COVID-19: Staying Safe in Your Community

It is up to each of us to keep our communities safe and healthy. We can take action to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing our hands, and staying 6 feet apart. The safety tips on this page will help businesses, organizations, and services in our communities operate safely. There are also tips for people who are visiting these locations in our communities. It takes all of us working together to protect our communities.

 Biking and Walking Paths

Biking and walking outside are great ways to get exercise. Make sure you stay 6 feet apart from others outside of your household. If you are on a path and cannot keep a 6 foot distance, the safest thing to do is to get off the path, put on a cloth face covering if you are not already wearing one, and let others pass.

 Blood Banks

Blood Collection

This guidance is intended to support blood collection site operations. There is a severe blood shortage and donors are urgently needed. Respiratory viruses, in general, are not known to be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases of transfusion-transmitted coronavirus.

Blood donated at collection sites supports multiple types of patients (for example, trauma, sickle cell, and burn). The steps below include and complement the routine procedures followed at blood collection sites.

How can blood banks prevent spread of infection?
  • Environmental infection control
    • Wiping down donor-touched areas after every collection. Clean and disinfect environmental surfaces in accordance with standard facility protocols after each donor has vacated the station and before setting up for arrival of a new donor at that station. Ensure that environmental cleaning and disinfection procedures are followed consistently and correctly.
    • Using sterile collection sets for every donation.
    • Preparing the arm for donation with aseptic scrub.
    • Enhanced disinfecting of equipment. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label. See the CDC COVID-19 Disinfection Guidance and general CDC disinfection guidance for more information. Additionally, if a confirmed case is identified, follow the steps in the DHS Disinfection and Cleaning after a COVID-19 case flyer.
    • Providing hand sanitizer for use before entering and throughout the donation appointment.
  • When scheduling appointments, inform the donor to contact you if they develop any COVID-19 symptoms or come into contact with someone diagnosed or suspected of having COVID-19. Also, consider educating donors to refrain from blood donation if they have:
    • Fever (higher than 100.4°F) AND/OR respiratory symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath).
    • Cared for, lived with, or otherwise had close contact with individuals diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19.
    • Been diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19.
  • Monitoring donors upon arrival and monitoring staff.
    • Screen prospective donors at check-in and monitor staff and volunteers for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 infection, as well as exposure risk, such as close contact with a person who has COVID-19 symptoms or who was confirmed to have COVID-19.
    • Take the temperature of prospective donors and exclude individuals with fever (>100.4°F) AND/OR respiratory symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath). If medically able, all donors and employees should wear face masks.
    • Conduct standard staff health assessments prior to all blood drives. Apply the same standards listed above for prospective donors to staff. Staff and visitors who present with fever or respiratory infection symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) should be sent home as soon as possible. Separate them from others and have them don a face mask until they go home. When feasible, identify areas where these individuals can be isolated prior to being sent home.
    • Follow current recommendations for the screening and potential deferral of blood and plasma donors, available in FDA’s Updated Information for Blood Establishments Regarding the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak.
    • Encourage staff to assess themselves each day before leaving for work for symptoms consistent with COVID-19. If experiencing new onset of fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, OR shortness of breath, remain at home and contact the established point of contact (public health authorities or their facility’s occupational health program) for medical evaluation prior to returning to work. If any of the above symptoms develop while at work, cease collection facility activities, notify your supervisor, minimize contact with others in facility, and go home promptly.
  • Social distancing
    • Spacing beds and chairs, where possible, to follow social distancing practices between donors.
    • During this time, blankets typically used by platelet, Power Red, and AB Elite donors at Red Cross blood donation centers will be laundered after each use, which may limit their availability. Donors are encouraged to bring their own blankets, but electric blankets and heating pads are not permitted.
  • Cloth face coverings
    • Require the use of cloth face coverings by donors, staff, and volunteers who are able to wear one safely. Cloth face coverings should NOT be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the covering without assistance. In addition to medical considerations, individuals may not feel safe wearing a mask due to traumatic personal experiences. Individuals may also fear racial profiling or discrimination based on wearing – or not wearing – a face covering. Access to clean, multiple, or appropriate face coverings may also be a barrier. 
  • Additional staff measures
    • Designate a time to meet with your staff and volunteers to educate them on COVID-19 and what they may need to do to prepare.
    • Talk to them about the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and actions blood collection centers are taking to protect them. Consider posting signs in visible areas to educate visitors.
    • Instruct staff and volunteers not to report to work when ill. Implement and reinforce sick leave policies that are nonpunitive, flexible, and consistent with public health guidance.
    • Follow hand hygiene guidance to help prevent person-to-person spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses. Staff should use an alcohol-based hand rub when indicated or wash their hands with soap and water between contacts with different blood donors. If gloves are used, staff should change their gloves and perform hand hygiene between contact with different blood donors. Perform hand hygiene often and properly. CDC has posters with messages and graphics for all ages on appropriate handwashing techniques, which should be posted by all restrooms.
    • With regard to staff safety, the wearing of gloves and hand cleansing are governed by OSHA requirements pertaining to bloodborne pathogens.
If there was a COVID-19 confirmed donor, visitor, or staff member at the blood bank, how can the blood bank proceed?

Clean and disinfect all potentially contaminated surfaces.

  • It is recommended to close off areas used by ill persons and wait as long as practical before beginning cleaning and disinfection to minimize the potential for exposure to respiratory droplets.
  • Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area.
  • Wait, if possible, up to 24 hours before beginning cleaning and disinfection. Cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas (for example, offices, bathrooms, and common areas) used by ill persons, focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces. There is no recommended minimum amount of time that employers should wait after disinfection protocols have been implemented before employees can return to work in that area.

Individuals who were not wearing recommended personal protective equipment and have had contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 should self-quarantine and self-monitor at home for 14 days from when they last had contact with the infected person.

When can an individual recovering from illness return to work and/or donate?

Staff, donors, or visitors with fever or respiratory symptoms should be excluded from the site and separated from the general population until they have completed a period of isolation. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 may return only if the following criteria are met:

  • At least 24 hours has passed since recovery, defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath), and
  • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

Additionally, the CDC provides criteria for individuals that tested positive for COVID-19 related to discontinue home isolation.

Resources:

 Correctional Facilities, Local Jails, and Secure Treatment Centers

How to Prepare
  • Develop a list of key contacts, including your local and state health departments. Discuss procedures for reporting suspected or confirmed cases ahead of time with a contact person at your local health department.
  • Develop contingency plans for increased absenteeism among staff due to their illness or illness within their family.
    • Develop flexible attendance and sick-leave policies.
    • Identify critical job functions and positions, and plan for alternative coverage by cross-training staff members.
  • Plan for supply chain disruptions that could affect both routine as well as medical supplies and equipment.
  • Identify staff, patients, or individuals in custody who could be at higher risk for severe illness, including those who are older or have underlying health conditions, and ensure special measures are taken to protect their health.
  • Ensure adequate cost-free prevention supplies (for example, soap, hand sanitizer) for staff, patients, and people in custody.
  • Monitor up-to-date information on the CDC COVID-19 website and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website.
  • Plan to distribute timely and accurate information to staff, patients, individuals in custody, and the community.
    • Plans should include how to communicate general information about COVID-19 and personal prevention measures, how to provide transparency about the measures being taken in response to the outbreak, and the status of the outbreak (number of illnesses, operational changes, etc.) inside the facility.
    • Identify everyone in your chain of communication (staff, patients, individuals in custody, families and loved ones of patients or individuals in custody, key community partners, etc.) and establish systems for sharing information.
    • Consider platforms, such as hotlines, automated text messaging, and websites, to help disseminate information to those inside and outside your organization.
Reduce the Potential for Transmission from the Community to Inside the Facility
  • Limit visitors to the facility.
    • Restrict visitation of all visitors and nonessential health care personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations, such as an end-of-life situation. In those cases, visitors should be limited to a specific room only.
    • Suspend volunteers’ and outside program providers’ access to the facility. Encourage volunteers to find other ways to deliver their programming. Add volunteers to approved call lists, at the volunteers’ request.
  • Screen visitors and staff for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 infection, as well as exposure risk, such as close contact with a person who has COVID-19 symptoms or who was confirmed to have COVID-19.
    • Screen all incoming patients or individuals in custody for symptoms before they can enter the booking facility. Reject the admission of anyone showing symptoms and divert them to a health care facility.
    • Screen staff and officers for symptoms before allowing them to enter the facility. Consider switching to a system where staff and officer submits forms electronically.
    • Screen all incoming staff on a daily basis.
  • Monitor staff, patients, or individuals in custody for potential illness.
    • Perform regular health checks for symptoms of COVID-19. Fever (higher than 100.4°F) and/or respiratory symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath).
    • Ill individuals should be separated from others until they can be isolated or sent home.
  • Implement strategies to reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses within facilities. Common-sense preventive actions for staff can be highly effective methods of reducing the spread of respiratory illness in the facility population. Educate staff, patients or individuals in custody on:
    • Staying home when sick. CDC has resources, such as posters, with messages for staff about staying home when sick and how to avoid spreading germs.
    • Appropriately covering coughs and sneezes.
    • Cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces—see cleaning and disinfection guidance, below.
    • Washing hands often and thoroughly. CDC has posters with messages and graphics for all ages on appropriate handwashing techniques, which should be posted by all restrooms.
  • Implement social distancing measures, such as:
    • Temporarily restricting movement.
    • Suspending all community work crews.
    • Suspending nonessential transport within or among facilities.
    • Staggering meal and activity times to minimize the number of individuals congregating.
    • Canceling large group events.
    • Requiring individuals to maintain 6 feet of separation, when possible.
    • Making accommodations for phone calls and video conferences and/or visits or non-contact visits, when possible.
  • Limit unnecessary staff movement throughout the facility. When possible, prevent the potential for spread by maintaining staff in specific areas rather than rotating them throughout the facility.
  • Establish plans for patients and individuals in custody to continue social services and education.
    • Explore alternative communication mechanisms.
    • Consider developing a plan to implement distance learning for education.
Cleaning and Disinfection
  • Perform routine environmental cleaning.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
    • If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
  • In areas where an individual with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 has been present, a more stringent environmental cleaning and disinfection protocol should be followed. For more information on cleaning and disinfection, see the DHS Disinfection and Cleaning after a COVID-19 case flyer.
  • Regularly sanitize vehicles used to transfer incarcerated people to court and reduce use of these vehicles to the greatest extent possible.
What to Do If Someone Is Sick
  • Individuals in custody with symptoms of COVID-19 infection should be medically evaluated and tested as soon as possible. If there are no medical staff in the facility, make plans with a local health care provider to provide this care off-site.
  • Patients or individuals in custody who become sick should be given a clean, disposable face mask to wear. Disposable face masks should be reserved for use by individuals who exhibit respiratory symptoms. Staff who have close contact with individuals in these areas should use personal protective equipment (PPE) and:
  • As possible, confine individuals with respiratory symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to individual rooms or a separate area of the facility. As possible, these individuals should have a separate bathroom from the healthy population.
  • Have ill individuals avoid common areas.
  • If you identify any patient or individual in custody with severe symptoms, notify your local public health department and arrange for the individual to receive immediate medical care. If this is an individual with suspected COVID-19, notify the transfer team and medical facility before transfer. Severe symptoms include:
    • Extreme difficultly breathing (not being able to speak without gasping for air)
    • Bluish lips or face
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • Severe, persistent dizziness or lightheadedness
    • New confusion, or can't be woken up
    • New seizure or seizures that won’t stop
  • Staff with respiratory symptoms or confirmed COVID-19 infection should implement home isolation or voluntary quarantine.
  • Staff, patients, or individuals in custody with respiratory symptoms or confirmed COVID-19 infection should be excluded from work and/or separated from the general population until they have completed a period of isolation. Individuals may return only if the following criteria are met:
    • At least 24 hours has passed since recovery, defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath), and
    • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
Education/Health Promotion
  • Implement everyday preventive actions and provide instructions to your staff, patients, or individuals in custody about actions to prevent disease spread. Meet with your staff to discuss plans to help patients or individuals in custody to implement personal preventive measures.
  • Download COVID-19 posters and CDC Fact Sheets and keep your staff and patients or individuals in custody informed about public health recommendations to prevent disease spread and about changes to services that might be related to the outbreak. Messaging may include:
    • Posting signs at entrances and in strategic places that provide instruction on hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, and cough etiquette.
    • Providing educational materials about COVID-19 for non-English speakers, as needed.
    • Encouraging ill staff to stay home (or be sent home if they develop symptoms while at the facility) to prevent transmitting the infection to others.
Resources

 Elder Nutrition Programs

Elder nutrition programs are encouraged to use existing emergency plans to the extent possible and coordinate with local public health departments to plan for alternative approaches for service provision as a result of COVID-19 concerns.

More can be found at: COVID-19: Elder Nutrition Program webpage and on National Resource Center on Nutrition & Aging - Resources and Tools to Support COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness and Response.

 Faith-Based Organizations

Mental and physical health are important during the COVID-19 pandemic, and so is spiritual health. Taking time to be mindful, meditate, and pray are great ways to be spiritual individually or as a family.

Limiting the chances for physical contact in group settings has proven to be the most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Instead of attending spiritual gatherings in person, you can safely view or listen to almost any form of spiritual service through:

  • Television
  • Radio
  • Online video recordings
  • Live streams
  • Podcasts

For additional resources and guidance on how to safely practice or observe your faith, reach out to your spiritual community or its local leaders.

 Farmers Markets

The following guidance is from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and the Department of Health Services (DHS). This guidance was created in partnership with Kristin Krokowski, Commercial Horticulture Educator with the UW-Madison Division of Extension.

Farmers markets in Wisconsin provide a critical food resource, as well as an essential opportunity for Wisconsin farmers to connect with their communities. The following recommendations are intended for farmers markets, vendors, and customers to provide best practices on how to safely operate and interact.

Farmers markets should follow applicable state, local, and tribal health recommendations, and work with their local/tribal public health departments who can help assess the current level of mitigation needed based on the level of COVID-19 transmission in their area, the capacities of their health care systems, and other relevant factors. This is a rapidly evolving situation so please continue to monitor Wisconsin DHS guidelines, as they may change based upon new scientific information and epidemiological data.

Minimum Recommendations for Operations

These are the minimum recommendations from public health experts to help ensure the safety of both customers and vendors at farmers markets:

  • Close all seating intended for consuming food.
  • Prohibit food samples.
  • Self-dispensing unpackaged food areas (including fresh produce) may stay open.
  • Areas that require customers to use tongs or scoops are discouraged; vendors should sanitize the tongs and scoops frequently.
  • Maintain physical distancing between all individuals on the premises to the maximum extent possible. Participants at a market will be most at risk of contracting the virus due to crowding and standing in close proximity for long periods of time.
  • Discourage groups from gathering and long lines from forming by limiting or eliminating music, tabling, activities, promotions, and pets at the market. 
  • Follow existing laws and regulations about sales of food at farmers markets. Remember that the majority of processed foods must be produced at a licensed facility to be legally sold at a farmers market. In addition, a license must be held to legally sell most foods at a farmers market. There are important exceptions to some of these requirements, involving unprocessed fruits and vegetables, honey, apple cider, maple syrup, and canned acidified fruits and vegetables processed in home kitchens under the so-called “Pickle Bill." For more information, please contact a DATCP licensing specialist at 608-224-4923 or datcpdfslicensing@wisconsin.gov.
Additional Best Practices for Consideration

The following are best practices that can help to further minimize the spread of COVID-19 at farmers markets. Each market should proactively take action to provide a safe shopping environment, while considering the unique needs of the community. Not all recommendations will be suitable for all markets.

What can the market do?

  • Pause or delay opening markets if safety measures cannot be adequately maintained.
  • Consider alternative shopping methods, such as:
    • A one-sided drive-thru market.
    • Online or phone ordering with market pick up.
    • Appointments for market shopping to minimize crowds.
  • Ensure all forms of payment including electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards, tokens, or checks can continue to be used at the market and for any alternative shopping methods.
  • Minimize shopper time at the market.
  • Sell prepared foods pre-packaged for consumption off-site.
  • Ensure adequate space for all vendors and customers. Arrange for additional vending space if needed to maintain physical distancing. Limit the number of vendors or alternate market weeks if all vendors cannot be accommodated while maintaining safe practices. 
  • Increase the spacing between vendors to allow customers and vendors to maintain safe distance; spacing of no less than 15 feet between vendors is recommended.
  • Design market layout to minimize crowding and provide a safe distance; consider placing vendors on one side or having vendors face outward or establish a single direction flow of traffic through the market.
  • Provide handwashing stations and/or hand sanitizers for both vendors and customers.
  • Post physical distancing messaging and signage using image-based messaging or translated into the languages used by those in your community and the customers that you serve.
  • Suspend fines for no-show vendors to help prevent sick vendors from coming to the market out of obligation.
  • Communicate with customers and vendors:
    • Let customers know if your market is open, the start date is delayed, or if the market is closed.
    • If your market will remain open, be certain both customers and vendors know what you are doing to protect their safety and what they can do to protect themselves and others while at the market.
    • If your markets will be closed, connect your customers with vendors; customers may be able to pick up products on farm or arrange a local drop-off site for pre-packaged orders.
  • Continue to visit the DHS and CDC websites for updated information on COVID-19.

What can vendors do?

  • Don't come to market while sick or allow sick employees at the market.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Wear a cloth face covering, if you are able to do so safely.
  • Have only one staff person handling payments; although there is little evidence that money, tokens, or credit cards can transmit COVID-19, having one person take money and talk with customers helps limit the contact of the farm staff to possible transmission.
  • Provide single-use bags to customers.
  • Sell pre-weighed packaged items to limit food handling and keep customers moving.
  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces, including tables and tablecloths, before the market.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces regularly.
  • Use barrier tables (an extra 3-foot-wide table between the customer and the product) or put a check out table in front of the product; if customers can't see what is being sold use a chalk or dry erase board to list products.
  • Minimize customer handling of products to the point of sale as much as possible (for example, discourage a customer from handling multiple items while deciding which to purchase, and rather to only handle the exact item they are buying).
  • Wash hands regularly with soap and water.
  • Use hand sanitizer only on visibly clean hands; hand sanitizer is not effective when hands are visibly dirty.
  • Use single-use gloves where needed; if clean, gloves may be worn up to four hours.
  • Maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance from customers and other vendors whenever possible.
  • Remind customers to maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance between each other while waiting their turn and moving about the market.

What can customers do?

  • Use alternative shopping methods if available, such as a drive-thru market, online ordering with market pick up, or direct sales from the farm.
  • Do not go to a market if you are sick.
  • Cover any coughs and sneezes with your elbow.
  • Wear a cloth face covering, if you are able to do so safely.
  • Do not bring children with you to the market if you have child care available.
  • Minimize the number of people coming with you to the market; this helps keep crowds smaller.
  • Use hand sanitizer or handwashing stations frequently, if available.
  • Maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance from other customers and vendors whenever possible.
  • Come to the market at off-peak hours.
  • Follow recommendations for handling and washing fresh fruits and vegetables.
    • COVID-19 is unlikely to be passed on through fresh produce. Even if the virus did survive on your fresh produce, it is likely to end up in the stomach where the low pH environment will inactivate and kill the virus.
    • Do not wash fresh produce in soap or detergent. Soap is not designed for use on food and any residue on fresh produce can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested. The FDA recommends washing fresh fruits and vegetables in cold water. Wash your hands with soap or use a sanitizer after handling your groceries and fresh produce.
Additional Resources

 Holidays

Holidays are often when family, friends, and neighbors come together to celebrate each other and share a meal. In order to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep your friends and family safe, consider the following guidance for your celebrations. We continue to recommend that you avoid gatherings with people you do not live with. Furthermore, travel increases your chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. If you must travel, be informed of the risks involved. Staying home and celebrating with those in your household is the best way to protect yourself and others.

Events to avoid
  • Large gatherings with people from outside your household. 
  • Bars, especially indoor spaces. 
  • Indoor dining at restaurants.
  • Crowded parades or race events. 
  • Shopping in crowded stores.
Ideas to celebrate more safely
  • Share a meal with only the people who live in your household.
  • Prepare meals and treats in a way that doesn't involve contact, this can be a great way to safely share the holidays with family, friends, and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
  • Have a virtual dinner with friends and family. Consider virtually connecting while you cook, while you eat, or both.
  • Shop online rather than in person.
  • Watch sports events, parades, and movies from home.
Make safe choices
  • Avoid travel. Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Be mindful that a COVID-19 test only shows if you have COVID-19 at the moment of your test. If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, it can take up to 14 days to develop symptoms or test positive.
  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Wear a mask when you are in public or in a place with people outside of your household. 
  • Maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance between yourself and others who don't live with you. 
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Use the decision tool for individuals and family to make choices that are best for you and your family. 

For additional considerations and mitigation strategies for staying safe this holiday season, view CDC's website.

Coping and practicing resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic

We are all making changes to our lives, and our holidays, to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. It's important, but it's not easy, and we need to all remember that it's OK to ask for help. Learn how to recognize and manage stress as well as build resilience.

     Opening a Local Community Isolation Center

    The Isolation Site Operational Manual and Isolation Site Considerations Toolkit can help communities prepare to set up an isolation site to serve those who have tested positive for or who are suspected to have COVID-19, and are unable to isolate in their own homes. It covers choosing a site, referring people to the facility, and running the facility.

    These facilities are for symptomatic individuals suspected to be infected with COVID-19 or who have a confirmed case of COVID-19. Individuals will not be permitted to register at the facility unless referred by a medical provider or public health official. Individuals register and stay at the isolation facility on a voluntary basis. Individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should remain at the isolation center until the following criteria are met:

    • At least 24 hours has passed since recovery, defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath), and
    • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

    At any time, either the individual or the facility may terminate the individual’s presence at the site. Those staying at the facility will have wellness checks by phone every four hours during the day and if needed at night.

     Parties and Festivals

    We recommend avoiding large gatherings with people you do not live with. You can host virtual parties or visit our webpage for other ways to celebrate with graduates and other special life moments.

    We recommend that large gatherings, such as festivals, be canceled or postponed. Attending a large gathering like a festival increases the risk of spreading COVID-19. If it is possible, we recommend attending events virtually to build the same sense of community and celebration.

     Play Dates

    Until we reach a very low spread rate in the community, and we are able to test widely and investigate every case, play dates are not advised.

       Potlucks and Barbecues

      Even if the potluck is outside, this is a high-risk activity because sharing commonly touched surfaces with other people makes it easier to spread the virus. Suggest everyone brings their own dishes for themselves or order a separate dish for each person from a local restaurant.

      Have a barbecue or cookout with the people you live with. If you do decide to have a barbecue, limit the gathering to less than 10 people, keep 6 feet apart, wear a facial covering when possible, and wash your hands before and after using shared surfaces.

       Public Restrooms

      This information is for facility managers who are in charge of maintaining public restrooms. 

      If you are in charge of maintaining a public restroom:

      • Ensure there are functional toilets, clean and disinfected surfaces, and handwashing supplies.
      • Post signs outside the restroom to remind people to remain at least 6 feet from one another and to form a line outside the restroom door, if necessary.
      • Follow the CDC’s Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting to develop, implement, and maintain a plan to perform regular cleanings to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
      • Have restrooms cleaned and disinfected frequently (no less than daily) using disinfectants that are effective against the virus that causes COVID-19. In particular, frequently clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces such as faucets, toilets, doorknobs, and light switches.
      • Train employees and provide all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), including PPE needed for the cleaning and disinfecting chemicals being used.
      • Keep public restrooms regularly stocked with soap and paper towels for drying hands, or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and no touch trash cans. If your facility does not have running water, keep hand sanitizer available and well stocked.
      • Consider keeping public restrooms open extended hours so people who are without shelter can have to access to toilets, soap, and water.

      You may also consider making design or environmental changes to increase public safety:

      • Post signs using clear images and simple language (translated into the languages of people who are likely to use the facilities), reminding people to
        • Stay at least 6 feet apart from each other.
        • Wash their hands before and after using the restroom.
        • Close the toilet lid (if present) before flushing.
      • Doors to multi-stall restrooms should be able to be opened and closed without touching handles if feasible. Consider adding a foot pull to the door if one is not already in place. 
      • Place a trash can by the door if the door cannot be opened without touching the handle, so restroom users can cover the handle with a paper towel and easily dispose of it afterward. 
      • Provide paper towels, and disconnect or tape off hand air dryers.
      • Tape off every other stall, urinal, and/or sink.
      • If possible and weather permitting, keep windows open.
      • Consult an HVAC professional about placing restrooms under negative pressure.
      Resources

       Shelters

      This guidance is intended to support response planning by homeless service providers, including overnight emergency shelters, day shelters, and meal service providers.

      It should also be a source of guidance for domestic violence shelters, or similar emergent temporary group living arrangements.

      Planning

      Plan for higher shelter usage during the outbreak.

      • Consult with community leaders, local public health departments, and faith-based or nonprofit organizations about places you can refer clients to if your shelter space is full.
      • Identify short-term volunteers to staff shelters with more usage.
      • Consider the need for extra supplies (for example, food, toiletries) and surge staff, ensuring they have personal protective equipment.

      Develop a list of key contacts, including your local and state health departments.

      Identify a contact person at your local health department and discuss procedures for reporting suspected or confirmed cases.

      Identify health care facilities and alternate care sites where clients with respiratory illness can seek housing and receive appropriate care.

      • Establish points of contact and proactively discuss preferences for coordination.
      • Develop a plan for transporting persons with severe illness to medical facilities.

      Develop contingency plans for increased absenteeism among staff and volunteers due to their illness or illness within their family.

      • Develop flexible attendance and sick-leave policies.
      • Identify critical job functions and positions, and plan for alternative coverage by cross-training staff members.

      Identify staff and clients who could be at higher risk for severe illness, including those who are older or have underlying health conditions, to ensure their needs are taken into consideration.

      Staff and volunteers at high risk of severe COVID-19 infection should not be designated as caregivers for sick clients staying in the shelter.

      Monitor up-to-date information on the CDC COVID-19 website and the DHS COVID-19 website.

      Screen Clients and Monitor Staff/Volunteers

      Screen clients at check-in and monitor staff/volunteers for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 infection, as well as exposure risk, such as close contact with a person who has COVID-19 symptoms or who was confirmed to have COVID-19. The shelter should also post a sign that ensures everyone answers screening questions before entering the facility.

      At check-in, provide any client with respiratory symptoms (cough or fever) with a surgical mask and physically separate them from non-symptomatic clients (see “Physical Space” below).

      Limit visitors to the facility. If anyone has symptoms and is NOT a client needing a place to sleep, they may not enter facility at all. If they are a client and have no place else to go, then they must wear a mask and sleep in a separate area.

      Physical Space/Engineering Controls

      Identify space that can be used to accommodate clients with mild respiratory symptoms and separate them from others.

      • Most persons with COVID-19 infections will likely have mild symptoms and not require hospital care. Furthermore, it might not be possible to determine if a person has COVID-19 or another respiratory illness.
      • Designate a room and bathroom (if available) for clients with mild illness who remain at the shelter and develop a plan for cleaning the room daily.
      • Discuss with local health authorities potential alternative housing sites for individuals with mild illness due to suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

      Ensure that beds/mats are at least 6 feet apart in general sleeping areas, and request clients alternate sleeping orientation (head-to-toe).

      Provide access to fluids, tissues, and plastic bags for proper disposal of used tissues.

      Ensure bathrooms and sinks are consistently stocked with soap and drying materials for handwashing.

      Provide hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol at key points in the shelter, such as at registration, entrances/exits, and eating areas.

      Cleaning and Disinfection

      Perform routine environmental cleaning.

      • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
      • If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.

      In areas where an individual with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 has been present, more stringent environmental cleaning and disinfection protocol should be followed. For more information on cleaning and disinfection see the DHS Disinfection and Cleaning after a COVID-19 case flyer.

      Hygiene and Prevention

      Implement strategies to reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses within facilities. Common-sense preventive actions for staff can be highly effective methods of reducing the spread of respiratory illness in the facility population. Measures include:

      • Staying home when sick. CDC has resources such as posters with messages for staff about staying home when sick and how to avoid spreading germs.
      • Appropriately covering coughs and sneezes.
      • Cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces: see disinfection guidance, below.
      • Washing hands often and thoroughly. CDC has posters with messages and graphics for all ages on appropriate handwashing techniques, which should be posted by all restrooms.
      • Implement social distancing measures.
      Education/Health Promotion
      • Implement everyday preventive actions and provide instructions to your workers about actions to prevent disease spread. Meet with your staff to discuss plans to help clients implement personal preventive measures.
      • Download COVID-19 posters and CDC Fact Sheets and keep your clients and guests informed about public health recommendations to prevent disease spread and about changes to services that might be related to the outbreak. Messaging may include:
        • Posting signs at entrances and in strategic places providing instruction on hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, and cough etiquette.
        • Providing educational materials about COVID-19 for non-English speakers, as needed.
        • Encouraging ill staff and volunteers to stay home (or be sent home if they develop symptoms while at the facility) to prevent transmitting the infection to others.
      Client and Staff Interaction
      • Minimize face-to-face interactions between staff members and clients with respiratory symptoms.
      • If staff are handling client belongings, they should use disposable gloves. Make sure to train any staff using gloves to ensure proper use.
      • Use physical barriers to protect staff who will have interactions with clients with unknown infection status (for example, sneeze guard at check-in or additional table between staff and clients to increase distance).
      Communications Plan

      Create a plan to distribute timely and accurate information to clients and staff.

      • Identify everyone in your chain of communication (staff, volunteers, key community partners, etc.) and establish systems for sharing information.
      • Identify platforms, such as hotlines, automated text messaging, and websites, to help disseminate information to those inside and outside your organization.
      What to Do if Someone is Sick
      • Clients who become sick should be given a clean disposable face mask to wear while staying at the shelter. Disposable face masks should be reserved for use by clients who exhibit respiratory symptoms.
      • As possible, confine clients with respiratory symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to individual rooms
        • Have ill clients avoid common areas.
        • If individual rooms are not available, consider using a large, well-ventilated room.
        • If possible, designate a separate bathroom for sick clients with COVID-19 symptoms.
        • Decisions about whether clients with mild illness due to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should remain in the shelter or be directed to alternative housing sites should be made in coordination with local health authorities.
      • If you identify any client with severe symptoms, notify your public health department and arrange for the client to receive immediate medical care. If this is a client with suspected COVID-19, notify the transfer team and medical facility before transfer. Severe symptoms include:
        • Extremely difficult breathing (not being able to speak without gasping for air)
        • Bluish lips or face
        • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
        • Severe, persistent dizziness or lightheadedness
        • New confusion, or inability to arouse
        • New seizure or seizures that won’t stop
      • Staff/volunteers with respiratory symptoms or confirmed COVID-19 infection should implement home isolation or voluntary quarantine.

      Staff volunteers with symptoms of COVID-19 like illness or confirmed COVID-19 must be excluded from work until they have completed a period of home isolation. They may return to work only if the following criteria are met:

      • At least 24 hours has passed since recovery, defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath), and
      • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
      Resources:

       Severe Weather

      Safely sheltering from a severe weather event should be your top priority, even as COVID-19 is still spreading in our Wisconsin communities. The following recommendations focus on protecting yourself from COVID-19 while seeking short-term shelter for a couple hours due to severe weather, such as a tornado. The CDC also has recommendations for preparing for longer stays in a congregate shelter setting.

      While taking shelter from severe weather, incorporate physical distancing when possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The shelter is used when you are unable to safely shelter in your personal home. Below are additional recommendations to consider during the pandemic when using a short-term shelter:

      Preparation
      • If possible, check that the shelter is open before a severe weather event occurs. Some shelters may be closed during the pandemic, which will require you to adjust accordingly. 
      • When preparing an emergency kit, consider:
        • Prescription medicine filled by mail-order delivery or curbside pickup. If these options are available, consider using it to limit your in-person visits to the pharmacy. 
        • Hand sanitizer and two cloth face coverings for each person.
          Note: Face covers should not be used by children under the age of 2, people having trouble breathing, or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the mask without assistance. 
      • Place the kit in an easily accessible location that can be quickly grabbed to take with you.
      Going to and while at the shelter
      • Make sure your emergency kit includes hand sanitizer and cloth face coverings. If it isn’t easily accessible, do not let it delay seeking shelter. The priority is to seek shelter immediately.
      • Once inside the shelter, put on a cloth face covering. 
      • Practice physical distancing, if space exists. If the space exists, then stay at least 6 feet (about two-arms’ length) from people who don’t live with you.
      • Follow CDC COVID-19 preventive actions. Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer, cover coughs and sneezes, and avoid sharing food and drink or other items with those who don’t live with you.
      • Avoid contact with high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs and countertops, as possible. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol after you touch these surfaces.
      Sheltering away from home

      In some instances, a severe weather emergency may happen with little to no warning while you are away from home, requiring you to shelter and seek safety at your current location.

      • Before going out to a store or restaurant, check the weather forecast. If severe weather is anticipated, consider staying home or ordering take-out or delivery instead.
      • Take a cloth face covering and hand sanitizer with you to keep yourself and others safe from the spread of COVID-19. 
      • Follow the recommendations above for "Going to and while at the shelter."
      Recommendations for operators of a short-term shelter
      • It is important for shelters that can maintain a safe environment to remain open during this time to provide protection from severe weather.
      • Store a supply of hand sanitizer and cloth face coverings for people in the shelter.
      • Provide a designated area to put on cloth face coverings after entry into shelter, if possible. This area should not block or hinder people’s entrance into the shelter.
      • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as handrails, doorknobs, and countertops. Limit the use of shared items as much as possible, and clean and disinfect any remaining shared items between uses.
      Resources

       Thrift Shops, Resale, and Donations

      Given the state of COVID-19 transmission in Wisconsin, DHS recommends you not engage in public or private gatherings of people that are not part of a single household or living unit and limit your shopping trips to essential trips only. All individuals, businesses, and communities considering participating in thrift shopping, resale, or donation collection should also refer to public health recommendations from their local/tribal health department.

      These guidelines outline best practices and considerations for making donations, selling, and shopping at thrift stores or other resale businesses when public health recommendations indicate it is safe to do so. The same strategies also apply to organizations that accept donations and distribute clothes and household items. If you are at high risk for COVID-19, it is strongly recommended that you remain at home, to the extent possible, and take extra precautions when you do go out.

      Thrift and resale stores should also refer to WEDC general guidelines for all businesses and guidelines for the retail sector.

      Best Practices for Everyone

      Whether you are making a donation, are an employee who handles items that have been donated, or are a thrifty shopper, the following practices can help limit the spread of COVID-19:

      • Stay at least 6 feet away from other people, as much as possible. 
      • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. When soap and running water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
      • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
      • Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or use the inside of your elbow. Immediately throw used tissues in the trash and wash your hands.
      • Wear a cloth face covering over your mouth and nose in public settings where it is difficult to stay 6 feet away from others. If you have the coronavirus but don’t know it, covering your nose and mouth can help protect others. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is unable to remove the covering without assistance. Additionally, some people may choose to wear or not wear a cloth face covering out of fear of racial profiling or discrimination. A cloth face cover is not a substitute for physical distancing or other preventive measures.
      Considerations for Businesses, Organizations, and Employees

      The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has two publications on preparing workplaces and keeping employees and customers safe: General Guidance for All Businesses and Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19: Retail Stores. These recommendations also apply to thrift stores and resale shops. 

      As with other retail stores, products that have been worn or tried on by a customer but not purchased (such as clothing or jewelry) should be laundered, sanitized, or removed from circulation for 72 hours before being returned to inventory. Grab bins or other displays where customers must handle or sift through items are discouraged, as such arrangements frequently bring people into close contact with one another and make disinfection impractical.

      Making a Donation

      To donate items:

      • Contact or check the website of the business or organization ahead of time to make sure they are accepting donations and the types of items you wish to donate.
      • Before making any donation, clean the item according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
      • Ideally, make arrangements for a curbside drop-off where you do not come into contact with anyone.
      Accepting Donations

      In addition to the WEDC recommendations, stores and organizations that accept donations can:

      • Provide proper protective equipment to the staff and volunteers who handle new donations. Anyone handling donations before they have been cleaned or disinfected should wear a face mask or cloth face covering and disposable gloves.
      • Store donations for 72 hours before cleaning and disinfecting.
      • Wash clothing in the hottest water recommended.
      • Clean and disinfect other items according to manufacturer guidelines.
      What can shoppers do?
      • Stay home if you are sick.
      • Shop alone or with as few people as possible.
      • Do not handle items unless you intend to purchase them.
      • Wash/sanitize hands often; bring wipes to clean visibly soiled hands, then use sanitizer when they are clean.
      • Maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance from other people whenever possible.
      Resources

       Youth Sports

      DHS is working to update our guidance for youth sports, grades 5 and under. We anticipate that this guidance will mirror the framework that DHS and WIAA developed for sporting activities in older children and youth. The goal is to have this updated guidance available very soon.

      Last Revised: January 15, 2021

       The information on this page contains Department of Health Services (DHS) recommendations, some of which may be required based on state or local orders. Please contact your local or tribal health department for more information on COVID-19 related public health orders in your community.