CHIPPEWA FALLS — COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Chippewa County, with 29 new confirmed cases in the past week, bringing the county to 200 total, said Public Health Director Angela Weideman.
“In Chippewa County, it took three months for us to reach our first 100 cases,” Weideman said Wednesday during the county’s weekly COVID-19 press conference. “It took just over three weeks to add another 100 cases, and that is what’s troubling.”
She added: “That cannot be explained by increased testing.”
Last week, the county and National Guard held a free drive-thru COVID-19 test at the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds, where 434 tests were performed.
“Overall, the testing event went very well,” she said.
Last week, 800 tests were performed county wide, down from 1,800 a week earlier. Weideman said she doesn’t have a breakdown of how many of the people who attended the drive-thru tested positive for the virus, noting that anyone who tested positive who lives in another county would not have been reported to her office.
Weideman added she would like to set a future drive-thru testing site, but no dates or locations have been established.
One of the reasons there was 1,800 tests performed two weeks ago is that every inmate and corrections worker at the Stanley Correctional Institution were tested, and none of those tests came back positive. Weideman praised the staff at the prison for keeping everyone there safe. The Chippewa Valley Correctional Treatment Facility in Chippewa Falls also had prison-wide tests conducted recently, she said.
Overall, Chippewa County has 37 active cases, but no COVID-19-related hospitalizations or deaths.
With schools opening in about a month, Weideman said her office continues to meet with district leaders across the county about how to safely reopen. However, the county is still considered to be at high-risk, meaning indoor gatherings should be limited to 15 people. However, Chippewa Falls High School routinely has 1,500 students or staff in the building.
“I’m concerned for schools and for safety,” Weideman said. “What is really important is that kids who can wear a mask, should wear a mask.”
Cadott schools Superintendent Jenny Starck gave some examples of what her district is planning to do this fall, such as sending children directly to their classrooms to avoid mass congregation of students and spreading out bus drop-offs.
On buses, the Cadott school district is adding more bus routes to reduce the number of students on each bus, having assigned seats on the bus, and filling the bus from back to front. However, Starck added that “we know the plan today may not be the plan two weeks from now.”
Weideman added that many schools are looking at ways to keep students in small groups, hoping that will mitigate the spread of the virus.
Starck said another concern is a potential shortage of substitute teachers, as many substitutes are retired teachers who might be cautious about returning to a classroom.