Two more Eau Claire County residents have been confirmed to have COVID-19, bringing the county’s identified case total to three, the Eau Claire City-County Health Department said Friday.
One of the new cases is travel-related. That person has been quarantined since their travel, said Lieske Giese, department director, at a press conference Friday.
The department is working on finding more details about the third case, which was identified just before the 3:30 p.m. press conference, Giese said.
Not included in that total was a UW-Eau Claire student who has also tested positive for COVID-19.
That student is believed to have tested positive for the virus upon returning to the U.S. from a study abroad program, said Jim Schmidt, UW-Eau Claire chancellor.
That student returned home to self-isolate with family and did not come to the UW-Eau Claire campus, Schmidt said.
Two other students who may have had contact with the student who has COVID-19 in the same study abroad program also did not return to Eau Claire County, and both are also self-isolating at home with their families, he added.
More than 100 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Eau Claire County overall, Giese said.
Local health officials don’t believe there is yet community spread of the respiratory virus in Eau Claire County. Community spread is identified when authorities can’t identify where or from whom a person contracted the virus.
“At this point with our three cases, although we’re still investigating one, we’re not under the assumption we have community spread in Eau Claire County at this point,” Giese said.
More businesses must close
Confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide rose to 206 as of Friday afternoon.
Eau Claire, Dunn and Chippewa counties on Thursday announced their first cases of COVID-19.
Of the state’s 206 confirmed cases, 3,455 tests have been negative, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Three Wisconsin residents have died of COVID-19 as of Friday, according to the DHS.
“This is very, very difficult, and all of us are thinking of those individuals and families. Unfortunately, we will see more,” Giese said. “We know that with this course of disease that it will happen … that’s a challenge and we need to support each other.”
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Friday clarified the state’s ban on gatherings of 10 people or more, adding that laundromats, banks, financial institutions, media organizations, cafeterias, farms and grocery stores, health professionals, transportation systems and polling locations for voting can remain open.
However, hair salons, day spas, nail salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors and tanning facilities were ordered to close as of 5 p.m. Friday. Bars will be allowed to sell alcohol and food as carryout if allowed by local ordinances and state law, Evers’ office said.
According to a news release from Evers’ office: “All gatherings that bring together or are likely to bring together 10 or less people in a single room or confined space, whether inside or outside, at the same time must preserve social distancing and follow all other public health recommendations issued by DHS or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”
The governor’s office is urging people to avoid social gatherings with “people of all ages,” including parties, sleepovers, large family dinners or home visitors.
The majority of people staying home will help doctors, nurses and medical workers to respond to COVID-19 and lessen the community’s chances of overwhelming its health care system, Giese said.
“Everyone needs to take this seriously,” Giese said Friday. “This is not a disease that will exempt anybody … it doesn’t matter your age, gender or where you live. We all will have to pay attention and take it seriously.”
County, city services to remain available
Eau Claire county and city officials reassured the community on Friday that essential services — police, the sheriff’s office, firefighters, water and sewer services, public transit and others — would remain open.
Eau Claire County on Friday closed its facilities to walk-in traffic, but is still open for business — people must call or arrange an appointment online via email, said Kathryn Schauf, county administrator.
The courthouse will keep its entrance on Oxford Avenue open for court attendees. Programs that will remain open and may require an appointment include the Child Support Agency via phone and email, Aging and Disability Resource Center’s Meals On Wheels program, the Community Service Program, marriage licenses and voting services through the County Clerk, the District Attorney’s office and Victim Service program, Human Services Department for specific services via phone and email, the county jail, Planning and Development department, Register of Deeds, Treasurer’s office and Veteran Services. More information about contacting county departments and the need for making appointments for services can be found at www.co.eau-claire.wi.us.
At the city level, in addition to the public transit, police, firefighters, dispatch services and water and sewer services, street department crews will continue working, said city manager Dale Peters.
The city’s public transit system is waiving its fees “at this time,” Peters said. It will also block off the front portion of buses to protect drivers, and ask passengers to enter at the back of buses.
City Hall hasn’t restricted foot traffic in its facility, but likely will in the future, Peters said.
“There are many, many people still working, and have to work to take care of everybody else,” he said. “It’s absolutely imperative that what you can do as a citizen is stay home. By doing that, you’re helping those who are helping you.”
The Eau Claire City-County Health Department’s coronavirus information website is coronavirus.echealthdepartment.org. Its dedicated coronavirus phone line for community members with questions is 715-839-4725.