CHIPPEWA FALLS — After weeks of steady increases in COVID-19 cases, Chippewa County has seen only five new cases over the past two weeks: three cases reported this week after just two a week earlier.
While public health director Angela Weideman is pleased to see so few new cases, she cautioned that the virus hasn’t gone away, and that social distancing efforts in the area are paying off.
“One event can cause our numbers to change rapidly,” Weideman said Wednesday at the weekly COVID-19 press conference. “I feel blessed we haven’t had a lot of cases in the past two weeks.”
Weideman said the lack of new cases has allowed contact tracers to stay focused on tracking down people who have come in contact with the COVID-19-positive patients. It also has allowed hospitals to prepare.
“We do not want to flood our system, and not be able to respond in a quick fashion,” she said.
While Chippewa County has seen 63 positive cases since the pandemic began, there are now just four people who are being monitored for ongoing symptoms. Of those four patients, two are hospitalized, which is down from three last week.
The number of active cases has dropped in recent weeks from 10, to six last week, to four this week.
There haven’t been any COVID-19-related deaths in the county.
A week ago, 537 Chippewa County residents were tested for the virus, but the number of tests given this week dropped to 440. Ideally, the county would have about 900 tests performed weekly.
“We want to find our positive cases,” she said. “Testing is important. We were doing a lot of tests with the support of our National Guard and long-term care facilities.”
However, in the past week, those agencies have done fewer tests, which explains the drop in overall tests.
Weideman said the state has recently released new metrics, suggesting that fewer than 900 tests are recommended each week. Instead, the county should try to climb back to 550 tests next week with a steady increase each week, and reach 900 tests weekly by the fall.
Antibody testing is still fairly rare in the county, she said. In pre-surgery preparations, patients are given an antibody test, and people who were sick earlier this year, before the pandemic was widely understood, also have requested antibody testing.
“I wouldn’t say that’s widespread in our area,” she said of antibody testing.
The county has relaxed some of its social distancing recommendations, now stating groups should be limited to 15 indoors and 50 outdoors. The recommendations are working, she added.
“It has kept our numbers from spiking,” she said.
In one final note, Weideman said there have been some inaccurate text messages being circulated, falsely stating that Gov. Tony Evers has promised to give $250,000 to Chippewa County if Weideman agreed to a new safer-at-home order. Weideman said the texts are false, and people should get their information from the county’s official website, and not from these texts.