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Wisconsin COVID-19 Cases ‘Picking Up Speed’, Forest County Still has Highest Case Rate in State

Wisconsin DHS

Wisconsin reported another 2,367 new COVID-19 cases since Monday. It also reported an additional 17 deaths.

A month ago, Wisconsin was averaging 684 new cases a day. Now, it’s averaging 2,255 cases a day.

In state update Tuesday, Governor Tony Evers said wearing a mask is the least people can be doing to help stop the spread of the virus.

“We are nine months into this pandemic. Right now it’s not slowing down, it’s picking up speed. We have got to put the brakes on this pandemic,” said Gov. Evers. “Yes, it starts with wearing a mask whenever you are out and about, but we also need folks to understand that wearing a mask is not a substitute for social distancing. It’s not a substitute for limiting exposure and it’s not a substitute for staying safer at home.”

Earlier this month, the Department of Health Services said the 18 to 24-year-old age group was seeing the greatest rise in cases.

DHS attributed it to the return to school and students partying and going to bars. Now that age group is seeing a decline, but all other age groups are still increasing.

Credit Wisconsin DHS

As Wisconsin continues to see a record number of COVID-19 cases, Forest County still has the highest case rate or burden in the state. It’s had the highest burden in the state for the last two weeks.

As of Tuesday, 48 people in forest county have COVID-19.  Since the start of the pandemic 290 people from have tested positive for the virus.

The county’s current burden is 1252.5. That’s the number of people per 100,000 that have tested positive in the last two weeks. In simplest terms, it means the virus is still spreading quickly through the county.

WXPR has reached out to the Forest County Health Department several times for an interview. It’s declined so far. On Monday, the Health Director Jacee Shepard did answer a few of our questions via email.

She said the county has seven contact tracers plus help from Forest County Potawatomi Community Health Department and Sokaogon Chippewa Community Health Clinic.

The county health department has also been getting help through the Northern Regional Public Health Mutual Aid Agreement.

Shepard said they are able to keep up with current demands for contact tracing and haven’t needed to use state contact tracers.

WXPR has also reached out to Ascension Wisconsin, Forest County Potawatomi, Sokaogon Chippewa Community, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services for interviews.

So far, only the Sokaogon Chippewa Community has made someone available.

Jake Godin is the public information officer. He said the SCC Health Clinic has stepped up its testing to support the county.

“Right now its basically just a matter of trying to keep up with our testing being able to keep up with the demand so we can find the positive cases and isolate them. We’ll provide any type of an assistance to any part of the community, any of the surrounding communities as well as much as we can you know to try and help with those efforts,” said Godin.

Six people from Forest County have died because of COVID-19. Six people are currently hospitalized.

Shepard said people should assume anytime they go out in public they have a chance of becoming infected with COVID-19.

The health department is urging people to avoid large gatherings and non-essential trips into the community.

Governor Tony Evers echoed that message in his state COVID-19 update while commenting on the 1,300 people in Wisconsin who have died from the virus.

“Those are our moms, our dads, our grandparents, best friends, co-workers, community pillars, and loved ones. I cannot stress this enough. No party, no bar, no gathering is worth it,” said Evers.

Shepard said the county health department is not seeing a significant outbreak tied to any specific event or gathering.

WXPR also requested data about the ages of the recent COVID-19 cases. Shepard said the department is working on additional data and hope to have it available soon.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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