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Eau Claire Co. COVID-19 Cases Pass 2,000 as State Numbers Surge

‘We’re not flattening the curve right now,’ health director says

Tom Giffey, photos by Alee Erickson |

COVID-19 cases continue to soar in Eau Claire County, but UW-Eau Claire students are an increasingly small share of the total.
COVID-19 cases continue to soar in Eau Claire County, but UW-Eau Claire students are an increasingly small share of the total.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Eau Claire County has now soared past 2,000 as the state registered its highest daily case total to date, health officials say.

“Our daily case numbers are really high at a state level, and I know that has been noticed across the nation as something of concern in Wisconsin,” Eau Claire City-County Health Department Director Lieske Giese said in an online media briefing.

Statewide, 2,887 positive diagnoses were announced Thursday, a new one-day record, the Department of Health Services reported. Over the past seven days, an average of more than 2,400 cases have been diagnosed daily in Wisconsin, and 17.4% of all people tested were found to have the virus.

On Wednesday, the state also set a one-day record for the numbers of deaths (37) and COVID-19 hospitalizations (683).

The total number of diagnosed cases in EauClaire County since the pandemic began hit 2,016 as of Thursday, Giese said in her weekly briefing. The total had reached 2,000 on Wednesday, an increase in 664 during the previous 14 days. That was the second-highest two-week surge on record, barely lower than the 666 new cases during the 14 days that ended Wednesday, Sept. 23.

“We’ve worked hard with the language of trying to flatten the curve to keep the number of cases per day and per week low. We’re not flattening the curve right now. We are at our steepest ascent of the curve at the moment.”

LIESKE GIESE

DIRECTOR, EAU CLAIRE CITY-COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT

“We’ve worked hard with the language of trying to flatten the curve to keep the number of cases per day and per week low,” Giese said. “We’re not flattening the curve right now. We are at our steepest ascent of the curve at the moment.”

The surge is concerning, Giese said, in part because as the weather cools, more people are typically hospitalized with other respiratory viruses, such as influenza.

New cases aren’t just being diagnosed in young people, she said: “That spread has now happened across all age groups.” In fact, Giese said, the share of Eau Claire County cases connected to UW-Eau Claire since Sept. 1 has fallen to 34% from 42% as of last week.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have surged statewide – for example, one Green Bay hospital was at 94% capacity on Tuesday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported – and they are beginning to pick up in the Chippewa Valley.

“Hospitalization is a lagging data indicator,” Giese said. “It is something that comes really when prevention and early intervention is not working anymore.”

Giese was joined in the briefing by leaders from three local medical systems, including Mayo Clinic Health System, Prevea/Hospital Sisters Health System, and Marshfield Clinic. They urged Chippewa Valley residents to continue to help protect public health through the use of face masks, physical distancing, and other measures.

“We understand that there’s a considerable amount of COVID-19 fatigue out there,” said Jason Craig, regional chair of administration for the Northwest Wisconsin Region of Mayo Clinic Health System. “I think we all have experienced fatigue in dealing with this pandemic, but we must be vigilant. We must not allow ourselves to be complacent.”

Giese also announced that the county had experienced its seventh death from COVID-19. On Wednesday, Dunn County officials announced the first death in that county attributed to the virus. Meanwhile, two more Barron County residents died of COVID-19, raising the death toll in that county to six. Statewide, 1,348 deaths have been blamed on the virus.

The City-County Health Department also released the latest version of the countywide COVID-19 prevention and control order, which will go into effect at midnight Friday and expire Oct. 15. While the order remains largely unchanged, Giese said it recommends – but does not mandate – that all public and private gatherings be of fewer than 10 people. Public gatherings of more than 100 indoors and more than 250 people outdoors are still prohibited in the county.