Addressing COVID-19 in Marathon County A Public Dialogue about Our Future

Marathon County is working with WIPPS Research Partners on a Public Deliberative Inquiry Process to engage county residents in meaningful and civil dialogue to “lower the temperature” around the highly contentious issue of reducing the spread of COVID-19. This initiative will provide a mechanism for productively addressing long-term strategies to mitigate the spread and impact of COVID-19 and potential future pandemics. We are at a particularly challenging moment in our nation, state and county regarding the effects of COVID-19 on public health as well as the health of our economy. Rather than bind community residents together, the pandemic has cleaved communities, institutions and even families—mirroring an unhealthy polarization generally in society. As a result, citizens lack trust in information sources about the spread and impact of COVID-19, in government attempts to address the pandemic, and in one another. Trust is a necessary foundation for any effective interaction between government and the governed, between decision-makers and stakeholders, as well as the foundation for effective collective action regarding such fundamental issues as our physical and economic health and wellbeing. This project is designed to begin a process of restoring public trust in our institutions and in fellow citizens. This project focuses on a deliberative inquiry process in Marathon County, Wisconsin, culminating in county-wide public deliberations around the issue of addressing and reducing the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19.