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Six COVID-19 outbreaks in Chippewa County tied directly to classrooms

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COVID-19

Six COVID-19 outbreaks in Chippewa County have been tied directly to classrooms, said Chippewa County Public Health Director Angela Weideman. However, no classrooms or schools have entirely been closed by the spread of the virus, she said.

Meanwhile, roughly 33.1% of all active cases in the county are now among youths ages 0-18; that is up from 26.3% last week and 23.5% two weeks ago.

The Chippewa Falls School District switched to mandatory masks indoors for everyone on Monday. Weideman said most schools in the county are posting their mask policies on their websites.

In the past week in Florida, that state has adopted a “symptoms-based quarantine” program, where parents have the option to send their children to school if they aren’t showing any symptoms, even if they have been exposed to the virus. Weideman said stat e statute requires her office to investigate all virus cases, and require quarantines based on federal guidelines and the proximity and length of time students spend near the infected person.

“It’s a question I’ve been getting a lot,” Weideman said. “We have numerous children that are asymptomatic that do test positive for COVID.”

However, none of the 10 Chippewa County residents currently hospitalized with virus-related symptoms are youths, she said. Roughly 83% of hospital beds in medical centers across northwest Wisconsin are now in use, including 97% of ICU beds. Also, about 14% of ventilators in the region are being used.

One new virus-related death was recorded in the county in the past week; 104 county residents have died of virus-related symptoms since the beginning of the pandemic; all but two were unvaccinated.

In the past week, 303 people tested positive from 1,004 tests (30.1%). That is up from 158 positive cases from 391 tests (37.8%) a week ago, and also up from 256 positive cases from 663 tests (38.6%) two weeks ago.

The county’s vaccination rate has steadily increased, now at 52% of all county residents, including 62.8% of all adults, having at least one shot. In the past week, 750 doses were given countywide, up from 618 a week ago.

In recent days, federal agencies have approved a third Pfizer dose for people ages 65 and older or those with underlying health issues. Chippewa County’s Public Health Department only offers the two-shot Moderna or the 1-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Weideman’s office isn’t issuing third doses of those vaccines.

“We are still waiting for a little more guidance from the state,” she said. “At this point, our department would not be giving booster doses.”

Because of the high number in new cases, the county remains at a severe risk level, she added.

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