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Novel ideas outmaneuver a novel virus
Novel ideas outmaneuver a novel virus

Novel ideas outmaneuver a novel virus

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The coronavirus pandemic has challenged Wisconsin in ways we haven’t experienced in our lifetimes.

But creative people are finding safe ways to move forward.

A good example was Madison’s emergency order last week allowing struggling restaurants to move more tables outside onto the sidewalks and parking stalls so diners can eat a safe distance apart. The city may go further by closing underused streets Downtown to allow for even more space. That will help offset the 25% occupancy limit Dane County is enforcing for eateries indoors.

It’s a smart idea to jump-start businesses shut down for months because of COVID-19, the easily spread respiratory disease that has infected more than 18,000 and killed nearly 600 across Wisconsin.

We’d go even further. How about taking the buses off State Street and turning the entire stretch of pavement between the state Capitol and the UW-Madison campus into a public promenade? That would create lots of extra space for bars, restaurants, retailers and the public.

Here’s another ingenious move that led to a safe spring election in Madison without long lines at the polls: Besides encouraging most people to vote from home using absentee ballots, Madison’s clerk recruited laid-off bartenders — who tend to be younger and less susceptible to COVID-19 — to fill in for older poll workers who didn’t feel safe staffing in-person voting stations.

It was a novel workaround that allowed our democracy — which is essential — to proceed without recklessly jeopardizing public health.

Wisconsin and our nation need more good ideas to fight and outmaneuver this disease until better treatment or a vaccine are developed. If you know of a community, business or group that’s figured out an innovative way to get things done, please let us know. We want to share the best ideas with the rest of the state.

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When two Sun Prairie neighbors — Joe Lahti and Greg Thomson — were restless at home during the height of the pandemic, they organized a “Jump Around” with neighbors. They jumped up and down in their driveways to the 1992 House of Pain hit song “Jump Around,” mimicking what happens at Wisconsin football games at the end of the third quarter in Camp Randall stadium. It was a fun diversion that grew into a statewide weekly event. More than 100 radio stations played the song at the same time Saturday afternoons, with as many as 120,000 participants. They even raised money for charity.

When Brat Fest canceled its giant festival last weekend because of COVID-19, organizers launched a virtual sale of brats and craft beer to raise money for 125 nonprofits that otherwise would have lost their biggest fundraiser of the year. So far, donations have reached $70,000.

In Sturgeon Bay, about 180 miles northeast of Madison in Door County, a boat procession Saturday replaced graduation ceremonies. Each graduate was called to a pier at a local marina and, after receiving a diploma, boarded a boat for a short ride in the bay.

Tell us about the clever ideas you’ve seen or heard about across Wisconsin. Email us at We’ll highlight in a future editorial all the inventive ways people are carrying on their lives despite the pandemic.

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