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Health experts urge hunters to prevent COVID-19 on eve of hunting season

Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 6:14 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2020 at 6:47 PM CST
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OCONTO FALLS, Wis. (WBAY) - As hunters make their way into the woods this weekend, health officials urge them to continue practicing social distancing.

Health officials say the spread of COVID-19 in Oconto County is at a critical level with 35 to 40 percent of coronavirus tests coming back positive over a two-week period.

The eve of hunting season often brings social gathering. Hunting season is a time to get together with friends and family who may have been apart to swap deer stories and share food and drink.

Those types of activities are what health officials are concerned about.

Health officials say it’s not part of the culture to wear masks and social distance, especially as people head up to deer camp.

“If you look at the general population, it hasn’t taken off,” Oconto County Public Health Officer Debbie Konitzer said about wearing masks, “and that’s why the numbers [of infections] are so high.”

The health department encourages others to hunt and gather with people from their household and maintain a physical distance from others and bring a mask and hand sanitizer on the hunt.

“I really, really make the call to action that people care about each other enough to take the behaviors and implement them so we can make a difference in our communities,” Konitzer implored them.

Meanwhile, people were still out gathering at the Antique Bar in downtown Oconto Falls.

“I thought the buck contest might be a little slower this year with all the COVID going on, but it really isn’t, it’s filing up really fast. I’m kind of excited for all the hunters,” said Barb Salscheider, who owns the bar.

The bright orange is also a welcome sight down the street at the the Coachlight Motel, where there’s no vacancy.

“Business this spring was pretty slow, and over the course of the summer it picked up... and then all of a sudden deer season hits and we’re swamped,” said owner Peter Bruesh.

He and his wife who run the motel say they’ve stepped up their cleaning measures since the pandemic started and point to the fact that guests have private/outside access to their rooms, making them feel more comfortable.

“Pretty much the entire week we’re full right through Thanksgiving. Usually thanksgiving night there’s a few openings, but this year we’re all full,” said Bruesh.

Back at the Antique Bar, Salscheider says she’s been fortunate with her clients and hasn’t had any of her staff contract the virus. She also says people have been good about wearing masks while inside.

“They’ve been very careful. A lot come in with masks, they take them off when they come to the bar, but they’ve been very good about it. So, I’m not too worried right now,” said Salscheider.

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