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Chippewa County at high risk for COVID-19
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Chippewa County at high risk for COVID-19

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Chippewa County is now considered to be a “high-risk” area for COVID-19, as the county saw a jump of 32 new cases in the past week.

In a weekly COVID-19 press conference Wednesday, public health director Angela Weideman encouraged people to continue wearing masks when indoors, not at their home.

At this time, the county is not looking at implementing any requirements for wearing masks.

With the county now considered to be at high risk, Weideman is recommending capping indoor gatherings at 15 people and outdoor gatherings at 50 people.

The 32 new virus cases come on the heels of 18 recorded last week, which was already the county’s highest-ever one-week total.

“In Chippewa County, 41% of our total cases came in the past two weeks, and that’s not all from increased testing,” Weideman said.

Overall, the county has 121 positive coronavirus cases, including 40 active cases. Last week, there were 18 active cases. However, no one is currently hospitalized, and the county hasn’t had any virus-related deaths.

“We’ve been lucky we haven’t had a higher number of significant illnesses,” she said.

Like many areas around the country, more people under the age of 40 (69 cases) have tested positive than people older than 40 (53 cases).

Weideman has generally avoided saying where outbreaks have occurred, but in the past week, her office released a notice of a spike of new cases and a possible exposure to a person with COVID-19 in Cornell.

In the past week, 642 tests were given to Chippewa County residents, also a new record. That is a significant jump from 486 tests administered the previous week, and also up from 458 and 440 tests given in recent weeks.

“That really is due to more people with symptoms going in and getting tests,” Weideman said. “We are seeing a higher number of people coming in with symptoms.”

Overall the positive test rate remains low, with just 3.1% of county residents testing positive.

While the number of tests being given is climbing across the state and nation, Weideman said they are still getting 90% of results back within 48 hours. The rest are coming back within a week, she said.

Asymptomatic people in the Chippewa Valley are still not able to get COVID-19 tests, but Weideman said that they have an adequate supply of testing materials at this time to give tests to those with symptoms.

The county has so far been able to keep up with contact tracing on all the new cases.

“Our nurses and public health staff are at the max right now, before expanding out to the next tier of workers to help with contact tracing,” Weideman said.

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump stated that 99% of COVID-19 cases are “totally harmless.” Weideman disagreed, saying “I don’t believe any of the cases we’re seeing are totally harmless.”

Weideman said she is continuing to meet with school superintendents in the county about how they plan to open schools this fall, and how that will look like.

“Four weeks ago, I felt more certain about school openings in September than I am today, with the number of cases coming in,” she said.

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