01STOCK_WALWORTH_JUDICIAL_CENTER

Walworth County Judicial Center in Elkhorn, Wis.

ELKHORN

Walworth County government, criminal justice and health officials Friday discussed preparations for the spread of COVID-19, which the director of health and human services said eventually will arrive in the county.

While Walworth County as of Friday did not have a confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Elizabeth Aldred said, “There will be a case at some point.

“We will have someone who becomes ill, someone who has tested positive,” the director told the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee. “We will be prepared to address that as it happens.”

People older than 60 and those who have breathing conditions are the most at risk, she said.

Aldred said the Department of Health & Human Services is getting a “significant” number of phone calls about the coronavirus daily. The department soon will create a web page to offer necessary information.

Updates are coming rapidly, she said, but everyone should take precautions to ensure that the spread is slow so hospitals and clinics are not overwhelmed.

“The risk here in Walworth County at this point is still low,” she said.

Other county agencies are planning and thinking about precautions to take.

Other details shared from Friday’s meeting:

  • Lakeland Health Care Center is not allowing visitors except in the most serious situations, which officials will evaluate case by case. This is consistent with a state health department recommendation.
  • Aldred said while the state made a “strong recommendation” and not an edict, every nursing home her department has spoken with plans to restrict building entry for non-medically necessary personnel.
  • Aldred also said Lakeland staffers will be screened and have their temperatures checked before working.
  • County Administrator Mark Luberda said if the county board voted for an emergency declaration, it would help in two main areas: freeing up departments from procedural requirements for purchases and giving more flexibility to make staffing changes, such as closing offices.

For additional local stories and information, visit GazetteXtra.com/coronavirus.

First meeting since reorganization

Friday was the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee’s first meeting after the county board voted last month to dissolve it as a county-created agency so it could continue as a court-created group.

Open-government experts decried the move, saying it might not exempt the group from open meetings laws as some county officials had said and that more privacy could be a slippery slope.

Echoing what other committee members have said, Judge Kristine Drettwan, the committee’s vice chairwoman, said Friday that leaders plan to run the committee just as they had before.

Drettwan said they will still post their agendas—as they did before Friday’s meeting.

Before the meeting started, she said members won’t be required to take roll call and meet a quorum, but they still took attendance so they could take meeting minutes. She said committee members were meeting previously on separate matters and incidentally creating quorums.

She said she does not see the group going into closed session, but if something came up that entailed a confidential issue, perhaps with a treatment court participant, “we would only do so on a very limited basis.”

But Elizabeth Aldred, director of Health & Human Services, later said members won’t be able to talk about specific cases at the committee’s meetings anyway.

Rock County’s committee operates under the county board as Walworth County’s group once did.

Kelly Mattingly, the Rock County committee’s chairman, said in an email the group has not held a closed session in the years he has been on the committee, nor has anyone ever suggested members should.

For more local coverage on the outbreak of the new coronavirus, go to gazettextra.com/coronavirus.

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