CHIPPEWA FALLS — Chippewa County saw another significant jump in the number of COVID-19 vaccinations given in the past week.

“As the entities get up and going, they are getting more efficient,” said Chippewa County Public Health Director Angela Weideman.

Through Tuesday, 7,212 vaccine doses have been administered countywide, including 5,910 first doses. That figure is an increase of 2,666 in the past week, when 4,546 people had received a shot. A week ago, the county had given 1,552 new vaccinations for the week.

Weideman is optimistic the vaccination rate can continue at that rate or move even higher. Johnson & Johnson is likely to get approval for their single-shot vaccinations in the next two weeks, and the Biden administration announce this week that vaccines will be shipped directly to pharmacies.

“It will definitely help getting people vaccinated as quickly and safely as possible,” she said.

Weideman said that her office finds out at 2 p.m. Friday how many doses of vaccines they will receive for the next week. At that time, they allow eligible people to sign up for vaccination clinics on their website. She encouraged people to sign up immediately, and just once; people shouldn’t sign up at multiple health clinics to receive their dose.

“Most places are not taking walk-ins,” she said.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 100% effective in preventing death, but it has lower efficacy rate in preventing illness compared to the two already-approved vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna. Weideman said they haven’t decided yet how the Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be distributed in the county, and who will get those.

Weideman’s office continues to promote the need to vaccinate all adults. She is pleased to report that no one who has received the vaccine has suffered a serious illness. She added that she’s aware some people have shown some illness after receiving the second, booster shot. She said two people have broken into hives, but that has been the extent of negative side effects.

“We had a few people with mild reactions, but nobody with severe reactions,” she said.

The county had applied for a grant to promote vaccinations but they didn’t win that money. However, her office has hired a limited-term employee to reach out to minority communities, including the Mennonites and Amish, to promote vaccinations.

Cases, hospitalizations down again

In other optimistic sign, the number of new COVID-19 cases reported in the past week have declined, and the hospitalization numbers are the lowest in months.

In the past week, 141 people tested positive out of 518 tests given, for a 27% positivity rate. However, that is still higher than the state’s overall 19.7% positivity rate. A week ago, 168 people tested positive out of 615 tests given, for a 28% positivity rate.

While the vaccinations are continuing, Weideman reminded the public that it is vital to get tested when they are exposed to someone who has the virus.

Only two Chippewa County residents are now hospitalized from COVID-19-related symptoms, down from five last week, and down signficantly from the all-time high of 25. Overall, 74% of hospital beds are in use in northwest region of Wisconsin, while 83% of ICU beds are in use. That is down from 76% and 89% last week, respectively.

Including three deaths reported Wednesday, there were six deaths in the past week, bringing the county’s total to 83.

The county remains at a “high risk” level, with a recommendation that gatherings be limited to 15 indoors and 50 outdoors.