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Wisconsin's new normal with COVID-19 could embrace safety or spark outbreaks
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Wisconsin's new normal with COVID-19 could embrace safety or spark outbreaks

Tepe with patient

Dr. Patrick Tepe, of Associated Dentists in Verona, wears two types of masks, a face shield and a single-use gown, when seeing patients such as Aaron Ruegsegger. With them is assistant Alicia Dudei. Some doctors say people should put off routine teeth cleanings because of the coronavirus, but Tepe says it's safe if dentists take precautions.

A patchwork of COVID-19 restrictions remains in Wisconsin after the Supreme Court struck down the state's "Safer at Home" last week. 

What's next in the battle against the coronavirus is a new normal nobody can yet define. With many rules gone or soon to be relaxed, will picnics and pool parties return? How about visits with elderly relatives and children’s play dates? Will it be safe to eat out, get a haircut or have your teeth cleaned?

The threat of the disease remains. If things open too fast, “there’s a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned a Senate committee last week.

But society tends to become inured to prolonged death tolls, said Richard Keller, a UW-Madison professor of the history of medicine. “We’re going to see a pushing of the pandemic out of sight, out of mind,” Keller said.

The coming weeks will be like carrying matches in a dry woodland, suggested Dr. Pat Remington, a campus preventive medicine specialist. Damage will depend on how well people wash their hands, wear masks, stay 6 feet apart and comply with testing and contact tracing.

“We know there’s going to be fires,” Remington said. “If we go back slowly and do it intelligently, we can put them out. If it’s business as usual and we’re not smart about it, then we’re going to have a forest fire.”

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