WIcoronavirus

The first Eau Claire County resident to die from complications of COVID-19 was over 65 years old, in a high-risk group for virus complications and had underlying health conditions, Eau Claire health officials said Monday.

It is the first death from the virus identified in the county. The person died Sunday, Lieske Giese, director of the Eau Claire City-County Health Department, said at a Monday news conference.

Eau Claire County recorded its first case of COVID-19 on March 19.

The county resident who died didn’t know where the virus had been contracted, Giese noted. The person wasn’t aware of any contact with a known case, and the case wasn’t travel-related.

Roughly one-third of new cases in Eau Claire County in the past two weeks have been ‘community spread’ cases, where the people don’t know where they could have contracted COVID-19, according to county data.

The Health Department has declined to release any other details about the person, including their age, gender, specific underlying conditions and whether or not they were hospitalized at any point.

In a news release Monday, the department said it would not release other information “out of respect for the privacy of the individual and their family.”

“In Eau Claire County one in seven people are in the over-65 age group,” Giese said Monday. “We all know, work with and love people in this age group. Again, those people are more at risk. We have a responsibility to work together to protect those individuals, and it’s important to pause and pay attention to this.”

“The Eau Claire City-County Health Department sends our deepest condolences to the family and friends of this individual,” Giese said in a statement Monday morning. “We are extremely saddened by the loss of one of our community members to this virus.”

As of Monday, the county had identified 163 cases of the new coronavirus, with 128 recovered, Giese said. That includes 12 new cases identified since Friday. Just over 7,000 county residents have tested negative for the virus.

Of the state’s 745 deaths from COVID-19, many have been people who aren’t in long-term care situations, Giese noted. Statewide, 48% of deaths statewide have been in long-term care facilities or group homes, according to the state Department of Health Services.

“While almost half of deaths have been in long term care facilities, that means close to half have not,” Giese said.

The Health Department urged people to stay home if they have symptoms of illness, wash their hands often, cover coughs and sneezes, stay six feet apart from people who don’t live in their household and wear a cloth mask if social distancing can’t be maintained.

“We know people can spread this virus before they know they’re sick. Even if you’re healthy, we ask you to keep 6 feet apart from others and respect the distance of others,” Giese asked Monday.

As of Monday, there have been more than 25,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state with 745 deaths, according to the state Department of Health Services. Of those who got the virus, 78% have recovered and 3% have died with the rest remaining active cases. The percentage of tests that came back positive of all tested Monday was 3.8%, down from 4.6% the day before.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 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.