The recent uptick in new COVID-19 positive cases in Dunn County is connected, Dunn County Health Department Director KT Gallagher said.
Since last Friday, the county has had an increase of five cases after about three weeks of no new cases. There were no new cases as of Monday and the county has had 14 total positive cases.
Gallagher said in her weekly update and question-answer session on the Dunn County Facebook page, that the cases are related. A few of the cases during the week are closely connected to the case that was reported last Friday. The others, including the new case first reported last week, are connected to a cluster of illnesses associated with an essential business in Eau Claire.
“People that are still going to work obviously have greater risk of being exposed to COVID-19 than people that staying home,” Gallagher said. “What we’ve found is there is actually a connection between those two groups here in Dunn County where the group of people that are testing positive from our Friday (May 1) case are actually connected to an essential business sector that is part of the cluster in the adjacent county.”
One of the individuals who recently tested positive is hospitalized, joining a much earlier case that was retested with a negative result, but the individual is still suffering from the impacts of the virus.
Testing increasingGallagher noted testing in the county has increased. As a result of mass testing done in the region with the help of the National Guard, some Dunn County residents have been tested at these events in Buffalo and Barron counties.
A site in Baldwin was testing on Friday and Dunn County has partnered with Eau Claire County for testing on Sunday and Monday at CVTC/Prevea Health at 917 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire. On Sunday, testing will be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. while Monday’s tests will be conducted from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Testing was available to anyone aged five or older who is experiencing symptoms of the virus.
There is no need to set up an appointment for this event. The process of being tested shouldn’t take much time, but Gallagher said it’s unclear how many people will show up and how long people might have to wait in their cars before they are tested.
Staying safe when reopening occursWhen the region does eventually reopen there will be more positive cases, Gallagher said. With the virus still present and no vaccine available there is still a risk of infection, she said, but there have been measures taken to lessen risk of both being infected and a lessening of impact should one be infected.
The rate of infection has flattened allowing health-care systems to not be overrun with cases. Hospitals have received additional protective equipment and decontamination sites for PPE have been set up in two locations in the state.
Gov. Tony Evers Badger Bounce Back plan includes metrics on when it may be safe to open, and on Friday the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. partnering with the Department of Health Services to release guidelines for different industries on what a reopening of their business might look like, and what procedures need in place to keep people safe.
Gallagher said she understands economic challenges that closures and stay-at-home orders have had on local businesses and workers. Staying at home and following social distancing have protected the lives of the people in Dunn County, she said.
“I think in western Wisconsin we’ve been really lucky. We haven’t had the level of sickness, we haven’t lost people to COVID-19 the way they have in other areas. We need to keep it that way,” Gallagher said. “If you can stay home, please do. If you’re part of our essential workforce, or as you open your business when we reopen the economy, do all the things that we need you to do to keep people safe so that we can have a slow burn, a flat curve and we can keep people safe and healthy in Dunn County.”
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