Volunteers prepare to test patients for the novel coronavirus May 11 at a COVID-19 community testing site in the parking lot behind the Prevea Health Clinic, 617 W. Clairemont Ave. The county has accumulated 100 new cases of the virus in the last two weeks, illustrating a surge in new cases that’s been especially high in the last seven days. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

It took more than two months for Eau Claire County to accumulate its first 100 cases of the coronavirus.

It’s taken only the previous two weeks for the county to add its most recent 100 cases.

The recent surge of the virus in the county means it’ll be more difficult to contain its spread, new county data suggest.

Eau Claire County residents who are contracting COVID-19 are having more close contact with other people, health officials said this week — meaning a bigger influx of people who are getting a phone call to self-quarantine.

“We’re seeing the number of contacts per case be high, but we’re also seeing … the phone calls we make to close contacts astronomically increasing,” said Lieske Giese, director of the Eau Claire City-County Health Department, at a Wednesday news conference.

In the first two weeks of June, just 24 people in the county found out they’d contracted the virus. Eau Claire County contact tracers called 102 people in total, warning them they’d been in close proximity with someone who’d tested positive.

In the last two weeks, 100 new cases of the virus have been found. Contact tracers have called 509 people surrounding those new cases, Giese said.

On Wednesday, she called the county’s situation a “reality check.”

“My encouragement to everyone is to pay attention to the fact that all along, the risk has been real,” she said. “We now have more community spread, so being out and about and not maintaining that six foot distance is more risky.”

Test-positivity rate still high

Some metrics Eau Claire County is using to track the virus are moving in the wrong direction, according to new county data released Wednesday.

The most concerning metric involves the swell of new cases. Until late June, cases were rising by two, three or five each day.

A 14-case spike on June 26 put an end to the county’s slow climb.

As of Monday, there was a 238% increase in daily new cases in the most recent 14-day period, compared to the 14 days before that.

“That is probably our most startling change in the last two weeks,” Giese said. “We’re also concerned about community spread. One in three cases we’ve been working with in the last two weeks doesn’t know where they got COVID-19.”

Eleven more county residents tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday, and another 11 on Wednesday. The county has 240 total cases, with 176 of those recovered, Giese said. Over 8,300 have tested negative, and one county resident has died of the virus.

The average test-positivity rate for the last two weeks is 9.5%, holding steady with last week’s average rate of 9.6% — meaning nearly 10% of Eau Claire County residents who got swabbed for the virus during those two weeks were diagnosed with COVID-19.

“We’re having a high positivity rate, and we’re seeing that increase over time,” Giese said Wednesday.

The county’s test-positivity rate was 4.2% on June 1, according to county data.

The overall Wisconsin test-positivity rate is 4.4%, according to state Department of Health Services data.

Another metric that health officials say is concerning: New sites are seeing outbreaks. Six sites in Eau Claire County are still undergoing public health investigations, but no long-term care facilities or nursing homes are still on the list, Giese said. Two of those six investigations are new this week — one at a workplace and one at a group housing site, Giese said. (An investigation is automatically triggered when two or more cases of COVID-19 are found at a workplace, group housing facility or medical facility.)

Some data the county is measuring have stayed positive.

“Our health care capacity is good, and our contact tracing and work with the Health Department remains strong,” Giese said of the county’s ability to respond to more cases. “But as the numbers increase, that continues to be a concern.”

Statewide, 540 new cases of the virus were identified Wednesday, bringing its total to over 29,000. The state’s seven-day average of new cases is spiking upward again, after enjoying a dip in June. The virus has killed 786 people in the state, with two new deaths Wednesday — or about 3% of total cases, according to DHS data.

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.