CHIPPEWA FALLS — With 247 new cases and six reported COVID-19-related deaths just in the past week, Chippewa County Public Health Director Angela Weideman admits it has been a challenging stretch for her team.
“I’m extremely saddened. The entire department is extremely saddened,” Weideman said. “It definitely has an impact on our staff. We are doing our best to provide extra support.”
Weideman confirmed that the people who died in the past week were all between the ages of 55 and 95, but she offered no further details.
Until 10 days ago, Chippewa County didn’t have a coronavirus-related death, but another death announced Wednesday afternoon brings the total to seven.
“Our hearts go out to all the loved ones,” she said.
Unfortunately, the county continues to set records it doesn’t want to see, Weideman said. In the past week, the county once again set records in the number of new cases (247, up from 184 the prior week), active, ongoing cases (367, up from 260), hospitalizations (12, up from eight), and positivity rate (21.1%, up from 14.4%). Chippewa County now nearly matches the statewide positivity rate of new tests, which was 21.7% over the past week.
Meanwhile, the number of tests given in the past week declined from 1,284 to 1,168; Weideman has previously stated her goal is to reach 900 tests done every week. The majority of test results for county residents are still coming back within 48 hours, she added. A free testing event Tuesday in Cornell only brought in 37 people; that number was lower than expected because of the snowstorm, she said.
The number of cases among students or staff in schools across the county climbed from 54 to 93. However, all schools in the county remain open, and Weideman said there haven’t been any situations where an entire classroom has had to isolate or quarantine. While schools are not using the “rapid-fire” tests that can have results back within 15 minutes, Weideman said those tests are being used at long-term care facilities.
The county remains in the “severe risk” category, with a recommendation that indoor gatherings be limited to immediate family members, and outdoor gatherings limited to crowds of 10 people. Overall, Chippewa County now has 1,130 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Despite so many numbers headed in the wrong direction, Weideman said she doesn’t anticipate the county developing any health orders leading to further restrictions.
To help curb the spread of cases, Weideman strongly cautioned that people should avoid getting together, even in small numbers, with people outside their immediate household, and she urged connecting with others via social media, phone, or even writing letters.