COVID-19 Cases in E.C. County Again Set Record
other indicators more positive as school year approaches
The number of new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in Eau Claire County continues to exceed previous records, but there are some positive signs as the community and the state move toward the reopening of schools in less than two weeks.
“As we’re getting closer to having more group activities because of schools opening, we need to work hard on making sure that those numbers stay as low as possible,” Eau Claire City-County Health Department Director Lieske Giese said Wednesday during an online media briefing.
Notably, Giese said, the seven-day average of new cases diagnosed statewide has continued to decline in recent weeks, a positive trend. Since peaking at an average of 930 cases over the prior seven days on July 26, the rolling average had declined to 747 on Wednesday, Aug. 19.
“As we’re getting closer to having more group activities because of schools opening, we need to work hard on making sure that those numbers stay as low as possible.” –Lieske Giese, Eau Claire City-County Health Department director
Nonetheless, the total number of cases continues to rise across the state and county. During the 14 days leading up to Aug. 17, 161 new cases were diagnosed in Eau Claire County, the largest two-week total since the pandemic began. (The previous two-week high – 154 new cases – had been reached only a week earlier.)
There was one bright spot in the data: The rate of disease spread may be slowing in Eau Claire County. While there were 83 new cases diagnosed in the week leading up to Aug. 10, the total dipped to 78 the following week. “It’s a small change, but it does show a percent decrease,” Giese said.
Overall, as of Aug. 19, 679 Eau Claire County residents had tested positive for COVID-19, four of whom have died as a result of the virus. An estimated 628 have recovered, according to state Department of Health Services data.
With public schools poised to open on Sept. 1, the state Department of Health Services has published guidelines to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 in K-12 schools. The new handbook (which can be found at this link) offers information on preventing coronavirus outbreaks (as expected, face masks, physical distancing, and self-screening of symptoms are considered key), investigating them when the occur, and mitigating their impact. (Among other things, the guidelines advise that “Teachers and school-based health care providers are encouraged to use a liberal approach when determining whether to send a child home due to illness.”)
“We expect that there will be outbreaks in schools once school starts across Wisconsin. That will likely lead to higher transmission of disease in our communities,” Giese said. “We need to work together to keep that disease spread slow as we bring more young people together in our school system. The schools are counting on us to do that. They’re counting on us to do things to support kids in schools staying safer – support them keeping six-foot distance, support our kids in wearing masks.”
While young people generally have milder symptoms when they contract COVID-19, some do not, Giese added. “Young people are also social,” she said, “and as we get those people more actively together, we know that they not only socialize with each other but they bring disease back to family and friends and others that may have less ability to fight off the disease as effectively as young people typically do.”
Meanwhile, the Eau Claire County COVID-19 prevention order, which was set to expire at midnight Thursday, Aug. 20, was renewed for another two weeks without changes. The order will now run through the end of the day Wednesday, Sept. 2.
Among other things, the order states:
• Public gatherings may have up to 100 people indoors and 250 people outdoors, with physical distancing between households maintained. Any public gathering of more than 50 people is strongly discouraged.
• Reduce occupancy to 50% of usual occupancy for businesses with a posted occupancy. For any business without a posted occupancy, consider reducing occupancy by 50%.
• Public spaces and buildings, indoor and outdoor, are required to consider policies that require face mask use by all workers, customers, visitors and guests. (Masks are required indoors under a statewide order by Gov. Tony Evers that went into effect Aug. 1.)