Door County feels the impact of coronavirus in sister city

Published: Feb. 17, 2020 at 6:09 PM CST
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The worker shortage in Door County stands to get even worse this summer because of COVID-19.

"Jingdezhen seems to be doing okay," said Helen Bacon, a member of the Ad Hoc Jingdezhen Sister City Informal Advisory Group in Door County.

Okay as the number of confirmed COVID-19 or coronavirus cases continues to rise.

"They actually did send us a letter," said Ken Pabich, Door County Administrator. "They sent a letter to all of their sister cities asking for some type of support."

Written in early February, that letter from the mayor of Jingdezhen notes only four confirmed cases at the time in the city of more than 1.5 million people with no reported deaths.

The latest numbers from the World Health Organization (WHO) show 930 confirmed cases in the region.

"On behalf of Jingdezhen Municipal People's Government, we solemnly delegate your city to purchase medical supplies including medical protective mask, surgical mask, protective clothing, goggles," reads Bacon from the letter.

"Unfortunately, we're not able to respond just because everything is even under short demand here just with what's going on in China," said Pabich.

Travel plans between the two countries also sit in limbo. Door County officials decided to cancel delegation visits to China this year, as Chinese student workers might have to pass on a trip to Wisconsin.

"This year we had potentially up to 24 individuals that were applying for the J-1 Visa Program," said Pabich.

"College students from the University of Jingdezhen who sign up with an independent company and come to Door County to work," said Bacon.

With schools closed in China because of COVID-19, extended schooling this summer becomes a possibility.

Bacon says the impact would hurt the an already struggling local workforce.

"We have such a need of workers in the county that we have restaurants who do not serve breakfast or do not serve lunch and they only serve dinner. We have retail stores that have cut their hours because they cannot get enough workers," said Bacon. "So, even 24 workers might not seems like a lot, but the hospitality industry in the county really does depend on them."

Right now, Door County officials plan to keep in touch with the officials in Jingdezhen as they continue to monitor the situation.

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