COVID-19 Testing

A member of the Wisconsin National Guard administers a swab test on May 11 at the Prevea Health Clinic in Eau Claire.

For almost half of Eau Claire County’s 114 residents who have been confirmed to have COVID-19, it’s a mystery where they first contracted the virus, health officials say.

Forty-seven percent of the county’s cases are a result of community spread, meaning that contact tracers and health officials haven’t been able to identify a clear source of transmission, said Lieske Giese, director of the Eau Claire City-County Health Department.

The rest of the county’s cases have contracted the virus from a family member, someone who lives in their household unit or someone in close contact who also had the virus, Eau Claire County health officials have said.

Contrast that with March, when most cases of the virus in Eau Claire County were travel-related, Giese said at a news conference Wednesday.

Eau Claire County’s first case of the virus was identified March 19. By March 31, it had 11 cases.

The number of COVID-19 patients in the county where officials aren’t able to pin down a source of transmission is increasing, Giese said.

“We have an increased percent of cases that appear to be from community spread,” Giese said. “The likelihood of others getting it is strong ... some people don’t have strong symptoms, and may be out in the community spreading.”

County health officials have encouraged residents to wear cloth masks in public spaces where they can’t stay six feet apart from others, saying that it stops some of the spread of respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, yawning and talking.

There is “some sense that a bigger wave may come later in the fall,” but predicting that is difficult because cities and states are using different techniques to track the coronavirus’ spread, Giese said Wednesday. Health officials say they hope to prevent a wave, or peak of cases that overwhelm hospitals and urgent health care facilities.

No new cases Wednesday

The county didn’t record an increase in new cases on Wednesday, remaining at 114 cases, Giese said.

Of those 114, 86 are considered recovered. The county has not recorded any deaths from COVID-19 as of Wednesday.

The highest number of Eau Claire County cases continue to be found in people in their 20s, 30s and 40s — and 20 to 29-year-olds are the nine-year demographic with the most cases (29 cases out of the 114, according to county data).

Statewide, 483 new cases of the virus were identified Wednesday, for 19,400 total. Fourteen percent of the state’s cases have involved hospitalizations.

Nine new deaths throughout the state were also reported Wednesday, bringing total deaths to 616, according to the state Department of Health Services.

In other county coronavirus news

Eau Claire County has not issued any fines or citations to businesses or people under its newest public health order, which was issued in late May and extends to June 11, Giese said Wednesday, but one county business was cited under the statewide safer-at-home order. That order was in place from mid-March to May 13. “We’ll continue to start with education, in case we hear about challenges (to the order),” she said.

Contact: 715-833-9206, sarah.seifert@ecpc.com, @sarahaseifert on Twitter

Sarah Seifert is the Leader-Telegram's education and health reporter. She's worked as a journalist in the Chippewa Valley since 2017 and joined the L-T in 2019. Get in touch at sarah.seifert@ecpc.com or on Twitter at @sarahaseifert.