CHIPPEWA FALLS — Chippewa County only saw 186 new COVID-19 cases reported in the past week, the lowest level of new infections in a couple of months.

From Dec. 16 to Dec. 23, the county saw an increase from 5,504 to 5,690 cases, county records show. A week earlier, the county saw just 239 new cases. In comparison, in the week of Nov. 5-12, a total of 856 people tested positive for the virus; the weekly total has steadily dropped since that peak.

The last time Chippewa County saw fewer than 200 cases was the week of Oct. 7-14, when there were 184 cases reported.

Total hospitalizations were eight residents, identical to last week’s total, and that is down from the high point of 25 hospitalized in early November. There were two more deaths in the past week, bringing the total to 65 for the county, but that number also is lower than in recent weeks.

Chippewa County Public Health Director Angela Weideman was upbeat Wednesday evening about the latest results.

“Thankfully, we are seeing our numbers move in the right direction,” Weideman said. “And people are hopeful because the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been approved.”

Because of the holidays, Weideman didn’t hold her usual Wednesday COVID-19 press conference, and she didn’t have positivity rates or total tests given immediately available. Weideman remains hopeful that as more people know someone who has gotten seriously sick, hospitalized, or even died from the virus, the more likely they are to take COVID-19 seriously, wear masks, and practice social distancing measures.

“I think people are more aware of it,” she said. “A while ago, I had more people say to me, ‘it’s like the common cold.’ Now they call me and tell me it’s not.”

Like other public health directors, Weideman’s biggest concern remains large family gatherings over the next 10 days. While she realizes many people will not heed the advice to not gather, she asks people who do get together to keep their distance, not share common food-serving utensils, and be outdoors whenever possible.

Weideman said Chippewa County has received its first shipments of vaccines, but she added that only a couple hundred people have received their shots so far. She anticipates those numbers will ramp up in coming weeks. Like others, she reminded the public that it will take a while for everyone to receive vaccinations, and the virus is still prevalent in the area.

“It’s very important to keep your group small and stay within your immediate family,” she said.