When the Pandemic Came to Rural Wisconsin

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When the pandemic struck, Patty Schachtner was glued to the news — she watched closely for updates coming out of coronavirus-ravaged China and Italy. She thought about what she would do if the virus hit her corner of the world in rural Wisconsin.

Her interest was a result of her unusual dual role. She was both a Democratic member of Wisconsin’s State Senate and chief medical examiner for St. Croix County.

Patty tried to remain several steps ahead of the spread, preparing for the worst. It was an approach that met with pushback from some in her conservative community.

Now the worst-case scenario has arrived — cases and deaths are on the rise in the state.

Over the course of the pandemic, Patty spoke with The New York Times. We chart her journey through those months and what happened when the pandemic reached her family.

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On today’s episode

Julie Bosman, who covers the Midwest for The New York Times, spoke with Patty Schachtner over several months about how she was experiencing the pandemic.

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Background reading

The pandemic was a faraway nightmare when Patty Schachtner began preparing. However, no amount of preparation could ready her for what followed.

The recent coronavirus outbreak in Wisconsin has escalated rapidly. Here’s our case tracker for the state.

As coronavirus cases rise across the United States, death rates have been rising far more slowly. But there are signs that this is shifting. Last week, Wisconsin was among a number of states that recorded more deaths in the previous seven days than in any other week of the pandemic.

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Julie Bosman contributed reporting.

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