MADISON – Wisconsin election officials decided Thursday to keep rapper Kanye West off the battleground state’s presidential ballot in November because his campaign turned his nomination papers moments after the deadline.
West announced in July he’s running for president on a ticket he calls the “Birthday Party.” West has since been gathering signatures to get on the ballot in several states. Democrats allege that Republicans are pushing West’s candidacy in several swing states to siphon Black votes away from Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Wisconsin is expected to play a key role in deciding the election after President Donald Trump narrowly won the state in 2016.
RHINELANDER – The class of 2020 had a very memorable but sudden end to their school year.
High school seniors missed out on benchmark events like prom and their class trip.
To help make up for that lost time Rhinelander High School seniors Lisa White and Jaylen Janssen made a music video remembering their class.
“We were like ‘we’ve got this on track!’ and then suddenly Covid came and now we’re all like what do we do with life again?,” said White.
March 13 was just like any other day at Rhinelander High School. But little did the students know, it was their last day.
“When school got canceled I called Lisa and I was asking her if she wanted to do a mashup,” said Janssen.
A mashup: several songs honoring what they call the “unfortunate” class of 2020.
“It really just kind of captures how we all feel,” said Janssen.
The girls’ years of musical performance experience showed in the video.
They traveled to Iowa to film it, re-film it, then re-film it again until it fit their standards.
“Each line that you sing you have to sing about ten times,” said White. “It was completely from scratch, just like making this puzzle.”
THREE LAKES – The Demmer Memorial Library in Three Lakes gave away 100 white and red pine saplings today. The event was originally planned for Arbor Day, but COVID-19 forced the library to postpone the giveaway.
“We still love Trees for Tomorrow and still wanted to cooperate so this seemed like a good way to put some positivity into things,” said April Lammert, Young Adult and Adult Programming Librarian.
Lammert sees the potential her work has for impacting the community.
“We’re librarians, we’re very much into factual things and we just wanna put more good out there,” explained Lammert.
Patrons visiting the library come for more than just free trees. Since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Lammert has seen a significant jump in the number of people coming in for reliable internet access.
“As far as rural areas go – being in this rhinelander, three lakes, eagle river area, we don’t have great internet connection. They come and utilize the outside of our building,” said Lammert.
The Demmer Memorial Library will remain open Tuesday through Thursday with additional services available by appointment. Lammert says the library will be waiting for the first few weeks of school to start before solidifying their plans.
Throughout the course of the pandemic, many businesses changed their approach regarding safety.
One business that had a tougher time adjusting was fitness centers, especially after a research team found that gyms can be a place where COVID-19 spreads easily.
The pandemic forced many people to turn to at-home workouts to stay in shape, causing the YMCA of the Northwoods is turning to sign in sheets.
“One of the things we noticed was that limiting capacity in various spaces was important for us. When it comes down to exercise classes and other spaces for use we do require reservations. Then we know who’s in our facility and where they are and how we can mitigate the spread of COVID as we move forward,” said YMCA of the Northwoods CEO Ryan Zietlow.
Climbing COVID numbers and constantly changing guidelines still have the public feeling uneasy.
“We have noticed a decrease in the amount of participation we have,” Zietlow said, “Currently, we’re at about 50% of normal usage, so about 50% of the foot traffic we see coming into the Y at the same time last year or the year before.”
Those people still coming in sometimes fall into the at-risk category for COVID-19.
“Our seniors are continuing to come to class and are the most participating in the classes we currently run,” Zietlow explained.
But, he feels that’s a good sign of community support.
“It really speaks to me that our seniors understand the importance of both mental health and physical health on long-term longevity for them and feel confident in the YMCA that we’re providing safe spaces for them to come in and get that outlet,” Zietlow said.
That confidence in the YMCA comes from the changes the organization has made in response to the pandemic.
“As we continue to watch the spread of COVID in our community, it’s important for us to continue to gauge what is appropriate and what is safe for us as we look at further re-opening our facility,” Zietlow added.
For now, these changes have helped keep the YMCA free of any troubles.
“There hasn’t been any challenges that we’ve run into as far as being able to open safely, we’ve done so very slowly. As we manage those spaces and continue to move forward that’ll continue to be the way we move, to do it slowly and appropriately,” Zietlow said.
When the YMCA is ready to re-open fully, they’ll do it with the people in mind.
“As an organization we realize that some of the need in our community may shift and change as we exit COVID,” Zietlow said, “It’ll be up to the YMCA in order to respond to meet their needs with where they’re at.”
The YMCA of the Northwoods is currently in Phase 2 of it’s reopening plan, there is not a set start date for the next phase.
WAUSAU – Voting is a fundamental process in a Democratic system and with COVID-19 changing a lot of aspects of today’s society. It’s also changing how we vote.
“This year with all the COVID things that are going on we’ve received a lot more requests for absentee ballots,” said Leslie Kremer, Wausau City Clerk.
With the amount of absentee ballots this year Kremer wanted to help make the process easier for voters.
“This is our absentee ballot box,” said Kremer. “It’s specifically for people who are returning their absentee ballots for an election.”
The city used to have a makeshift ballot box, but it was confusing for residents.
“Going back to the April and May elections we had a huge increase in absentee ballots and so what we did there was a payment drop box and we allowed people to put them in there,” said Kremer. “But of course because it says payments that created some confusion so then we thought what could we do?”
The biggest thing Kremer wants people to know about the drop box is protected.
“I want people to know absentee ballots are secure and safe,” said Kremer. “It is definitely a very secure way to vote and by putting it in the drop box, you’re dropping it off, its not going through the postal service, it’s here we check it everyday.”
The box will open on September 17th in preparation for the November election.
RHINELANDER – Typically Wild Instinct Animal Shelter in Rhinelander will house around 10 to 15 bears a year, however this year they are already at 20. According to the staff at the shelter, they have seen a 20 percent increase in their intakes within the last year. They say that’s because more people are spending time outside while practicing social distancing.
“People are staying closer to home. They’re coming across more animals. They’re not in the business or anything. So they are at home doing more landscape, maybe working on the boat. Maybe building decks, who knows what. But they seem to be coming across a lot more animals,” said Wild Instinct Owner, Mark Naniot.
Due to a lack of funding this year, from having to cancel their yearly fundraisers and having less staff at the faculty, staff are having to work more than usual.
“We are probably averaging about four hours of sleep a night for most of the summer. And we are kinda walking around like zombies. Completely exhausted and your attitude isn’t as good as it usually is. We still love what we do. We would just like to love it a little bit less,” said Naniot.
Which means everyone is needing to be on an extra lookout for their health.
“Protecting ourselves, protecting the animals, wanting to make sure we don’t get sick because if we get sick, there is nobody here to take care of the animals. So that’s a big problem for us this year. So it’s been uh really tough,” said Wild Instinct Employee, Kaitlin Wikoff.
Wearing a mask, however, is not just to protect themselves but the animals that are more prone to catching COVID, like Otters.
“We are some really strict guidelines are volunteers have to live up to. And if they do not, we just don’t have them come in and volunteer. And when they do come in and volunteer, they’re all mask up and again try to be all careful. And sanitize things and so. It’s definitely changed a lot of the way we do business,” said Naniot.
Wild Instincts say that if you come across an injured animal to please call their 24-hour hotline number at 715-362-9453. You can also text them a photo of the animal to get more guidance on how to properly care for it.
MADISON – Wisconsin’s unemployment rate dropped from 8.6% in June to 7% in July, far below the national rate as the state and country continue to reel from massive job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
While Wisconsin’s jobless rate for July was below the 10.2% national rate, it was more than double the 3.4% from a year ago. Wisconsin added 25,000 private-sector jobs in July, the state Department of Workforce Development reported Thursday.