Lake Mills community coalition works to “Keep COVID Out”

The campaign aims to slow the spread of the virus while still keeping schools and businesses open.
Published: Jan. 18, 2021 at 7:34 PM CST
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LAKE MILLS, Wis. (WMTV) - A community coalition in Lake Mills is working to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, hoping to support schools and businesses. The coalition started to form in the summer and fall of 2020, as the community struggled to balance keeping things open and staying safe.

“We had concerns about people not necessarily wearing masks,” said co-owner of Wallflower Market Nancy Boebel about reopening in summer.

Two former educators, Pam Streich and Sandy Whisler realized everyone needed to get involved.

“How can we communicate to the whole community, if you want schools open and you want businesses open, we have to work together,” Streich explained.

The two formed the Keep COVID Out coalition, working to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep doors open.

“We asked a business member, how can we support you,” Streich explained.

Co-owner of Pyramid Event Venue Eli Wedel said when Streich and Whisler approached him, he suggested recognizing businesses with strong safety protocols.

“I had noticed, obviously, a lot of businesses are hurting at the moment,” Wedel said.

Streich and Whisler started asking businesses to commit to what they call the 3 Ws: wash your hands, watch your distance and wear a face covering. Over 60 businesses have joined, and each can display a sign on their door indicating their commitment.

“Being able to come into a business and before you even enter, know that this business is making those efforts to keep you safe,” described Jillian Macson, co-owner of Pyramid Event Venue.

The coalition also buys gift certificates from those businesses and holds daily drawings for community members who also commit to following the 3 Ws.

“What I hear when I go around town is ‘I’m so glad you’re doing this’. People want to help, and it’s giving people permission to be proactive and do what they can for our community,” said Whisler.

Business owners like Boebel said the campaign has had an impact.

“It’s been a long time since we had a customer that came in without a mask,” she said.

Macson said the collaboration is what makes it work.

“We’re all able to keep our doors open and we’re supporting each other and our community’s going to get through it because of it,” Macson said.

NBC15 looked into data on COVID-19 cases in Lake Mills. Since October, when the coalition started, the 7-day average of new cases has seen some small peaks and valleys, but remained relatively stable. Statewide, the 7-day average tripled in November, though average new cases are now in a downward trend.

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