CHIPPEWA FALLS — With the Chippewa County Health & Human Services Board scheduled to meet Thursday morning, Public Health Director Angela Weideman is expressing concern about misinformation spreading in the community about what is actually in a proposed ordinance before that committee.
“It does not grant any new authority to a health officer,” Weideman said Wednesday at the county’s weekly COVID-19 update meeting.
The proposed ordinance, which is a half-page in length, clarifies that the public health officer has the ability to write orders, and the right to enforce “citations and forfeitures” to those who violate public health orders. Weideman said rumors in the community have ranged from violators being sent to jail, or children being removed from homes.
“This is absolutely not true,” Weideman said. “There is not authority to jail individuals for violating a county ordinance.”
Weideman added that the county would not force or require vaccines.
“We do not force or demand individuals to take vaccines, and we don’t have the authority to do so.”
With the statewide mask mandate set to expire Sept. 28, the county could opt to pass a countywide mandate.
“I think it would be unwise for me to write an order if I can’t enforce that order, which is why the upcoming meeting is so important,” she said.
The discussion on the health order is coming as the county set a new one-week high for both the number of new COVID-19 cases (43) and the highest-yet positivity rate (9.2 %). For the second consecutive week, fewer than 500 tests were conducted in the county, with just 469 tests done, up from 447 a week ago. However, Weideman has indicated her goal is for 900 tests to be done weekly, but the number of new tests are back to levels from June.
“We obviously want to see more people get tested,” she said. “It’s definitely concerning to me.”
At 43 new cases, that figure is up from 38 the prior week and the previous high of 40 cases from three weeks ago.
Overall, Chippewa County has now had 432 positive cases, with 41 people considered to be active cases and still being monitored by the Department of Public Health. Two county residents are now hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms, but the county still hasn’t had a recorded death from the virus.
Weideman also announced that nine individuals — students, teachers or staff — have tested positive at schools around the county. However, at this time, there hasn’t been a need to quarantine an entire class or shut down any buildings, she said. A week ago, there were four COVID-19 cases that were connected to schools.
In the past week, a new nationwide study showed that people who ate out at restaurants or bars were twice as likely to have tested positive for the virus. Weideman praised area bars and restaurants for all the safety measures that have been put in place, and she reiterated that the disease is not being passed to consumers in their food.
“I really encourage people to do takeout, whenever possible,” she said.
The Public Health Department has been able to keep up with contact tracing of positive cases, but Weideman said her staff are meeting resistance from people who don’t want to share details of where they have been and what people they might have been in contact with in recent days.