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COVID-19 | THE COULEE REGION

Death rates outpacing vaccinations in Coulee Region, La Crosse County reaches 103 fatalities

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Over 80% of the U.S. population is currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccination, and yet just 65.8% of those 12 and older are fully inoculated despite the vaccine rollout starting nine months ago.

While transmission rates dropped last spring despite vaccine rates slowing, the delta variant has led to a spike in infections, hospitalizations and deaths in addition to, though less common, breakthrough infections. Yet, while vaccines are proven to greatly reduce chance of illness in general and severity of symptoms among those who do become infected, a sector of the population remains adamant they will not willingly be vaccinated, whether due to concerns about the science, timeline, or risks of the vaccine. For some, the reason is political or religious.

The overwhelming majority of reputable medical organizations and entities, including the CDC, FDA, American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and Wisconsin Department of Health, strongly advise vaccination for all those eligible, and data has shown severe side effects or fatalities potentially associated with vaccination are miniscule.

More than 396 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered nationwide as of Oct. 4, and from Dec. 14 to Oct. 4 the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System received 8,390 reports of death, the equivalent of 0.0021%, among those who received a COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC notes not all of these deaths are in fact due to the vaccine, with no established casual link.

In contrast, coronavirus deaths have exceeded 707,000 nationally, 8,090 statewide and 100 in La Crosse County.

Local death rates increasing faster than vaccinations

Data on COVID-19 deaths is beginning to mirror what the Coulee Region experienced in the fall of 2020, when the area saw a spike in severe cases after a lull during warmer months. This could signal the region is on the brink of seeing another deadly, tragic winter.

In the last four months while vaccinations in the region have been slowly creeping along, deaths from COVID-19 have been increasing at a faster rate.

Between Aug. 11 and Sept. 8 vaccine rates in the region increased by just over 2%. But deaths increased by 6% after seeing largely no fatalities over the summer. And from September to this past Wednesday, deaths increased by 5%, and vaccinations saw their lowest increase since the summer.

In total, 7% of the 606 virus deaths in the region occurred in the last month alone.

This data comes as news broke last week that the 2021 deaths in the United States from COVID-19 have surpassed that of 2020.

It’s unclear if this trend of rapidly increasing deaths will continue in the region, as across the nation there appears to be a downward trend in cases and hospitalizations after a weeks-long surge.

The highest death rates in the last month in the Coulee Region occurred in some of the larger counties, with 11 deaths in Chippewa County and nine in La Crosse County. But it’s sweeping through some of the more rural areas as well, and in Vernon County officials have reported six deaths since Sept. 1 — 11% of its total deaths from the virus.

Meanwhile, all but three of the 11 counties the River Valley Media Group has been monitoring in the Coulee Region have surpassed vaccinating 50% or more of their population, with some of the most rural areas still lagging in handing out shots. Only Trempealeau and La Crosse counties have surpassed vaccinating 60% of its residents.

Here are the vaccination rates and death totals for the 11 counties as of Wednesday, Oct. 6. Vaccine rates are based on the amount of residents 12 and older with at least one shot. (No death totals by county available for Minnesota):

Chippewa:

  • 112 deaths
  • 52.5% vaccinated

Crawford:

  • 22 deaths
  • 52.1% vaccinated

Dunn:

  • 43 deaths
  • 44.9% vaccinated

Eau Claire:

  • 133 deaths
  • 56.9% vaccinated

Jackson:

  • 31 deaths
  • 45.4% vaccinated

La Crosse:

  • 105 deaths
  • 62.3% vaccinated

Monroe:

  • 54 deaths
  • 45.3% vaccinated

Trempealeau:

  • 52 deaths
  • 61.3% vaccinated

Vernon:

  • 54 deaths
  • 50.4% vaccinated

Houston:

  • 58.1% vaccinated

Winona:

  • 53.8% vaccinated



La Crosse County, Wisconsin viral transmission rates remain very high

La Crosse County COVID-19 cases rates continue to be rated very high, with 66% of infections occurring among those who haven’t been inoculated.

For the seven-day period ending Oct. 3, the La Crosse County Health Department reported COVID-19 infections among those who have either not had the shots or have not completed the vaccine series to be 544.7 per 100,000 per week, compared to 184 per 100,000 per week for the fully vaccinated.

From to Sept. 26 to Oct. 2, 381 cases were added, for an average of 54 per day. In the months of August and September, over 60% of cases were attributed to public or large group gatherings/events.

In Wisconsin, coronavirus activity is rated very high for the two-week period ending Oct. 5. The state’s case burden was 715.5 per 100,000, with no significant change in trajectory.

La Crosse County is also categorized at very high, with a burden of 672.7 per 100,000 and no significant change in trajectory.

Seventeen counties have reached critically high status, and no county is in the high, medium or low category.

The state as of Oct. 7 had a seven-day average of 2,651 new cases per day for an 8.7% positivity rate. A total of 8,092 deaths were confirmed as of Thursday, including 103 in La Crosse County. Statewide, there were 745,802 confirmed cases total, with 15,556 among La Crosse County residents.

Per DHS data, in the month of August infections among the unvaccinated or partially vaccinated were at a rate of 1,413.7 per 100,000, with hospitalizations 98.5 per 100,000 and deaths 11.7 per 100,000. For those fully vaccinated, those rates were 360.7 per 100,000; 11.5 per 100,000; and 1.1 per 100,000, respectively.

The Wisconsin Hospital Association reported 1,162 current COVID-19 hospitalizations as of Oct. 8, including 307 ICU patients. In the Western region, those numbers were 67 and 13, respectively. For the two-week period ending Oct. 5, DHS reported change no significant change in overall hospitalizations, including in Western Wisconsin. Statewide 53.7% of hospitals had their ICUS at peak capacity, and 23.5% of ventilators were in use.

La Crosse County youth coronavirus rates

The La Crosse County Health Department for the week ending Sept. 29 put COVID cases among those in the K-12 age range at 67.69 per 100,000 per day. The previous week, the daily rate was 61.09 per 100,000.

The School District of La Crosse reported for the week ending Oct. 5 a case rate of 37.2 per 100,00 per day. In total that week, 25 cases were confirmed, with 16 currently active. A total of 228 close contacts due to in-school exposure were reported. A total of individuals of 84 were required to quarantine.

The district continues to offer on-site testing for symptomatic students at all school buildings and hosts daily testing at select locations for students, staff or student families regardless of symptom status.

Emily Pyrek can be reached at emily.pyrek@lee.net.

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