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Local
2020 Year in review, part two
  • Updated
  • 3 min to read

EAU CLAIRE — Spring brought the first surge of the COVID-19 pandemic when it arrived in Wisconsin. Large-scale shutdowns in March continued into the first part of April, even as people began to adjust. By the start of the summer season, it was clear things were going to be different for a very long time.

April

A federal judge rejected requests to change the date of the Wisconsin primaries.

Farmers dumped milk after demand crashed, creating a massive surplus.

Country Fest postponed its planned concerts, moving them to mid-August.

A pair of scientists with ties to the Chippewa Valley played significant roles in developing tests for the COVID virus.

While many business plans went out the window in 2020, Eau Claire saw a new hardware store open its doors.

The Blue Ox Music Festival followed Country Fest in moving its date to August.

In a seemingly counterintuitive move, a number of hospitals furloughed employees. The decision came after elective procedures were suspended, creating a lower need for staffing in those areas.

Simpson Field received installation of artificial turf.

Staff photo by Dan Reiland  

Jose Fuentes, left, and Isaias Perez with AstroTurf nailed in place the yardage markers on the new turf football field being installed at Simpson Field at UW-Eau Claire on April 10, 2020. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

Voters strongly backed CVTC’s bid for funding in a referendum. About 67 percent of voters were in favor of the move, which allowed the technical college to proceed with plans for multiple departments.

A late snowstorm dumped around 7.7 inches on the area, just in time for Easter.

Staff photo by Dan Reiland/  

Jacqueline Stanton clears snow from her sidewalk along Fenwick Avenue on Monday in Eau Claire. Eau Claire received 7.7 inches of snow on Easter Sunday and, according to AccuWeather, there is a chance for a rain or snow shower in spots today. But after that there is no precipitation in the forecast through Saturday, with highs ranging from 38 degrees Wednesday to 56 on Saturday. For more weather information, see Page 8B. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

Developers sought approval for two new affordable housing projects in Eau Claire.

Hobbs Ice Center became a temporary home for the city’s homeless. Concerns about distancing requirements led the shelter to the center, which was not open at the time.

Stimulus checks began arriving in mailboxes, part of the federal government’s attempts to stimulate a badly hurt economy.

Three Illinois men faced charges after an Eau Claire man was killed in his home. Authorities said the murder was gang-related.

Staff photo by Dan Reiland/  

Joe Moya, left, and Juan Olivarez are escorted into Eau Claire County Court for their preliminary hearing on Tuesday. The Illinois men are accused of fatally shooting Edwin J. Garcia-Smith in Eau Claire on March 20. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

Eau Claire County’s new supervisors took the oath of office in drive-up ceremonies.

Local governments released grim forecasts for the year’s budgets as revenues took a nose dive.

Between April 1-15 the area food bank said it distributed 500,000 pounds of food. Many turned to options for food assistance after losing their jobs to COVID closures.

As the initial surge of COVID cases began to retreat, some hospitals began making plans to resume elective procedures with additional precautions in place.

The Boyd Feed & Supply Mill was destroyed in a fire.

UW-Stout began furloughs for employees.

May

Eau Claire’s Downtown Farmers Market opened, offering a welcome bright spot for area residents.

Staff photo by Dan Reiland/  

From left, Darlene Spehle shops with her granddaughter Danielle Jenkins and daughter Laurie Starks on Wednesday at the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market in Phoenix Park. All are from Eau Claire. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

Many members of the Class of 2020 mourned missing out on commencement after large indoor ceremonies were ruled out due to the pandemic.

Altoona said lower-than-expected asphalt prices meant the city would be able to do more road work in the summer than originally planned.

Area libraries began offering curbside pickup for materials.

Wisconsin businesses began reopening, though many had restrictions and not all did so successfully.

Hospitals continued expanding services again as COVID numbers stabilized.

Gov. Tony Evers’ safer-at-home order was struck down by Wisconsin courts.

The Leader-Telegram brought home 20 awards from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association’s competition.

Oakwood Mall reopened to shoppers.

Officials with the Pablo Center were cautiously optimistic about being able to reopen in October.

Staff photo by Dan Reiland/  

The area surrounding the Pablo Center at the Confluence was all lit in blue Thursday evening, April 16, 2020. The change in color was made as part of a nationwide campaign to offer support and gratitude to the people working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 epidemic. The blue colors can be seen on Thursday evenings for the forseeable future. This panoramic image was created by stitching ten photos together. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

Chippewa Valley Technical College said it would reopen for students in the fall.

Protests erupted after the death of George Floyd while in police custody. The protests quickly spread nationwide.

Rock Fest canceled the 2020 concerts.

Experts estimated the Eau Claire area lost around 15,000 jobs due to pandemic shutdowns.

Eau Claire County said an error in the Department of Human Services created a $1.29 million shortfall for the department.

June

Churches began reopening for services.

Hundreds rallied at Owen Park, and a downtown march drew even larger crowds. Protesters sought reforms in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Staff photo by Dan Reiland  

Hundreds of protesters gather Friday at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire to call for racial justice in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man killed while in the custody of Minneapolis police.

UW-Eau Claire and UW-Stout began planning for fall reopenings.

Country Fest canceled its planned concerts.

Chalkfest went virtual, one of a number of efforts to bring activities online during the pandemic.

Eau Claire began considering body cameras for its police department.

Remnants of a tropical system reached Wisconsin, bringing torrential rains and multiple washouts to area roads.

Kurt Madsen became the new principal at Eau Claire North High School.

Eau Claire County mulled pay cuts as budget projections continued to be bleak.

Chippewa Falls’ farmers market reopened.

The City of Eau Claire created a task force to look at issues of police transparency.

Officials announced the first death in Eau Claire County from COVID.

City officials resumed the search for a new city administrator in Eau Claire.

A national ranking named Eau Claire one of the most livable cities in the country.

Another round of heavy rains brought flash flooding and killed one in Wisconsin.

Classes resumed at CVTC.

Libraries in the Chippewa Valley began to plan for reopening.


State
centerpiece
CVS, Walgreens begin Wisconsin nursing home vaccinations
  • Updated

MADISON — Two pharmacy chains launched a massive effort Monday to inject tens of thousands of Wisconsin nursing home residents and workers with a COVID-19 vaccine, offering a sliver of hope to a population devastated by the runaway disease.

CVS Health and Walgreens teams started visiting homes and inoculating residents and staff with the Moderna vaccine Monday morning, said Rick Abrams, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Health Care Association/Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living. The nonprofit organization advocates for the state’s long-term care industry and residents. The effort is part of the chains’ plan to vaccinate residents and workers at long-term care facilities across all 50 states.

COVID-19 has proven especially deadly in the assisted living sector. According to the state Department of Health Services, 27% of the 4,711 people who have died from the disease in Wisconsin were long-term care residents.

“The mood, the feeling is one of great anticipation,” Abrams said of the vaccination effort. “We’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. When you think about what has been accomplished in less than a year . . . it has been one of the most important public health feats in the history of the world.”

Gov. Tony Evers’ administration announced Monday that the DHS has allocated 56,800 vaccine doses to the pharmacy chains for long-term care facility inoculations.

But the campaign won’t be quick. Wisconsin is home to about 60,000 long-term care residents, Abrams said. Not only will they be vaccinated, the chains also hope to inoculate anyone who comes into regular contact with them. That means an undetermined number of nurses, custodians, chefs and other facility employees will be lining up as well, Abrams said.

Each person requires two doses.

Walgreens officials have said about 3 million workers serve long-term care residents across the country. Abrams did not have an estimate of how many staffers are employed in Wisconsin.

CVS Health officials said they’ve partnered with about 1,800 facilities to deliver vaccines on-site. Walgreens officials said they didn’t have any specifics on their Wisconsin vaccination efforts, but Abrams said it could be three months before inoculations are complete. Evers’ administration said the program could take about two months.

The DHS reported 1,335 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide Monday, bringing the total number of infections since March to 472,153.

The disease was a factor in 19 more deaths, pushing the state’s death toll to 4,711. The survival rate still stands at 99%.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Tod Ohnstad, a Kenosha Democrat, announced Monday that he has tested positive for COVID-19 but with only mild symptoms. He said he doesn’t know where or when he was exposed.

“Vaccines have been developed, but we must all remain vigilant until they are widely available and distributed,” Ohnstad said in a statement. “I have worked diligently to follow the guidelines, but if I can get a positive test, you could too. Wear a mask, distance appropriately, wash regularly, stay home if you can, and when in doubt, go and get tested.”


Local
featured
Peggs' attorney seeks pretrial release changes
  • Updated

ALTOONA – Former Altoona superintendent Daniel Peggs is asking a federal judge to amend the conditions of his pretrial release.

The request, filed by Joseph Bugni, an associate federal defender, asks the court to allow Peggs to “seek and maintain employment — subject to the probation department’s approval,” and to live at a probation department-approved residence in the Madison area. The latter portion of the request includes a curfew allowing him to leave his residence between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The filing, dated earlier this month, said Peggs’ probation officer did not object, nor did the assistant U.S. attorney on the case.

“Peggs has been on supervision for ten months,” Bugni wrote. “During that time he has not had even the slightest violation.”

Authorities arrested Peggs in February when he was on his way to his job in Altoona. He was charged with child sex trafficking and making child pornography. Peggs now faces a six count indictment, filed in July, accusing him of recruiting a minor “to engage in sexually explicit conduct” for video recordings, possession of child pornography and receiving child pornography.

Peggs could face life imprisonment if convicted of sexually trafficking the girl. The child pornography charge could involve 15-30 years in prison.

A separate filing from November suggests the case involves a massive amount of digital evidence that both prosecutors and defense attorneys are wading through, and at least some of it came from a North Carolina man charged in a case connected to Peggs’.

Bryan Ragon faces federal charges in North Carolina, though he is accused of trafficking a minor in that state, Wisconsin and other locations in December 2015. That’s the same time as investigators say Peggs used an iPhone to record a minor in a sexually explicit act.

Ragon reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in July. He has not yet been sentenced.

The November letter filed by U.S. Attorney Scott Blader and Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Pfluger said they anticipated “a large amount of digital evidence from the proffer of Bryan Ragon,” and outlined the processes for the defense to review the evidence. The letter said “many terabytes” of information are included in the anticipated evidence.


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