EAU CLAIRE — Over 700 people in Eau Claire County are currently quarantined due to COVID-19. They’ve either tested positive for the novel coronavirus, or were in close contact with someone else who tested positive.

Roughly 650 in the county are currently isolated because they’re contacts of a case, waiting to see if they develop symptoms, said Lieske Giese, director of the Eau Claire City-County Health Department. Another 125 residents are quarantined because they’re active cases.

Calling, interviewing and quarantining people who might have been exposed to the virus is “a critical part of our strategy to keep this community as open as possible,” Giese said Wednesday at a news conference.

Giese asked the community to answer their phones when Health Department contact tracers call — or call back if they receive a voicemail. They’ll have to think through where they’ve been, typically over the last 48 hours, she added.

Contact tracers have been able to get ahold of 92% of county residents who test positive within 24 hours — but have been reaching 88% of those cases’ close contacts within 48 hours, according to new county metrics released Wednesday.

“We need to be able to quickly get to our cases and contacts,” Giese said. “Largely this is related to people not responding … our goal is fewer contacts, and we need you to work with us on that.”

Weekly case record

Weekly new cases of the coronavirus in Eau Claire County set a second consecutive record this week: 83 new cases in the seven days leading up to Monday, compared to 71 new cases in the week before.

“Both represent our highest single-week averages,” Giese said.

Eau Claire County topped 600 cases of the coronavirus Wednesday, with 16 new cases boosting its case total to 612.

Of those cases, 32 have ever been hospitalized — two new hospitalizations since Monday, according to Health Department data.

Of those cases, 487 have recovered. The county has recorded almost 15,500 negative tests.

While new cases are picking up speed, testing numbers in Eau Claire have remained steady — suggesting the increase in new cases isn’t stemming from more testing. The county has averaged about 165 tests per day per 100,000 people since late July, according to new weekly county metrics.

New metrics released

The county’s test-positivity rate, or the percentage of total tests that come back positive, has risen slightly this week — 6.5% of tests were positive, compared to 4.4% the week before, according to new weekly county metrics released Wednesday.

The percentage of ‘community spread’ cases, or cases where the person doesn’t know how they contracted COVID-19, is staying relatively consistent: 36% this week, compared to 39% last week.

The county has seen nine new outbreaks in the last two weeks, Giese said, “the highest two-week county we’ve had.” Ten outbreaks are active in the county right now — six in long-term care facilities, one at a workplace, one at a health care facility and two at other locations.

The state defines an outbreak as a certain setting with two or more cases of the virus. If it’s at a long-term care facility, even just one case is listed as an outbreak, according to the state Department of Health Services.

The county’s outbreaks have mostly been limited to a few people who test positive at one place, Giese said Monday.

“We are fortunate in this community that, to date, most of our outbreaks have been in that two or three number range,” she said. “We haven’t had what appears to be large spread at a site.”

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

Sarah Seifert is the L-T's education and health reporter. She has 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 @sarahaseifert.