Bayfield County recorded two additional positive coronavirus tests Wednesday, pushing its total known patients to 11.
The county has seen a stunning increase in positive tests over recent days, going from three at the beginning of the summer season to 11 and perhaps more. The county held a free testing event Friday in Iron River, and had to shut it down early when it ran out of test kits and results on many of those tests still are pending.
As the new numbers were submitted to the state Wednesday, leaders of the medical staff at Memorial Medical Center submitted a letter to the editor of the Daily Press, all but pleading for Bay-Area residents to adhere to safety precautions.
"And we can’t stress it enough," the letter reads. "Wearing masks, washing hands, practicing social distancing, and not gathering in large groups – this is what’s going to slow the spread and we need everyone in this community to work together to achieve that.
"We’re prepared for this," the letter continues. "We have been for months. But each person has got to do all they can as a concerned citizen to slow the spread of this unrelenting virus."
The surge in local cases that prompted the letter began in late June and continued through the Fourth of July weekend. Local health care providers are particularly concerned because so many residents continue to shop and meet in large gatherings without practicing simple safety precautions.
"Help us to slow the spread of COVID-19, specifically as it relates to large gatherings and events," the MMC doctors wrote in their letter. "We’re coming to you, asking you to think about the decisions you make. In the best interests of community health and well-being, it is critical that local residents and visitors to the region adhere to best practices in order to limit the spread of COVID-19:
- Stay at least 6 feet from other people
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds
- Wear a mask in public
- Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth
- Clean surfaces frequently
- Stay home if you are sick"
On Monday, Bay-Area health departments issued an advisory calling for everyone to wear masks while indoors, to take effect Friday morning. But it is only their recommendation; neither county nor the state has issued a mask mandate.
Some local businesses have begun to require masks, most recently the Madeline Island Ferry Line, which said Wednesday that all passengers outside of enclosed vehicles will have to have their faces covered.
Elsewhere in the country, the Walmart corporation on Wednesday said it will require all patrons at all its stores to wear masks and the governor of Oklahoma, Republican Kevin Stitt, revealed that he has tested positive - the first governor to come down with the disease.
Stitt has backed one of the country’s most aggressive reopening plans, resisted any statewide mandate on masks and rarely wears one himself.
“We respect people’s rights ... to not wear a mask," Stitt said during Wednesday's news conference, which was held virtually. “You just open up a big can of worms.