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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.

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.

ImageIn St. Croix County, Wis., the pandemic seemed far away for a long time. It had five virus cases by the end of March.
Credit…Erinn Springer for The New York Times

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Julie Bosman contributed reporting.

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