DHS, central Wisconsin health officials urge cancelling all non-essential activities as COVID-19 surge continues

Published: Sep. 29, 2020 at 7:01 PM CDT
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MARATHON COUNTY, Wis. (WSAW) - The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says it is a critical moment to be limiting activity to stop the statewide surge in COVID-19.

DHS and Governor Tony Evers gave a press conference Tuesday afternoon, saying they need Wisconsinites to go back to the activity levels they had back in March and April to limit spread of COVID-19 and make sure businesses and schools can stay open.

The governor says the state hasn’t seen much spread within K-12 schools, so he will continue leaving closings up to the school districts. But he says people have to limit activity outside of what is necessary.

“Skip the playdates, the dinner parties, the family get-togethers and work conferences or any other gatherings with people you don’t live with for the time being,” he said. “If you want to get out and about and support a local restaurant, enjoy it outside while wearing a mask or grab it to go.”

DHS says many of the cases in Wisconsin had been in young people, but the department is now seeing a shift in that trend toward older adults because of how far and wide coronavirus is spreading. Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Chief Medical Officer of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases, says Wisconsin is now experiencing a “generalized epidemic,” more widespread than a localized one.

The federal government is now deploying rapid COVID-19 tests around the country. According to DHS, some of those tests are to be used in long-term care facilities and schools in Wisconsin.

“Knowing relatively quickly can help us do isolation,” Dr. Westergaard said.

In Marathon County, the health department is still behind on contact tracing, overwhelmed by the number of positive cases of COVID-19.

Two weeks ago, the county had 149 positive cases. This past week, there were 304 positive cases.

New COVID-19 cases per week in Marathon County.
New COVID-19 cases per week in Marathon County.(Marathon County Health Department)

The Marathon County Health Department is asking anyone who tests positive to stay isolated for 14 days and take responsibility for calling any close contacts to let them know to isolate too, since the department is running behind. The sooner close contacts know they were exposed, the easier it is to contain the spread.

Close contact is defined by the department as being with someone for 15 minutes or more or within 6 feet of the person.

Much like DHS, they ask that people avoid any extracurricular activities that are not absolutely necessary.

“Due to the level of COVID-19 in the community, it is the recommendation of the health department that everyone, including schools, reevaluate any extra activities at this time that would increase the likelihood that they come in contact with the virus,” said Melissa Moore of the Marathon County Health Department.

The health department says they believe that is the best thing people can do to protect businesses from having to quarantine or close and hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

Copyright 2020 WSAW. All rights reserved.

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