WIcoronavirus

EAU CLAIRE — If you’re in a Wisconsin metro area right now, there’s a decent chance you’re in a city where cases of COVID-19 are rising the fastest in the nation.

That’s according to a New York Times roundup of metro areas where new cases of the virus are adding up the fastest.

On Monday, the Eau Claire metro area was 16th in the nation, according to the newspaper’s data. On Tuesday and Wednesday Eau Claire dropped off the list, which identifies the top 20 metro areas in the nation where new cases are rising the fastest — calculated while considering the size of the cities’ populations.

The Times drew the data from its effort to tally every COVID-19 case in the United States by county.

Eau Claire County recorded 282 new cases of the coronavirus between Sept. 8 and Sept. 14, compared to 176 new cases the week before — despite no significant change in the number of tests done those two weeks, according to Eau Claire City-County Health Department data.

But Eau Claire isn’t the only city representing the Badger State on the newspaper’s list. As of Wednesday, Wisconsin is dominating in the nation’s top 20.

As of Wednesday, the New York Times ranked the La Crosse metro area No. 1 in the nation in how quickly new cases are rising. Whitewater came in third in the nation, Green Bay in 10th, Beaver Dam in 12th, Oshkosh and Neenah in 13th, Platteville in 14th, Appleton in 17th and Madison in 18th.

All eight of those Wisconsin metro areas are home to at least one university or technical college. Universities across the country are reporting outbreaks of COVID-19 as students return to in-person classes.

That pattern remains true in Eau Claire County, where the majority of new COVID-19 cases are still young adults.

Of all coronavirus cases between Friday and Wednesday, 70% were in people between 18 and 24 years old, said Audrey Boerner, public health specialist with the Health Department.

“This age group has been where we’ve had more cases for several weeks, prior to the beginning of the school year,” Boerner said Wednesday in an email to the Leader-Telegram. “While the beginning of the school year has seen more of this age group being together (in and out of the classroom), it has also correlated with more testing readily accessible for UW-EC students.”

But as of Wednesday, the Health Department hasn’t found any outbreaks in Eau Claire County related to K-12 or college classrooms, Boerner noted, calling it “one of our community success stories.”

She said: “While people who attend these school settings have tested positive, because of the good safety measures that have been put in place, outbreaks have been prevented.”

Eau Claire County added 50 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to the Health Department. It brings the county’s case total to 1,336; about 1,105 county residents have recovered from the virus, and 45 have ever been hospitalized.

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

Sarah Seifert is the Leader-Telegram's education and health reporter. She's 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 at @sarahaseifert.