Mayo Clinic COVID-19 testing in Eau Claire

A Mayo Clinic Health System drive-through COVID-19 testing tent is pictured. Drive-through testing for the virus is now open in Chippewa County. 

CHIPPEWA FALLS — The first drive-thru COVID-19 testing site is now open in Chippewa County.

Prevea Chippewa Falls Health Center opened the drive-thru site Tuesday outside their clinic at 2509 Highway I, said Chippewa County Public Health Director Angela Weideman.

“People are definitely taking advantage of the testing,” Weideman said Wednesday morning at a press conference, where she updated the COVID-19 cases in the county.

Weideman said people need to call ahead before using the drive-thru testing site. She said other medical clinics in the county also are doing COVID-19 testing. So far, she has found that everyone who has wanted a test has been able to get one. She didn’t know the cost for residents who are getting tests.

Chippewa County still has just one local person who has tested positive for the virus, she added; the state’s Department of Health Services’ website on Tuesday inaccurately stated a second case had been confirmed.

“There was a data entry error that is being cleaned up,” Weideman said.

The one confirmed case is a person described as being under the age of 30. The individual had traveled recently to an area where COVID-19 has been in the community. That person remains in isolation and has not needed to be hospitalized, Weideman said.

“We have followed up with all the contacts that person had,” she said.

While Weideman said she won’t release details on the number of ventilators in the county, she added “we do not have a local shortage.” Statewide, there are an estimated 620 ventilators and 2,600 intensive care unit beds, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

Weideman said she has noticed the significant drop in vehicles on the road, a good indication that people are staying at home.

“It’s really important for people of all ages to take this seriously,” she said.

Chippewa Falls Police Chief Matt Kelm said his officers will be placing signs up around playground equipment in town as a reminder it is closed.

“Our officers are not randomly pulling drivers over to see where they are going,” Kelm said. “We are not requiring extra documentation saying why they are traveling.”

Kelm is far more concerned about people congregating in large groups; he said his officers will investigate those cases.

Anyone who feels sick and is concerned they have the virus should let EMS and police know so they can prepare and put on protective equipment, he added.

Kelm also cautioned the public to be aware of a variety of scams related to COVID-19, reminding people that there are no in-home testing kits, and no cure or vaccine.

Chippewa Falls schools superintendent Heidi Taylor-Eliopoulos noted that the district is currently on spring break. The district will resume its “at-home learning plan” and is obtaining equipment for students who do not have Internet in their home.

Taylor-Eliopoulos reminded the public that free lunches and breakfasts can be picked up for anyone under the age of 18, at any of the district’s nine school buildings, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. daily. That resumes next week, when spring break ends. The free meals are available to any minors, and no one is being asked to provide proof of address showing they live in the district.

Call center, hotline in Eau Claire County

Eau Claire County saw its sixth identified case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, said Lieske Giese, Eau Claire City-County Health Department director. The case is associated with recent travel.

The county has tested 352 people, and has received 223 negative tests, Giese said. The rest of the tests were pending as of Wednesday afternoon.

Dunn County has one identified case.

Wisconsin added over 100 new identified COVID-19 cases on Wednesday — 585 cases, up from 457 on Tuesday, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. At least seven people have died in Wisconsin from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

“That is a significant increase, if you’ve been following the numbers, due to an increase in testing and an increase in positives with that testing,” Giese said of cases statewide.

Eau Claire County has begun taking community calls at its new COVID-19 call center, which can be reached at 715-831-7425. Giese urged people with questions that can’t be answered at the department’s website, coronavirus.echealthdepartment.org, to call the hotline.

The call center will be staffed Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Staff will follow up on messages left outside those hours, Giese said.

She asked people who see violations of Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ “safer at home” order — which mandates people to stay home except for essential travel or unless their job is considered an essential service — not to call 911.

“Please call the COVID-19 call center at 715-831-7425. If it is after hours and it’s an extremely concerning incident, the non-emergency (dispatch) number is a possibility, but we can’t overwhelm our emergency systems,” Giese said.

Leader-Telegram reporter Sarah Seifert contributed to this report. Contact: chris.vetter@ecpc.com