My name is Dr. Darrell L. Williams and I am the proud administrator of the Division of Wisconsin Emergency Management for the state of Wisconsin. The mission of Wisconsin Emergency Manage-ment Agency (WEM) is to build capabilities and coordinate resources to support a safe and resilient Wisconsin.

WEM is the lead state agency charged with coordinating the state’s planning, preparedness, mitiga-tion, response and recovery efforts for natural and man-caused disasters. During this difficult time, I want you to be encouraged and know our motto: “Tough times don’t last but tough people do!”

In this letter, I want to write to you about COVID-19 and some of the actions we have taken to ad-dress this pandemic. Like most countries and states, COVID-19 came unexpectedly and unan-nounced to Wisconsin. In response, on March 16, the State Emergency Operations Center was ele-vated to a Level One. In fact, Level One is our highest level and reserved for times when all state agencies and local partners are needed to respond to a situation. State agencies, county emergen-cy managers and our public/private partners have been working with us 24 hours a day to develop plans of action and to implement best practices to keep Wisconsinites safe.

Across the nation and within our great state of Wisconsin, several people have died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our most heartfelt condolences go out to the families of those who have succumb to this virus and more deeply to those who died alone and in silence. In the mist of these circumstances, we continue to push on to make progress toward efforts that will save lives today and in the future. 

A few of our strategic efforts include: Distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to medi-cal personnel, law enforcement, fire fighters, and other critical professionals that are at risk of be-ing exposed to COVID-19 through their roles as essential workers. We are truly grateful to have these workers on the front lines helping to save lives. Furthermore, we are working closely and in a coordinated effort with our hospitals and medical professionals to assess and address their needs as they work hard to provide the care that you may need during these difficult times.We have im-proved communication plans and efforts with counties and tribes to ensure the best possible out-comes for citizens in this state.

During these difficult times, I want to stress the importance of:
  • Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Social distancing during this time is very important. Please stay at least 6 feet away from others, when possible.
  • Properly cleaning your work area and high touch points, such as doorknobs, desktops, etc.
  • Also, if you know someone who tested positive for COVID-19, please do not leave them alone. Stay in contact with them via the various methods of communication. Do not make them feel alone or abandoned. Your support and or your words of encouragement could mean the difference between life and death to this person.
  • Please see the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website for more preventative in-formation.

We are working with volunteer organizations and other key stakeholders to address a myriad of is-sues in the wake of COVID-19.   Likewise, we are responding to and filling requests from thousands of people throughout the state. In addition to these efforts, we are also planning for and respond-ing to other natural disasters that have previously occurred and that most likely will occur in the coming months in the state of Wisconsin. 

While we are working to combat this horrific pandemic at the state level, we need everyone to do their part at the local level as well. We need every Wisconsinite to stay at home and to follow the guidance that has been put out by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and to follow the Executive Order given by the Gov. Tony Evers. I know how difficult this may be but we are sensitive to the strain this may cause you and your family, but these measures are necessary to save lives.  

When COVID-19 made its initial impact, I heard rumors that African Americans could not get COVID-19. As you are well aware, that rumor is simply not true! COVID-19 does not discriminate. In Mil-waukee, like in many other cities, the data has indicated that a disproportionate number of posi-tive COVID-19 cases and COVID-19 deaths are African American from both genders and various age groups. As well, such disproportionality exposes the educational and health care disparities that exist and thereby place Africans Americans at higher risk. Although the African American population has been the most impacted, it serves as a shining example of what impacts one directly, impacts us all indirectly. Therefore, we must arm ourselves with accurate information and follow the guide-lines extended by state and local officials. 

Like you, we are concerned about our families and loved ones. However, someone must do the heavy lifting. Over my 29 years of military service and 25 plus years as an educational leader, it was a pleasure to serve our nation and our children in the past, and it is my honor to serve you and the citizens of Wisconsin today. 

More so, over the past several weeks, I have had the honor of serving with first responders in the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) and throughout the state who have showed up “On Time, On Task, and On a Mission” to combat COVID-19. They have put their lives on hold, and many have put their lives on the line to ensure the safety of other Wisconsinites. We are extremely grateful to all of the state agencies who have responded and continue to serve in the SEOC and other locations around the state during these challenging times. As well, we are extremely indebt-ed to all the businesses and individuals who have stepped up to the plate to support those impact-ed by this pandemic. It should be comforting to know that when the Book is finally written and the scroll of courage and heroism is read, your names will proudly and deservingly be among them.

During these unprecedented times, the good people of Wisconsin can be rest assured that we con-tinue to work hard and make the best decisions with you mind. To all of the Wisconsinites reading this open letter, COVID-19 is the invisible enemy to all of us. Therefore, we must stand together as One. I am honored to serve you as the Administrator of the Division Wisconsin Emergency Man-agement and to those who have answered the call to serve your fellow citizens, I am humbled to serve with you. We are truly in this fight together. In fact, we fight in the spirit of unity—as One Team! One Fight!… Together, we can! Together, we will—Defeat COVID-19!