parks Manager Burke Pinney estimates that twice as many people are utilizing the parks than in past years.  Interestingly, the biggest indicators for people visiting the parks are the amount of trash removed and how many times the outhouses need to be pumped out.  Pinney asks for visitors this fall to follow all the rules set down by Door County Parks.



Pinney noted boat launches were repaired at Murphy County Park and Lily Bay County Park when high water levels washed out the ramps earlier this spring.  The 19 county parks are open one-half hour before sunrise until 11 pm unless otherwise posted.

St. Joseph restoration project finishes this week

A $230,000 restoration project on one of the oldest churches in Sturgeon Bay is being completed this week.  Work on the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Sturgeon Bay began one year ago and included masonry repairs on the twin gothic steeples.  Barb Wagner, administrative assistant at St. Joseph’s, shares the work that is being completed this week on the building.



The repairing of the rose stain glass window located in the choir loft is the finishing touches on the largest restoration project in the recent history of the church.  The project came in at the budgeted $230,000 and was solely raised through donations by the church and community members.  St. Joseph’s parish began in 1865 and the 108-year-old church building is under both the National and Wisconsin Historic Registry.


(photo courtesy of St. Joseph's)

Area sees 60 more COVID-19 cases

Positive tests for COVID-19 continue to jump in Door and Kewaunee counties. Kewaunee County confirmed 42 more positive cases since Friday (404 total) with 35 new recoveries, while Door County reported 18 more cases (235 total) with five recoveries.  Kewaunee County’s positivity rate was 26.9 percent of the test results from over the weekend.  Kewaunee County Health Officer Cindy Kinnard says the troubling increases are due to community spread and spread within households.  She emphasizes that people need to social distance themselves while continuing to wear masks and consistently wash their hands. Door County showed a two-thirds positivity rate with only 27 test results confirmed since last Friday.   Active cases stand at 131 in Kewaunee County and 67 in Door County as of Monday.








Two grades go 100% virtual in Sturgeon Bay

A lack of staffing is the reason why two grades are going virtual at Sturgeon Bay School District. In an email from Sturgeon Bay Superintendent Dan Tjernagel, the district learned that a fifth grade and an eighth-grade student from the same household tested positive for the coronavirus. Even without a positive test, a lack of staff availability was going to force the fifth grade at Sunrise School into virtual learning. That is also why the seventh grade at T.J Walker Middle School will also go 100 percent virtual for a period of time as well. Tjernagel reiterated that staff availability and the lack of substitute teachers could force other grades to go 100 percent virtual even if there are no additional positive tests. The district also learned on Friday that one more high school student tested positive for the coronavirus, which required 15 high school students and one staff member to be quarantined. Tjernagel noted that seven of the 15 close contacts occurred through a non-school community sports team.

Heise named 2020 Rural Health Ambassador

Door County Medical Center’s Dr. Jim Heise is being honored for his work helping the community get through the pandemic. The hospital’s chief medical officer is the recipient of the 2020 Rural Health Ambassador award from the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative. Dr. Heise and Door County Public Health Director Sue Powers were weekly staples during the early stages of the pandemic, producing Facebook Live videos where they gave updates on the pandemic and answered COVID-19 related questions from the public. In a previous life, Dr. Heise was in the video production field, but even he admits he never thought he would lean on the medium so much in his medical career.

Since the pandemic started, Door County Medical Center’s COVID-19 pandemic videos on Facebook had approximately 75,000 views in addition to other outreach efforts in print, television, and radio. Heise says communication will continue to be a key as the community addresses the pandemic moving forward.

Gibraltar ready for school reopening

Gibraltar Superintendent Tina Van Meer is learning a lot as her school district waits to safely reopen. The district has been remotely learning since the school year started on September 8th. It has not been immune to some of the challenges other districts have faced like quarantining teachers that have had close contact with positive cases. The building has also been outfitted with touchless faucets and bottle stations, sanitizing areas, and will be finishing up work on an air filtration system in early October. Van Meer says its backpack program to get school materials to those who do not have strong Internet connections shows the lessons they have learned.

The earliest school could return in session is Thursday, but only if the number of new cases over a two week time period in the county is at 28 or below. Last week it was 70. Van Meer says the school board and the community will see the money spent on its COVID-19 mitigation strategies at its annual meeting next week.

Farmers, motorists look to share the road

With farmers in Door and Kewaunee Counties crisscrossing the area this fall for harvest season, the likelihood of an accident goes up.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, over 574 agriculture deaths were reported in 2018, making it one of the most dangerous industries in the country.  National Farm Safety and Health Week highlights the little things motorists and farmers can do to make this busy time of the year safer. Jacob Brey from Brey Cycle Farm a couple of suggestions on how something as simple as passing a farm implement can be done better.

With the theme of Every Farmer Counts, the National Safety Council this year is focusing on topics such as tractor and rural roadway safety, farmer health, and emergency preparedness. The UW Extension has tackled the topic of mental health throughout the year as suicides among farmers have risen in recent years due to a number of different factors.

Tax receipts coming in ahead of projections

Door County Government is beginning the budgeting process for 2021, with good news out of the gate. In the spring, guidance being given to counties was to plan for an eight to 12 percent decline in sales tax revenue compared to a year ago. 2020 is actually up compared to a record 2019. That is due to strength in collections before COVID-19 forced economic challenges, though. By May, taxes were coming in behind the same month in 2019, which continued throughout the summer. Typically, a majority of sales tax is recognized in the second half of the year. Given those trends, 2020 receipts may end up down compared to the prior 12 months. 

Administrator Ken Pabich says that considering the strength of 2019, a small decline would be seen as a win. The CARES Act will supplement Door County’s budget by providing $460,000 in stimulus funding, roughly ten percent of annual sales tax revenue. Pabich says that will not affect next year’s budget. The baseline assumption for 2021 is that there will be no further outside assistance.


Budgeting work is currently being done at the committee level. The Board of Supervisors will not cast a vote on the overall funding level for the county government until November.


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