As the coronavirus pandemic continues to prove a financial hardship for many families, WAFER Food Pantry is offering weekly food packages through the end of May.
Food packages consist of canned goods, bakery items, dairy products, frozen meat and produce. Families in need are encouraged to pick up food packages so they are able to put stimulus funds or federal benefits towards other essential needs or expenses.
Prior to the pandemic, WAFER provided food packages to around 1,500 families per month in La Crosse, Bangor, Rockland, Holmen, Onalaska, Mindoro and West Salem. However, in the past year, WAFER says, “We are experiencing brand new families requesting service for the first time ever, patrons returning who haven’t needed food assistance in two to three years, increased barriers to securing food, and multiple requests for food packages per month.”
Food Packages can be picked up during between 10 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Monday through Friday, or 4 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Patrons should go to the side door on the Sumner Street entrance of WAFER, located at 403 Causeway Blvd.
For more information, visit https://waferlacrosse.org/covid-19 or call 608-782-6003
A survey of 353 UW-La Crosse and Viterbo University students found around 75% were willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, believing it safe for themselves and effective in protecting others.
Conducted by researchers from Gundersen Health System, the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health's Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine, and UWL and Viterbo University students and staff, the study surveyed the students between mid-February to early March. About two-thirds of the students surveyed were from UWL, and all four years were represented.
Findings showed 76% of respondents intended to be vaccinated, with 81% believing the vaccine will protect them and 82% feeling the vaccine will protect others. In addition, 78% said they think the COVID-19 vaccine will be beneficial in “getting things back to normal.”
Surveyed students were not provided resources or data to help inform their answers, rather going off their current arsenal of information and other influences. Many found their views on the vaccine shaped by family members, health care workers, and high risk community members. Of minimal impact on views were social media and friends.
Lead facilitator of the study, Dan Duquette, chair of the UW-L Health Education and Health Promotion Department, said he wasn’t particularly surprised by the survey findings, but the percentage of students interested in the vaccine was higher than he anticipated.
Interestingly, the number of those looking to get the coronavirus vaccine was higher than those who had actually gotten their flu shot during the most recent flu season, at 66%.
Matthew Braley, associate professor of the Viterbo Ethics, Culture and Society Department, says as many students at the university are going into nursing or other health care fields, with some already employed as certified nursing assistants, they have done a great deal of “heavy lifting” during the pandemic, on academic, personal and professional levels.
“The overwhelmingly positive response of students’ intentions to get the vaccine suggests that the motivation for many of our students is to protect others,” Braley says. “We see that college students, like the rest of the population, hold views on the vaccine that are evolving, shaded with ambivalence, and are reflective of the very challenges that have made the vaccine rollout so complicated.”
Megan Messa, Viterbo nursing student and CNA, has seen the effects of the pandemic up close while working at a local long term care facility, and as such was eager to be a part of the survey project. Nicole Steinborn, Viterbo dietetics student, was excited to work with the “brilliant professionals” from the UW Madison School of Medicine and Public Health-Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine and physicians including Dr. Kim Lansing of Gundersen.
“It’s fun to see them work their way through the twists and turns of applied public health research, and to watch the collaboration between students and professors from the different institutions,” Lansing says. “It’s a great honor to be able to work together to help enhance the health of our community.”
Of the high number of students intending to get the coronavirus vaccine, Lansing says that a motivating force was “to put it bluntly, they are so over this pandemic,” and vaccination is one of the greatest factors in a return to the days of maskless outings and large gatherings.
Laura Wiedemann, Viterbo dietetics student, agrees the vaccine is a “light at the end of the tunnel,” while Amanda Schoenecker, UWL public health student, wanted to work on the study in an effort to show college students are excited to be part of the solution in ending the pandemic.
Around the start of the 2020 semester, COVID-19 cases surged, with the majority attributed to those 18-24, and Schoenecker says “a lot of students were targeted in a negative way.” By early winter, cases had declined in that demographic and became more prevalent in the middle age to senior citizen range. Individuals 20 to 49, Lansing notes, are most likely to spread COVID-19.
More breakdowns and analysis of the study are pending, and Duquette notes, “Part of the follow-up messaging needs to point out that most college students intend to get vaccinated — that may inspire some fence-sitters to roll up their sleeves, too.”
All college students are currently eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine, with the state opening eligibility to all persons 16 and older April 5. Vaccination appointments are available on the UWL campus.
For more information on vaccine appointments, visit https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/vaccine-registry.htm or call 844-684-1064.
All individuals 16 and older are now able to schedule COVID-19 vaccination appointments, and Gundersen Health System and Mayo Clinic Health System urge patients to get their shots wherever they are most quickly able to get in, and to get whichever incarnation is available.
Currently approved vaccines include the two dose versions from Pfizer and Moderna, and the single-shot version from Johnson and Johnson. All have proven safe and effective in preventing death, hospitalizations and severe COVID-19 illness, Gundersen notes.
Gundersen and Mayo notify patients via online patient portal, phone or mailed letter when they are able to make an appointment for vaccination.
Parents or guardians of Gundersen patients age 16-17, who are only eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, must call 608-775-6829 to schedule their child’s vaccination appointment. Gundersen patients wishing to be vaccinated at the Onalaska clinic can call 608-775-6829. Appointments are also available at Gundersen Critical Access Hospitals and regional locations.
Mayo patients unable to schedule their vaccine appointment online can call 608-392-7400. In addition to La Crosse, Mayo offers vaccinations at its Prairie du Chien, Sparta and Arcadia facilities.
As of Monday, Gundersen among its facilities had fully inoculated over 23,000 patients, and Mayo across its area locations had given over 35,000 single doses.
To schedule a vaccine appointment through the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, at sites including the Community Vaccine Clinic at UW-La Crosse, visit https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/vaccine-registry.htm or call 844-684-1064.
Appointments can be scheduled online at Walgreens or by calling your preferred store.
Appointments at Weber Health Logistics can be made by visiting https://hipaa.jotform.com/weberhealthlogistics/vaccine.
Growing up, Chauncy and Keonte Turner said they would discuss politics at the breakfast table before heading off to school.
“We’ve always grown up in a political household,” Keonte said. “Every morning there was an argument, or a debate rather, a very spicy one, about anything and everything.
“We grew up, every morning before we got on our bus stops, hearing about current affairs, hearing what was going on in our time,” he said. “It’s always been a thing for us to just pay attention.”
Now the two brothers, who originally grew up in Milwaukee and are the oldest of nine children, just finished their campaigns for side-by-side La Crosse Common Council seats this spring, appearing on Tuesday’s ballot.
Keonte, 30, faced incumbent Doug Happel for District 12, and Chauncy, 29, faced Mark Neumann, who recently ran against longtime Rep. Ron Kind in last August’s Democratic primary, for District 13.
The “Turner Bros,” a duo name that Chauncy said he’s always wanted to coin for them, have lived in La Crosse now for nearly a decade and have grown to become extremely involved, serving on the likes of the Human Rights Commission, La Crosse Board of Education and more.
This desire to serve has always been within them, they both said, but that moving to La Crosse and sensing that they were in the right place at the right time to make an impact set them on the path to serve.
“Me and my brother have always been servant leaders before we know what a servant leader was,” Keonte said.
Keonte transferred to Viterbo University in 2009, where he learned the more concrete pieces of servant leadership and said he realized he could put that into action in La Crosse.
“I had noticed that I was just living. I was living, I was paying my bills, I was sufficient. And I just started to say, ‘You know what? I’m going to have to do something for other people,’” he said.
“After college I could have went right back to Milwaukee and did exactly what I’m doing here there, and had been completely happy with it,” Keonte said. “But I saw that there was a little wrinkle in time, where I was like, ‘You know what? I probably would be doing best if I stayed here and helped out pushing forward La Crosse.”
Chauncy moved to La Crosse shortly after Keonte, after experiencing homelessness in Milwaukee and seeing the life his older brother had built for himself in the Coulee Region. He was able to land on his feet, and after moving around a bit, has now settled down in La Crosse, where he thinks the city has a unique opportunity for change.
“It was just about helping the young man that was once myself, the one who just desperately wanted to prove himself, desperately wanted a shot,” Chauncy said of getting more involved in the community.
“I thought about the rare opportunity that this city of La Crosse has. We’re in a space and time, we’re in a city that’s just big and just small enough to be able to make changes that allow us to set the bar for how inclusive, socially and economically, a city can be for everybody it represents,” Chauncy said. “That is a passion of my heart, that is why I do everything I do.”
The brothers decided to run for La Crosse Common Council independently, they said, recalling telling each other while singing at their church they helped launch.
“I think one of those nights it was like, ‘Oh yeah we’re running! You’re running? I’m running!’ And then we ran,” Keonte said with a laugh. “And then we went to singing.”
“I think we both on our own, were like, let’s try and contribute to this thing that we’re part of in a more concrete way,” Chauncy said.
“There’s this idea we have in our head all the time with ‘The Turner Bros.’ You know, him and I getting together, crusaders for the voiceless here in the city,” Chauncy said.
Deciding to be leaders in the community is hard, both said, as they feel the pressure to be the “token” Black voice, sometimes the first one, in different groups and settings — but that it’s worth it.
“I got very, very involved in the community because I saw that the community needed people to get involved, especially people of color,” Keonte said.
“Being in a predominantly white space, it is a little daunting, as well as, I guess, it makes you a little bit more spirited to say, ‘You know what, this is going be the first. I’m going to be the cowboy at the top of the hill. I might get a few arrows, but it needs to be done,’” he said.
But he said it’s “important” for them to put their “heads on a chopping block.
“I’ll tell you, it’s not a very desired position, city hall,” Keonte said. “People will tell you what you’re doing wrong, they will often not tell you what you’re doing right. This is a very, it’s a gut-wrenching process, and it’s very brave of everyone running, and I thank everyone for running.”
The two said they’ve seen the backlash individuals can receive when serving public office, pointing to a recent incident where a citizen stepped down from the Criminal Justice Management Council after facing online harassment from the local police union.
“I think the biggest thing about me and Chauncy is that we’re extremely passionate about clocking out that noise, not hearing that noise,” Keonte said. “Because I’m pretty sure there are comments on Facebook — I haven’t read them. The most important thing to me is just to be here for this city.”
Despite being cautious of backlash, especially as two Black men running for office in a predominantly white city, voters on the campaign trail have been welcoming, which has been energizing during a divisive time.
“The support has just been crazy. I was just having breakfast a couple Sundays ago, and some gentleman who worked there just kind of hopped up and said, ‘Hey I heard you were running for city council, and I want to help in any way that I can,’” Chauncy said. “So I gave him some signs and he’s going to pass them out to his neighbors.”
During their campaigns, the two have leaned on each other for support, sharing policy ideas, contacts, photographer, helping hand out campaign literature, keeping each other on top of deadlines and more.
“We sit in my living room and we just talk about the comprehensive plan,” Keonte said as an example.
They’ve worked with other candidates on the ballot this spring, too — which is all emblematic, they said, of the cooperative community La Crosse is.
“If I have noticed anything about La Crosse, things get done collaboratively,” Keonte said.
Still, despite how similar the Turner brothers are, they both are passionate about different things, and said that those individual “focuses” shine when talking about what they want to do in city hall.
Keonte, who is just ending his tenure on the La Crosse Board of Education and is the community family and youth director for the La Crosse YMCA, said that youth is his “life,” and he hopes to focus on library services, public transit and more.
For Chauncy, who is serving as chair of the city’s Human Rights Commission, his biggest goal is to see a more equitable community.
“This is where my heart is, this is where I come alive,” he said.
Results from Tuesday’s election are not finalized before the Tribune’s print time. Visit LaCrosseTribune.com for live results, and view them in Thursday’s print edition.