As of Monday, July 20, four more positive COVID-19 cases had been reported to the Sawyer County Public Health Department, bringing to 19 the total number of cases recorded in the county.
Two new cases were confirmed Thursday, July 16, and two more on Friday, July 17, the department said on its website. Of the 19 cases, 14 have recovered and one was hospitalized for 24 or more hours. There have been no deaths.
More than 10% of the county’s population, or 2,130 persons, have tested negative.
In response to the rising number of positives around the nation and state, major national and regional retailers such as Walmart, Walgreens and, locally, Marketplace Foods are requiring patrons to wear a mask to shop.
Board meeting update
On July 16 Sawyer County Public Health Officer Julia Lyons gave the Sawyer County Board of Supervisors a COVID-19 update, reporting at the time that the county had 17 positive cases.
Lyons showed a state map produced by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) that classifies Sawyer County with a “medium” activity-level based on the number of positive cases.
She compared county DHS maps from July 8 and July 15, noting that activity levels in most surrounding counties, except Rusk, were increasing. She said many of the recent positives are related to people attending events and not following social distancing guidelines.
Lyons reiterated the importance of complying with the health guidelines of social distancing, wearing a mask, frequent hand washing and keeping the number of close contacts to a minimum.
She also stressed the county’s strategy is to test those with mild to severe symptoms and everyone who had close contact with those testing positive as soon as possible to prevent further spread.
Lyons emphasized a key for schools to re-open this fall with in-person attendance is to test children quickly, including a test that covers both COVID-19 and the flu.
She said all county schools — LCO, Hayward and Winter — are looking at offering in-person learning with a virtual option.
Two in-person attendance strategies, she said, include conducting school four days a week with one day set aside for deep cleaning, or allowing half of the students to attend in-school classes two days with one day off for deep cleaning, then allowing the other half to attend the next two days.
Lyons said she is working a color-code system of risk based on the number of new positives to decide if the best course of action for a school is to shut down for short periods when cases increase.
“It is a risk,” she said of kids returning to school. “I am not under any delusion and neither is any of the school superintendents as we move forward and we work with parents. Everybody has to understand that there is no way kids are going to stay at six-foot distance from one another. We can do what we can do to help protect them, but parents do really need to weigh the risks and determine if they want to send their kids to school. The virtual option is available for all.”
County Fair precautions
Rick Christian, Sawyer County Fair president, also updated the board about plans for the county fair to be held Aug. 13-16.
Christian said the fair board has been in close contact with Lyons regarding measures necessary to keep the fair as safe as possible at all venues.
“I am very confident we can do a safe fair this year,” he said.
Chair Tweed Shuman asked Christian what preparations were to be taken for the large crowd anticipated for the Chris Kroeze performance Aug. 14. Christian said the performance would be held in a separate tent with audience attendance limited, but he didn’t know the size of the tent or how many would be allowed in the tent.
Lyons said the fair board is doing what it can to make the event as safe as possible, adding that a decision will be made as to whether fair-goers should wear a mask.
She also noted that Kroeze has agreed to make public radio spots encouraging social distancing at the fair.