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45 COVID cases added in La Crosse County

La Crosse County recorded 45 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Monday, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

While Monday’s total is lower than the spike during the weekend, the county is still averaging 66 new cases per day during the past seven days. That figure has nearly doubled since Friday (33.86) and is up from 22.14 a week ago.

According to The New York Times as of Monday afternoon, the La Crosse metro area has seen the second-fastest rise in new cases of any metro area in the U.S. per 100,000 people during the past week. Six other metro areas in Wisconsin are among the top 20.

Total confirmed cases in the county are up to 1,799, which grows to 1,903 when including probable cases.

Of new tests reported Monday, 97.83% came back positive. Reporting positive tests often takes priority to reporting negative tests for DHS, which can lead to rates like those Monday.

The seven-day positivity rate increased to 37.38%, up from 28.57% on Sunday and 14.41% a week ago. The 14-day rate increased to 26.69%, up from 23.57% on Sunday and 13.63% a week ago.

Total positivity is up to 7.39%, and total deaths remained at two.

The La Crosse County Health Department’s free testing site Monday used up its 500 testing kits at 3 p.m., three hours before the event was set to end, the health department reported.

Another free testing site will be held Monday, September 21, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the La Crosse County Health and Human Services building in Downtown La Crosse.

Databank: Learn more about COVID-19 and its spread

Education
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La Crosse area students frustrated, but not surprised, as COVID-19 cases increase
Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune 

Center campus is quiet Monday at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse where a 14-day quarantine of all dorms was put in effect Sunday to prevent further spread of COVID-19. In-person undergraduate classes will be suspended through Tuesday and resume online Wednesday.

Frustration is the key emotion flooding many University of Wisconsin-La Crosse students as on-campus residents are ordered to shelter in place, junior Caleb Marecek said Monday.

He said that he, along with many of his peers, predicted this situation would occur when they returned to the campus earlier this month.

“Like it was sort of just a matter of time before we either get shut down and get sent back (home) completely. Or something like whole dorms on lockdown, which we are currently in right now,” Marecek said.

Marecek

So far, 275 cases have been diagnosed on the campus, with 51 of those cases announced Monday.

All of those cases were diagnosed within six days, as the school year had just started on Sept. 8.

As for the university’s preparedness for this pandemic, already 70% of its 140 quarantine/isolation beds are filled.

Marecek even lives near one person who has been diagnosed with the quickly spreading disease, he shared.

Currently, to help prevent further spread, classes have been moved online for a two-week period.

Nonessential activities on campus have been canceled and students have been asked to not go home, instead staying in their dorm rooms where only fellow dorm residents are allowed.

Students are allowed to get meals to go from the dining locations on the campus, but only during certain hours each day.

If a student is diagnosed with COVID-19 or showing symptoms, meals will be delivered while they recover alone.

Masks are required to be worn on the campus.

These campus-wide instructions, including the completely online classes and shelter-in-place requirements, are currently scheduled to end at 5 p.m. Sept. 27, but they could be extended.

As for things to do during this quiet time on the campus, Marecek said there are not activities taking place – at least not in the Eagle residence hall where he lives.

Students mainly spend their days in their assigned rooms, but can occasionally use the study rooms in the buildings.

Marecek did say he thinks it’s highly likely he will get COVID-19, especially because of the numerous cases near him.

He has not yet been required to be tested for the disease as of Monday.

This likelihood of spread on the campus, he said, is greatly causing stress for many students.

Even daily service opportunities are being removed from the students’ lives, as they are limited on what they can do outside of their homes and cannot receive mail as normal.

As for other local higher education institutes, Viterbo University announced Monday its total number of students diagnosed with COVID-19 is at 63, while no employees have tested positive.

Masks are required on the campus, along with social distancing. Classes continue to be taught as originally planned, with some in-person.

Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune 

A message of frustration is displayed at Sanford Hall dormitory Monday at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Due to a spike in COVID-19 cases campus officials have decided to close academic buildings and quarantine all dorms for at least 2-weeks.

As for classes at Western Technical College, most are online, with only classes that require in-person time taking place in person. Social distancing is a major focus in the classes that are taking place.

In Winona, Minnesota State College Southeast currently has a similar setup with most classes online.

In total, by the start of September, the campus was only at a total of four positive cases. No extreme increases have been announced.

Winona State University also has faced a high increase of cases, with 209 confirmed as of Sept. 6. The university’s classes had started Aug. 24.

The university is currently in a two-week lockdown, helping to stop the spread. Classes are being moved online during the time period, but are expected to be moved back to in person at the end of the month.

At Saint Mary’s University, only 24 campus members have tested positive for COVID-19 since the university’s start the week of Aug. 24.

SMU has stayed a green level of caution with in-person classes continuing and no lockdowns.


Govt-and-politics
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La Crosse area groups team-up to provide voter info in virtual 'Vote Safe Project' roundtable

The 2020 election is less than two months away, and between a pandemic and disinformation, a lot has been thrown in the way of casting a ballot.

And state and local leaders want to make sure voters have the information they need to have their voices heard this year.

The “Vote Safe Project: Your Vote Counts,” is a nonpartisan, virtual roundtable that will highlight the voting process and how to vote safely this year in the Coulee Region. Voters can tune-in to the virtual event at 7 p.m. Sept. 22.

Magney

The roundtable will include voices from both sides of the aisle: with Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, former Attorney General JB Van Hollen, Reid Magney of the Wisconsin Elections Commission and Ginny Dankmeyer, the La Crosse County clerk.

“We felt that was critical, to make sure it was a nonpartisan event. It is open for anyone of any party or however you vote. This isn’t an agenda of any sort,” said Julie Nelson of Great Rivers United Way, the group hosting the event.

“It’s just trying to provide true, accurate information in allowing people to make their own decision from there, based on correct information,” she said.

The event will also be supported by the La Crosse Tribune, WIZM radio, WKBT-TV, WXOW-TV, LeaderEthics-Wisconsin, League of Women Voters of the La Crosse Area, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, retired political science professor Joe Heim and Valley View Rotary.

“This event cuts through the noise, the rumors and the misinformation about voting in the November election,” said Anthony Chergosky, an assistant political science professor at UW-L. “Voters need to know the truth — not the partisan spin, not an ideological agenda, just the truth about making their vote count.”

“This is not a Democratic Party event, and this is not a Republican Party event,” he added. “This is an event for friends, neighbors and all community members. This is an event for all voters.”

Voters have been met with a lot of hurdles this year, as the pandemic has caused many to weigh the risks of in-person voting, and misinformation has spread about the safety and security of mail-in voting.

As of Monday, more than 1 million voters in Wisconsin have requested an absentee ballot, 21,463 of those in La Crosse County.

“There’s been so much information and misinformation about the voting process. Clearly we’re in the middle of the pandemic so people want to vote safely for their health, and they want to make sure their vote counts,” Nelson said.

“So that’s really what we’re doing, is to provide accurate information so the people can make an informed decision and decide how they want to vote this year,” she added.

“The La Crosse Tribune is pleased to participate with Great Rivers United Way and our other community colleagues in this critically important initiative,” said Sean Burke, publisher of the Tribune. “The civic importance of voting and requirement for confidence in each vote cast is the bedrock of a functioning democracy.”

The roundtable will be held virtually at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22. The event will be livestreamed on the Facebook pages of Great Rivers United Way, WXOW-TV, WKBT-TV, WIZM radio and the La Crosse Tribune, and will also air live on WIZM NewsTalk.

Anyone with questions for the panelists can submit them through email to questions@votesafeproject.org or through text to 608-785-7914. More information can be found at www.votesafeproject.org.