CHIPPEWA FALLS — Fewer Chippewa County senior citizens are getting vaccinated each week, as 1 in 5 have still not received their first dose.

Roughly 78.7% of the county’s seniors have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, up 1.6% from last week and up 1.5% from the prior week, according to data from the state’s Department of Health Services.

“We have seen that slow down,” said Chippewa County Public Health Director Angela Weideman during her weekly COVID-19 press conference Wednesday. “We are working with our (Aging and Disability Resource Center) to make sure people know how to get vaccinated.”

Weideman said her office also sent a nurse to vaccinate 30 homebound individuals in the past week.

“I’d definitely like to see that (percentage) higher,” Weideman said. “I am concerned about it.”

All Wisconsin residents age 16 and older are now eligible to get vaccinated. That rule change has streamlined the process for health care providers, she said.

“(Previously,) they had to be very mindful of who is eligible,” Weideman said. “It definitely added another layer of work.”

Now, the biggest challenge is to make sure that those ages 16-17 are directed to where Pfizer shots are given, as that is the only vaccine approved for teens at this time. Already, 95 of the county’s estimated 1,700 teens ages 16-17 (5.6%) have received their first dose.

In the past week, 3,624 vaccine doses were given, slightly down from last week’s record high of 3,650 doses. A total of 21,703 county residents (36.3%) have received at least one dose, with 14,278 (22.1%) having completed their vaccine series, she said.

While vaccinations are continuing widely, the county is still struggling to reach its Black population. The state data shows just 53 of the county’s 1,400 Black resident (3.8%) have received their first dose, compared to roughly 32.7% of the county’s white population. Weideman announced the county has received funding from the Department of Health Services to work on equity plans to reach more of the Black population and get them shots.

Cases down, but warning signs ahead

Chippewa County saw 14 new positive cases of the virus in the past week from 231 tests given, for a 6.1% positivity rate. Last week, 22 people tested positive for the virus out of 206 tests, for a 10.7% positivity rate. Overall, less than 1% of cases are now considered to be active, and for the first time in months, no county residents are hospitalized with virus-related symptoms. None of the positive cases this week were for the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant; the county has had five reported cases of that variant.

However, Weideman pointed to signs that cases are about to head in the wrong direction, as new cases are up so far this week, and on Tuesday, the state reported more new cases than any day since Feb. 12. Chippewa County also reported its first new COVID-19-related death in nearly a month on Monday, bringing the total to 94.

“Our numbers are not looking good this week,” Weideman said. “We are seeing slight increases at the state and local level. I see things moving in the wrong direction.”

Weideman encouraged everyone to continue wearing masks, and she urged businesses to keep partitions, like plexiglass, in place at this time.

Weideman said the National Guard is continuing to offer free COVID-19 tests every Wednesday, 1-4 p.m., at the Lafayette Town Hall,throughout April.

Chippewa County remains close to dropping from a high risk level to moderate risk level, as cases continue a steady decline. With a high risk level, there is a recommendation that gatherings be limited to 15 indoors and 50 outdoors.