Ben Meyer

Special Topics Correspondent

Ben took the newly-created position of Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR in September of 2019.  He has a specific focus through his grant-funded position: reporting on water and water resources in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  Through his on air and online reporting, Ben explores water as a necessity for life and as an identity for the region.

Prior to joining the WXPR team, Ben spent more than seven years serving in several roles at WJFW-TV in Rhinelander.

Originally from Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, Ben is a graduate of UW-Madison. He lives in Rhinelander with his wife, Erika.  Outside of work, Ben is an avid Brewers and Badgers fan.  He enjoys doing outdoor projects, running, and competing in triathlons.  Ben is also a WIAA basketball official and calls play-by-play for Rhinelander Hodags sports.

Oneida County is telling people with a second or seasonal home within its borders not to visit.

It’s also telling snowbirds not to come back to the county during the coronavirus outbreak.

If people have already returned, the county wants them to self-isolate for two weeks.

In a release, the county pointed out it has one of the highest populations of older adults in Wisconsin and “very limited healthcare infrastructure.”

Jacquart Fabric Products

People know Ironwood-based Jacquart Fabrics for making the familiar Stormy Kromer hats.

But some restaurants and bars in the area now know the company for making vinyl signs, too.

Both Michigan and Wisconsin have a ban on in-person dining in response to the coronavirus.

Jacquart Fabrics is offering to make free signs with its vinyl printer advertising carryout food.

CDC

A person has tested positive for COVID-19 in Marathon County, the closest confirmed occurrence of the disease to the Northwoods to date.

The Marathon County Public Health Department confirmed the positive test Friday morning.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Pastor Jeremy Vander Galien’s voice echoed through empty halls of Pine Grove Community Church in Rhinelander on Thursday afternoon.

There weren’t very many people in the building, and there will be few on Sunday during worship time.

“We’ll have eight people in the building.  Someone running the livestream and sound.  We have two pastors.  We’ll both be here.  Then, we have four musicians,” he said.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

State and federal health leaders believe stopping gatherings of people is a key to slowing the spread of coronavirus.

You’ve heard it called “social distancing.”

But jails can’t avoid having dozens of people together in a small space.

Oneida County Sheriff Grady Hartman said people in jail tend to be more vulnerable to disease, often because of risky life choices they’ve made.

This week, his department has been trying to lower the jail population by releasing nonviolent offenders, like those in jail for failure to pay child support.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

At Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church in Rhinelander last Sunday, pianos and voices paired for the song “Down to the River to Pray.”

It was the final hymn at Mass, and songs about prayers at the river were just one of the many references to faith and water at Catholic Masses across the country.

The Sunday Gospel, taken from John, Chapter 4, told of Jesus and a woman at a well.

CDC

Wisconsin now has 106 patients testing positive for COVID-19, based on new numbers released Wednesday afternoon.

Nearly 1,600 people have been tested, meaning the rate of positives is about six percent.

Milwaukee County has the most cases, at 47.

State health workers have found evidence of community spread in Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Dane counties.

The closest positive test to the Northwoods was in Wood County.

Holy Rosary Parish.

Catholics across northern Wisconsin will have no Mass to attend under a directive from James Powers, the Bishop of the Diocese of Superior.

In a letter this week, Powers called off masses due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

In the letter, Powers called the celebration of the Eucharist, or bread and wine, the “indispensable source and summit” of Christian life.

That’s why, Powers said, suspending Masses was something he took very seriously.

Dan Dumas/Kim Swisher Communications

Badger Minerals will have to wait to get an exploratory drilling permit from Oneida County.

The Michigan-based company, a subsidiary of a Canadian mining firm, hopes to drill exploration holes in the town of Schoepke, near the Wolf River.

Beneath the ground is a deposit which may contain metals like zinc, copper, lead, gold, and silver.

The Oneida County Planning and Development Committee was set to vote on an exploratory drilling permit Wednesday.

But that meeting was cancelled due to coronavirus concerns.

Forest County Sheriff's Office

A 29-year-old Crandon man is in the Forest County Jail after deputies found fentanyl, crack cocaine, and marijuana at his home.

Kole McGeshick was arrested Monday morning and faces several felony charges, including intending to sell the drugs.

McGeshick remains in jail on a 25-thousand dollar cash bond.

State of Wisconsin

In the most drastic move by state government yet, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers directed a ban on gatherings of ten or more people Tuesday afternoon to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The order comes one day after Evers had banned gatherings of 50 or more people.

Exceptions exist for things like childcare, law enforcement, and medical facilities.

A new Facebook page aims to connect people looking to volunteer in the Northwoods with people needing help during the COVID-19 outbreak.

It’s called Northwoods Help During Coronavirus.

Local businesswoman Kim Swisher set up the group on Tuesday.

She’s hoping it will be a place to match people interested in lending a hand with those who need it.

All Nicolet College classes will be suspended through Sunday so the school can convert to online learning in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Classes will resume next Monday with an online learning model.

The college announced online learning will continue through the rest of the spring semester, which ends Apr. 24.

All Nicolet College events, both on campus and off, are cancelled through Apr. 24.

“Events with more than 50 anticipated in attendance are cancelled or postponed until at least May 11,” the college wrote on its website.

Aside from its childcare operation, the YMCA of the Northwoods will close all operations on Tuesday.

In a press release, CEO Ryan Zietlow cited government rules, school closures, and demand on medical professionals in making the call.

Instead, Zietlow wrote the organization will focus its efforts on childcare to support medical staff in the community.

Pixabay

The director of the Vilas County Aging and Disability Resource Center said she was torn all weekend about closing her senior meal sites across the county.

On one hand, the meals serve as an important nutritional and social resource for the elderly.

But the gatherings could also be dangerous as the COVID-19 virus spreads.

On Monday, ADRC Director Sue Richmond said Vilas County will close its in-person senior meal services starting Thursday while keeping up its home delivery program.

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