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Forest County reaches “Critically High” COVID-19 activity level as county health department makes plea to community


The COVID-19 situation in Forest County is bad and getting worse.

It’s one of only two counties in the state in the “Critically High” activity level. This means case rates are higher than 1,000 per 100,000. It’s a rate not seen in the state since January.

The Forest County Health Department reported 12 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday. The day before it was 16 and 13 the day before that.

There are more than 60 active cases.

Forest County Health Department Director Holli Denton expects many more to come.

“It’s scary. I’m scared,” said Denton.

She said St. Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander and Antigo Hospital, the two hospitals people from Forest County are most likely to go to since there isn’t one within the county, are dealing with an influx of people.

“We are being told that people are being sent home after getting some fluids and they’re still sick, but there’s not beds available. Contact tracing wise, we’re very overwhelmed,” said Denton.

Denton said COVID-19 is spreading all over the place. People are picking it up just going out in the community, while attending large events or family gatherings, and like WXPR reported early this week with Oneida County Health Department, once one person in the family gets COVID, it’s likely the whole family will.

“We’re seeing somebody catch it in the house and it goes right through the house. I want people to understand, this is different this year. It’s not like last year. It seems a lot more highly contagious,” said Denton

Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Another person from Forest County died of the virus bringing the total to 25 confirmed COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Denton is pleading with the community to takes steps to avoid more deaths and hospitalizations.

“I’m just hoping that people will start coming together and do what they can do. If they are sick stay home, wash your hands, wear a mask if you need to be out in public, and get vaccinated if you’re not already vaccinated and maybe we can put a stop to this,” she said.

The Health Department is partnering with Forest County Potawatomi for a COVID-19 vaccine clinic September 24.

It’s from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Potawatomi Rec building. It’s across from the clinic by the trailer. People attending are asked to wear a mask and follow social distance guidelines.

The clinic will be with the Pfizer vaccine which has been FDA approved for children as young as 12.

Denton said vaccination rates have gone up slightly since the Pfizer vaccine got full FDA approval, but rates are still too low in county to stop the spread of the virus.

“There’s a lot of mistrust, but I think people need to see that the vaccine does help. People who are vaccinated, there are some that still get COVID, yes, but they’re not as sick as the people who are not vaccinated. That’s proof in the pudding for me,” she said.

As of Wednesday, 43 percent of Forest County’s population was fully vaccinated.

Younger age groups within the county have lower vaccination rates, which concerns Denton as they’re starting to see younger people hospitalized because of the virus.

“Younger people are in the hospital. We’re surprised about it. We’re like, ‘oh that person is young.’ People that are hospitalized are not all 80 and 90 year old people. We’re seeing 40, 50, 60 year old people. No children yet and I don’t want to see children in the hospital and I don’t want to see them seriously ill,” said Denton.

You can visit vaccine.gov to find a vaccine appointment near you.

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