Thursday, Mar. 26th, 2020
Monday, Mar. 23rd, 2020

Spring Election: How to Vote Absentee — or Even by Drive-Through! [UPDATED]

The Wisconsin Elections Commission is urging anyone who is concerned about the coronavirus pandemic to make plans now to vote absentee for the April 7 Spring Election and Presidential Preference Primary.

Acting quickly by Wednesday, March 18 is especially important for anyone who needs to register to vote. If your name or address has changed since the last time you voted, you will need to register with your current information. A federal court ruling on March 20 extended the online voter registration deadline until Monday, March 30.  

Please check your registration status at by clicking on “My Voter Info.” If your information is not correct, you may register to vote online or by mail through Monday, March 30 Wednesday, March 18th. After that date you will need to register in-person at the Clerk’s Office in the municipality in which you reside or at the polls on Election Day.

Once registered, you may request an absentee ballot online at by clicking on “Vote Absentee.” Please note that if you have not received a ballot by mail in the past, you will need to upload a copy of your Photo ID. You may also request an absentee ballot by mailing or emailing your Municipal Clerk a request and a copy of your Photo ID. Absentee ballot requests need to be received by your Clerk’s Office by April 2. However, the ballots are mailed to you, so please get the request in as soon as possible in order to have time to receive the ballot and return it to your Clerk prior to Election Day.

More information may be found regarding registration, absentee voting and your Municipal Clerk at and


In-Person Absentee Voting Drive-Through

The City of Eau Claire announced Tuesday, March 24, that it would be allowing in-person absentee voting via drive-through. According to a press release:

Voting is considered an essential government function. To safeguard this important process and safety and well-being of election workers and residents, the City of Eau Claire Elections Office has set up drive-thru absentee voting in the parking lot of City Hall at 203 S. Farwell St.  (Map) City of Eau Claire residents should enter the parking lot from Dewey Street only. There are a series of tents set up and staff who will guide voters through the process. Proper social distancing and cleaning guidelines will be strictly adhered to. Absentee Voting drive-thru is available Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. through April 3, 2020.

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Friday, Mar. 20th, 2020

Hope is the Thing: A Collaborative Writing Project

the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild starts a collaborative writing project during COVID-19 outbreak


The Chippewa Valley Writers Guild, in its effort to connect writers around the Eau Claire area, are launching a new effort to connect writers virtually during the time of social distancing and self-isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Called "Hope is the Thing," the effort is to establish a collaborative platform that regional writers can use to publish creative work. The writers guild is accepting submissions of 500 words or less in the form of poems, essays, short fiction, or personal experiences on the subject of hope. 

"May our art be the gift that help us heal."

Learn more about the details about submitting your work here.

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UWEC Says Classes Will Be Online for Rest of Semester; Study-Abroad Student Tests Positive

UW-Eau Claire, which was the last university in the UW System to call off classes because of the coronavirus outbreak, announced Friday, March 20, that all classes will be taught online for the remainder of the semester and that all residence halls will close effective April 4 (although students who don't have an option to move out will be able to apply for extended stays). In addition, according to a memo from Chancellor James Schmidt, the university will postpone the spring commencement ceremonies, scheduled for May 23, and will also “transition all summer courses to online format in the spirit of continued caution.” 

Schmidt also announced Friday afternoon that a UW-Eau Claire students who had been studying abroad tested positive for COVID-19. “The student who tested positive and the fellow study abroad students did not return to Eau Claire County following their return to the United States, and they did not come in contact with any individuals on campus,” Schmidt said. The student is currently self-isolating and doing well, Schmidt added.

Below is the full media release regarding the shift to online courses (and here’s a link to all UWEC coronavirus updates):

UW-Eau Claire classes to remain online for entire semester, residence halls to close

Chancellor James Schmidt sent the following message this afternoon to students, faculty and staff at UW-Eau Claire (Eau Claire and Marshfield campuses) and UW-Eau Claire – Barron County:

Just eight days ago I announced that we would extend our spring break and move classes online through April 17. At the time it was my hope that early action to reduce face-to-face contact would make it possible to minimize the COVID-19 risk to our students, faculty and staff, and allow us to resume on-campus classes next month.

In little more than a week it has become obvious that will not be possible. With Wisconsin’s confirmed cases now at more than 150 — and growing — and our first case in Eau Claire County just confirmed, we know that the pandemic will take longer to run its course and that it is affecting young people as well as the elderly. Our first commitment is to the health of our students and campus community.

Online classes through the end of the semester

So today I am announcing that all classes will be taught online for the remainder of the semester. There will be no face-to-face classes through May. We are also looking to transition all summer courses to online format in the spirit of continued caution.

Our faculty have been working hard to transition all classes online. For students unsure about what that will mean for their learning, we are also setting up resources to help students needing to adjust to distance learning. The Center for Writing Excellence, Math Lab and Academic Skills Center are developing plans to move their resources to an online environment. Also, the LTS Helpdesk provides one-on-one assistance for students who may need extra support in using Canvas for online courses. We are also identifying additional resources for students to help them prepare for distance learning. You’ll be hearing more about those resources by the end of March. A reminder: Online classes begin April 6. Faculty will be contacting students in advance with more information about what you can expect.

We are also postponing our May 23 commencement ceremonies. Graduating seniors WILL be able to complete the semester and graduate. We will, however, reschedule the graduation ceremonies for a time when we can all safely be together. I know how important it is to have loved ones see our graduates walk across the stage — and I want to be able to personally welcome our newest Blugold alumni. I look forward to seeing pictures of you in your cap and gown on the footbridge and being part of your selfies on the stage. When we know more about an appropriate time for commencement, we will share further information. In the meantime, check the commencement website for details.

I have such mixed emotions about these decisions, which we did not make lightly. While I know both faculty and students hoped to be able to continue the semester together, we must do all we can to “flatten the curve” and stay healthy by staying home.

Residence halls will close April 4
I know many students — both in the residence halls and in the community — have had questions about whether to stay in Eau Claire or to head home. Because we will now complete the semester online, we are encouraging students currently in the residence halls to head home no later than Saturday, April 4. This will help us keep everyone safer.

We know that some students don’t have that option, however. Students who have need for an extended stay may register by following instructions provided by Housing and Residence Life. We will not be closing our doors or asking anyone to leave who cannot. Students who stay may be asked to move to different rooms, as we will be closing some of the halls in order to reduce maintenance. Those students who need to remain in the residence halls will have meals delivered to the lobby of their building. We are here for you.

Students will receive an email from Housing and Residence Life with instructions on how to check out. They will be asked to sign up for a move-out time so we can maintain social distance and protect the health of our students and their loved ones.

UW-Eau Claire will also make sure students who leave the residence halls receive pro-rated refunds for lodging, food service and parking. I know that many students and families are facing financial hardships and this is the right thing to do. You can read the announcement by UW System about the refunds; we will be reaching out to students with more details, including how the credits will be applied to any outstanding balances. We are also in talks with Barnes & Noble to make it easier for students to return rented books. Stay tuned.

Parking for all permit holders — including all students, faculty and staff — will also be refunded on a pro-rated basis. “G” parking permit holders will be contacted with the choice of retaining their parking space through August or receiving a pro-rated refund. Parking in “G” stalls will continue to be enforced.

When 2020 began we couldn’t have imagined a semester that would unfold as this one has. But I have been inspired by the countless acts of kindness and notes of support that I’ve seen and received over the past week. I know that we will come back together in April —online — and finish our semester Blugold strong!

In the meantime, do all you can to stay healthy and be sure to take care of each other. Blugolds fly together — although for now it’s six feet apart! Be safe.

James C. Schmidt
Chancellor, UW-Eau Claire



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Thursday, Mar. 19th, 2020

Find Local Restaurants with Delivery, Takeout, Pick Up, & Gift Cards ➜

We've set up a special website pulling from our online database of over 300 Chippewa Valley restaurants so locals can filter by city, online gift card availability, delivery, takeout, and curbside pick up – adding in area eateries who've added these services in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. This allows people to easily buy gift cards, order delivery or curbside, or shop online without leaving home.


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COVID-19 HITS HOME: First Cases in Eau Claire, Dunn Counties Confirmed [UPDATE]

UPDATED 3-20-20, 5:26pm

Three Eau Claire County residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19 as of Friday afternoon, Health Department Director Lieske Giese said. Two of the cases were diagnosed Friday, and one of those was travel-related, Giese said. 

Overall, 206 cases have been diagnosed statewide, and there have been three deaths, she said.

“(It’s) very, very difficult obviously, and all of us are thinking about those individuals and families,” she said. “And unfortunately, we will see more. We know that with this course of disease that it will happen.”

Below is a video of the Friday media briefing:

 The Eau Claire City-Council Health Department announced Thursday morning that it has confirmed by the first case of COVID-19 in Eau Claire County. The patient had traveled outside Wisconsin, and was likely exposed in another state, the health department said in a media release. "We understand that they have remained at home self-quarantined since that travels,” the department said. "We are working with the individual to identify anyone who may have had close contact with the person and quarantining those individuals for the next 14 days.”

As of Thursday, there were 155 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, and Thursday night Gov. Tony Evers announced the state had experienced its first deaths from the disease: a man in his 50s from Fond du Lac County and a man in his 90s from Ozaukee County. (See the official announcement.) In addition, Dunn County public health officials announced Thursday that they had identified the first case of the virus in their county.

The health department held a media briefing at 10:30am Thursday to release more information about the local COVID-19 response, including the Eau Claire County case. Health Department Director Lieske Giese said that, despite the diagnosis, there are no additional steps that local people should take. She advised that those who feel sick should continue to stay home and that everyone should continue to wash their hands, practice social distancing, and avoid mass gatherings. Below is a video of the media briefing:

 Here’s the full media release:

Eau Claire, WI – March 19, 2020 9:35 AM – Today the Eau Claire City-County Health Department and Wisconsin Department of Health Services confirmed the first case of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) in Eau Claire County. This was an individual who traveled outside of Wisconsin and likely had exposure in another state. We understand that they have remained at home self-quarantined since that travel. We are working with the individual to identify anyone who may have had close contact with the person and quarantining those individuals for the next 14 days. We are following CDC and State Health Department directions. The health and safety of all residents in our community is our primary goal.

The Eau Claire City-County Health Department and multiple community partners continue to follow the COVID-19 situation as it develops. As of March 18th, there were 106 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin. Here is what the public needs to know:

• As the Health Department learns of any individuals who have been in contact with a person who is sick with COVID-19, we are contacting those individuals to stay at home and monitor their health.

• When people have been in contact with someone who is sick with COVID-19, they are asked to stay at home for 2 weeks to monitor for symptoms. This is called quarantine. This does not mean that these people are ill. It helps to prevent the possibility of spread by limiting the number of people they are in contact with in case they get sick.

Everyone can help prevent the spread of illness in our community with a few simple, but effective action

• Practice good social distancing:

- Avoid close contact with people who are sick, stay home if you are feeling sick, and don’t get together in groups larger than 10 people.

- Limit in-person contact and maintain distance of 6 feet between others and you.

• Practice good personal hygiene:

- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or blowing your nose

- Cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow, then wash your hands. o Use hand sanitizer if you do not have soap and water readily available. o Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Be prepared with only a 2 week supply of food and medicine. This is only in case you were to be notified that you came in contact with a positive case and needed to self- quarantine.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily including tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, remotes, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

• Limit non-essential travel.

• Call your heath care provider if you have any questions about your health.

Please know that the health and safety of all community members remains our highest priority.

You can stay up to date with the latest information on the Health Department website, Facebook, or Twitter. If you have questions, email us at, or call the COVID-19 phone line at 715-839-4725.


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Wednesday, Mar. 18th, 2020

County, Cities Declare Emergency Over COVID-19

Both the city and county of Eau Claire are now under a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, which continues to spread across the nation and state. On Tuesday evening, the Eau Claire City Council and the Eau Claire County Board passed resolutions declaring a state of emergency; the Altoona City Council was expected to take a similar step Wednesday night.

Considering that both the state of Wisconsin (as of March 12) and the entire United States (as of March 13) have also been declared to be in states of emergency, what does such a declaration mean locally?

“It provides for several things,” Eau Claire City Manager Dale Peters said in an interview Wednesday. “It provides for really expanded emergency powers by the city manager to have flexibility to adapt to this rapidly changing situation.” For example, Peters will have the ability to temporary modify or suspend local rules regarding everything from public works contracts to cooperating with other governments for emergency services.

In addition, the resolution will allow City Council members to attend meetings remotely, rather than in person, and allow the cancelation of non-essential city board and committee meetings. And it revokes prior city approval for special events being held through April 29, when the state of emergency is scheduled to end. (However, because of the emergency declaration, Peters expects he will be able to help organizations reschedule these events without having to return to the City Council for approval a second time.)

Meanwhile, the resolution passed by the Eau Claire County Board declared a 60-day period of emergency in the county. During that time, County Board Chairman Nick Smiar and County Administrator Kathryn Schauf are authorized to coordinate the county’s emergency management response. Smiar will also have the ability to cancel meetings and allow county board members to take part in meetings remotely.

“Local government is working cooperatively,” Peters said. “These emergency measures were put it at all levels of local government. And the leadership of the local government – the two cities and the county – are working together on a daily basis to have coordinated standards and expectations of service for all the residents in our area. … We’re trying to have consistency in how we can continue those essential services as well as to assist each other to keep those essential services available.”

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2020 Eau Claire Jazz Festival Canceled


Today (March 18), the Eau Claire Jazz Festival released this statement: 

The Eau Claire Jazz Festival and the accompanying Jazz Crawl, formerly 52nd Street, will not take place in April of 2020 out of concern for the health of attendees and in recognition of governmental efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“The health of all our festival participants and those close to them—from middle school band members to our esteemed adjudicators and guests from around the country—and the wellbeing of the Eau Claire community are of top concern to the Eau Claire Jazz, Inc. board,” board president John Genskow said. “While this was not an easy decision to make, we believe it is the most responsible decision we could make in light of concerns about the novel coronavirus and the disruptive impact that has had on all levels of education and society.”

This will be the first year the Eau Claire Jazz Festival has not occurred since its inception in 1967. The longest-running student-operated jazz festival in the country, the Eau Claire Jazz Festival welcomes participation from middle, high school, and collegiate jazz ensembles for a two-day experience that spans UW-Eau Claire’s campus and downtown Eau Claire. Students participate in Master Classes, Student Sessions, and a signature Concert Series, which brought Doc Severinsen to the festival in 2017 and featured Grace Kelly and the New York Voices in 2019. Severinsen remains an honorary board member of Eau Claire Jazz, Inc.

The annual Jazz Crawl—formerly 52nd Street—is also cancelled in light of restrictions on public gatherings, as well as on the bars and restaurants that serve as performance venues. Jazz Crawl is operated by Eau Claire Jazz, Inc., and proceeds from the annual event support the accessibility and affordability of the Jazz Festival for participating ensembles. Additionally, those funds go toward a scholarship fund through the UW-Eau Claire Foundation.

“Eau Claire Jazz remains focused on supporting excellent educational experiences for students, inspiring performances for our community, and appreciating the talented artists who participate in our events,” ECJI executive director Quentin Volk said. “We’ll continue looking for opportunities to support musicians, educators, and students as this situation evolves. For now, deciding not to hold our events as scheduled is the first action we can take to support the health of these communities.”

Band directors, adjudicators, and musicians have been contacted regarding the board’s decision, and registration fees for this year’s events will be refunded. Processes are underway to ensure refunds for any members of the public who purchased tickets for any of these events. For additional information and updates on refunds, visit For additional comment, members of the media may contact Quentin Volk, Executive Director, at 970-685-2533 or


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Mayo Clinic Health System Offers Drive-Through COVID-19 Testing in Eau Claire

Mayo Clinic Health System's drive-through COVID-19 testing site.
Mayo Clinic Health System's drive-through COVID-19 testing site in Eau Claire.

Mayo Clinic Health System announced this afternoon (Wednesday, March 18) that it had opened a drive-through screening facility in Eau Claire for people showing symptoms of COVID-19. However, there are some important limitations: The service is only open to current Mayo Clinic patients who have been screened after calling their Mayo Clinic Health Systems primary care clinic.

“Tests will not be offered to people who have not pre-screened over the phone,” Mayo Clinic said in a press release. “You should not show up to a testing site without being pre-screened.” In other words, pick up the phone before you pick up your car keys.

In her Wednesday afternoon public briefing addressing the coronavirus pandemic, Eau Claire City-County Health Department Director Lieske Giese said other local health providers are considering similar options for testing. “We know statewide and nationally this is a priority for best practices for testing," she said.

Read the full press release ...

EAU CLAIRE – Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire will begin offering a drive-through screening process for current Mayo Clinic Health System patients  who meet criteria for COVID-19  and are referred for testing, beginning March 18. Transmissions of COVID-19 are increasing statewide and across the nation and other institutions have successfully used the drive-through approach.

As a first step, Mayo Clinic Health System patients must call their Mayo Clinic Health System primary care clinic. A provider or nurse will determine if patients meet criteria and will schedule a test at a designated location. Tests will not be offered to people who have not been pre-screened over the phone. You should not show up to a testing site without being pre-screened. The virus spreads rapidly and this process will help minimize potential exposure to other patients and staff. Again, Mayo Clinic Health System patients must call their provider first in order to be tested.

“In our efforts to make COVID-19 testing more accessible to Mayo Clinic Health System patients in our community, it could not have happened without the pro-active support and resources from the Eau Claire  Police Department, Eau Claire Fire Department and the Eau Claire City Emergency Preparedness Team,” says Jason Craig, Regional Chair of Administration for Mayo Clinic Health System in Northwest Wisconsin. “We are incredibly grateful and we thank them for all of their continued hard work.”

Mayo Clinic Health System patients experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should take the following steps: 

  • First, call their Mayo Clinic Health System primary care clinic/provider for a phone screening. Your provider or nurse will direct you to our dedicated COVID-19 Nurse Line. If you meet testing criteria, you will be directed to a local testing site.
  • If Mayo Clinic Health System patients meet the criteria for testing, patients will be directed to the drive-through testing location.
  • At the drive-through location, Mayo Clinic Health System staff will collect the specimens using appropriate precautions.
  • The specimens will then be sent to Mayo Clinic in Rochester for analysis.
  • Patients will be advised of next steps.

Also, as a reminder, all hospitals and clinics at Mayo Clinic Health System in Northwest Wisconsin have implemented visitor restrictions to protect the ongoing safety of our patients, staff and communities. Visitors are restricted to one visitor per patient at any time. No children under 13 are permitted on the premise unless the child is receiving medical care. Exceptions to this include two visitors for end-of-life patients, pediatric patients and patients who have language barriers. Visitors will not be allowed from 7 p.m.-7 a.m. This policy will remain in place until further notice.

Visitors who are ill should not come to visit patients. Visitors will be asked about symptoms before being allowed to enter hospitals and clinics.

We understand these restrictions will be difficult for patients and their loved ones. We are taking these necessary steps to protect our patients and staff. Mayo Clinic Health System patients who are scheduled for an appointment, hospital procedure or surgery can be assured our facilities are safe. We continue to coordinate with local and regional partners to take the necessary precautions for the safety of patients, staff and our communities. For the latest on getting care locally during the COVID-19 outbreak, visit

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5 Library Services to Use at Home When the Library’s Closed

Even though the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire is closed until at least April 6 in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, you can still visit – virtually – and take advantage of some of the amazing digital services the library has to offer.

If you’ve got a card from the Eau Claire library – or, in many cases, a card from any of the libraries in the MORE consortium (including Altoona, Chippewa Falls, Menomonie, and many others) – a free portal of online entertainment and education awaits. Here are some of the library’s best digital offerings:


Want to escape with a Danielle Steele novel? Learn how to make the BEST slime? Get some life lessons from the Berenstain Bears? Through Wisconsin’s Digital Library, you’ve got access to a “massive catalog of books and audiobooks available online and using apps.” Those free apps, OverDrive and Libby, can help connect you with books and audiobooks on your iPad, Kindle, or other digital device, all for the low price of absolutely free!


Freading is another ebook service available to MORE library cardholders, specializing in nonfiction and travel guides. (Virtual vacation, anyone?) You can check out to three titles per week, and there are no waiting lists.


Dedicated to “local music for local ears,” Sawdust City Sounds is a unique collection of tunes by Chippewa Valley-based musicians – including favorites like Eggplant Heroes, Drunk Drivers, and Jim Pullman – which you can stream or download. Take this opportunity to check out some outstanding local albums and make plans for when you can see these performers in person again!


This service offers unlimited streaming of music and videos from an enormous range of national and international artists – all for free. Plus, you can download and keep up to five songs per week (also for free), which makes Freegal a budget-friendly way to build your personal music collection.


Flipster lets library users flip through dozens of magazine titles – from National Geographic and Rolling Stone to People and Ranger Rick Jr. – for free, anytime anywhere. It’s like sitting in the world’s best waiting room without leaving your house!

This list is just the tip of the iceberg. Learn more about all of the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library’s digital offerings here and here. Explore the links and start to learn a language, discover your family’s genealogy, or learn how to file your taxes.

As Library Director Pamela Westby wrote in a message to patrons:

We also encourage those who may be self-distancing to enjoy some of the library’s digital collections. See what Eau Claire looked like back in “the day,” learn more about your family history, or start building up your “to read” list.

For those of you who have borrowed library materials in your possession, do not fear the due date – we are a fine-free library! We are also extending loan periods during this time, so you do not need to return materials until we are back in full operation. Book drops at the library and around town will be closed, so please hold on to your materials until we re-open.

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