The La Crosse County Health Department received notification Wednesday evening and Thursday morning through the Wisconsin Electronic Disease Surveillance System of two more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county.
The third case, a male in his late 20s or early 30s, is a household contact to one of the previously identified cases. The fourth case is a male UW-Madison student in his late 20s. The latter is believed to have contracted the virus during a recent visit to Milwaukee; he returned to his hometown of La Crosse March 15, where he has been in isolation since.
The first two positive cases are attributed to women in their late 20s to 40s, both of whom are in quarantine in their homes with their families.
“We don’t yet have individuals in those high-risk categories getting sick,” says Jen Rombalski, director for the La Crosse County Health Department. “We’re grateful all of these individuals are not severely ill and are at home and not in the hospital.”
During a Thursday afternoon press conference co-hosted by Bridget Pfaff, infection control specialist for Gundersen Health System, Rombalski announced the La Crosse County Health Department would no longer be updating the public as new cases are confirmed. However, residents will be alerted of any positive tests related to community spread, meaning the absence of travel history or no contact with an infected individual.
In addition, tests will be reserved for those considered most susceptible to severe cases of the virus, including those older than age 60, those with heart or lung disease, diabetes or those with compromised immune systems.
“(We will test) based upon risk,” Rombalski says. “We can’t test everyone — we don’t have the capacity.”
Rombalski stresses that “we don’t need to know the result of the test — if we’re symptomatic we should stay home.”
Pfaff says in order to conserve tests, the criteria may continue to evolve. Social distancing, thorough hand washing, staying home if sick and avoiding unnecessary excursions are important for every community member to practice, she notes.
“If we’re all doing the right things, hopefully we’re going to interrupt the cycle,” Pfaff said.
The Health Department, Gundersen and Mayo are collaborating closely and taking the situation seriously, Rombalski says. When it comes to the duration of the pandemic on a local level, she concedes “life may be disrupted for awhile.”
“I think we should be prepared for this to last longer than we may have thought,” Rombalski said. “This is not going to be a matter of weeks. This is going to be a matter of months.”
Emily Pyrek can be reached at email@example.com.
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