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Northern Wisconsin School Staff Hold Parades For Students As Experts Urge Social Distancing

Members Of Crandon Schools Seek To Connect As Physicians Urge Caution

Staff at Crandon Schools drive through town, honking horns at students and families. 
Photo courtesy of Greta Krueger Williams

Staff at one northern Wisconsin school held parades Tuesday to show students they are missed. While such acts may seem harmless, health experts are reinforcing that social distancing is necessary to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Gov. Tony Evers issued a “safer-at-home” order last week banning public gatherings and non-essential business with limited exceptions. State health officials are urging people to stay home as much as possible and observe social distancing requirements, such as washing hands and keeping 6 feet of space from others.

High school Spanish teacher Jodi Resch-Brownell said staff at Crandon Schools organized a morning and afternoon parade on Tuesday following work their work shifts.

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“We’re a really close-knit community here in Crandon and the school is really central to that. And not being able to be in contact and things, we just kind of wanted the kids and the families to know that we’re still there for them,” she said.

Staff took to their vehicles and drove around town, honking their horns and waving colored flags. A video taken by one staff member shows some had signs taped to the windows, saying “We Miss You” and “We Love You.”

Children were standing on their lawns, driveways or on the sidewalk with their families, Resch-Brownell said. Others sat in parked cars. But she said everyone was practicing social distancing.

Greta Krueger Williams said she, her daughter Kirkland and son Mac watched the parade from their front porch, cheering on the parade with cowbells.

“It was good for the kids to kind of see their teachers back out and around. I mean, the fact of the matter is they see them every day. They’re kind of like family,” said Krueger Williams.

She said the parades sent a message that life carries on as everyone is adjusting to a new normal in the age of coronavirus and social distancing.

“It’s been pretty, pretty dark and quiet around, which is good,” she said. “I think that’s what people are supposed to be doing.”

Dr. Jeff Pothof, chief quality officer at UW Health, said he isn’t opposed to such events, but people really can’t cheat on keeping at least 6 feet of distance between them and others.

“In its purest form, it seems like it’s OK to do, but I think we all know that sometimes, it can be easy to cut corners on that,” said Pothof. “So we just have to be diligent that we keep that social distancing even when we try to do these things.”

Resch-Brownell said everyone realizes the seriousness surrounding efforts to control the spread of coronavirus, noting that’s why staff reminded people on Facebook to follow social distancing guidelines.

Pothof said such acts could potentially become a problem if people start to mingle with their neighbors or different households. He said it seems innocent, but health officials are not recommending that right now.

“I know people are gonna start to dislike and have a difficult or challenging time with kind of how disruptive these recommendations are. I think the recommendations are really hard to enforce 100 percent,” said Pothof. “But I think the realization that you put yourself and your community at risk if you cannot abide by these recommendations would hopefully be enough of an impetus to encourage people to do these things even though they’re hard.”

Bud Chumbley, CEO of the Wisconsin Medical Society, also worries that there’s a chance of transmission during such gatherings.

“The key to preventing the spread as we’ve all heard is to wash your hands frequently, to not touch your face, and stay away from a large number of people who could have the virus,” he said.

Resch-Brownell said she is proud of the school for going above and beyond to make these changes less traumatic for students.

“We need the kids as much as they need us,” she said. “And, we just wanted them to know that we’re still here for them even though we’re not together.”