After five concerning weeks when the number of new positive COVID-19 cases rose noticeably from week to week, Sawyer County has entered a second week with fewer new cases than the week before.
During a worldwide pandemic, a decreasing number of new cases is the positive news all public health officials want.
On Tuesday, Sept. 8, Sawyer County Public Health Officer Julia Lyons reported 166 cumulative COVID-19 positives for the county (13 cases are active), up just four from the previous Tuesday, Sept. 1, when 162 were reported. In the previous two weeks, 15 and 30 new cases had been reported, on the heels of three one-week periods when over 30 new cases had been reported each week.
As of Sept. 8, the county’s seven-day average per 100,000 population, six per 100,000, is considered next to the lowest level of transmission.
“That is amazing that we have dropped that much,” Lyons said.
Just a few weeks before, the level of transmission in the county was one of the highest in the state and above the national average.
“Everybody is doing a great job,” she said, noting perhaps the desire to get kids back in school has motivated people to be more cautious. She also said, “We are not seeing people spread it from one person to the next at larger get-togethers or parties.”
Once there has been a stop in the spread, Lyons said, the natural result is fewer new cases.
“When you get a lot of positives without that social distancing, it is going to spread pretty quickly,” she said. “I think the information got out that we shouldn’t have those get-togethers, and if we do, there should be social distancing. We are still being very careful. I think that message is working.”
The statewide mask mandate, which continues until Sept. 28, also has had a positive impact on reducing new cases, she said.
However, Lyons remains guarded as to whether the downward trend will continue. After last weekend’s long Labor Day weekend with many visitors in the area, she will be monitoring for an uptick in new cases. If there was community spread over the long weekend, she anticipates a rise in new cases about the middle of next week.
Of the 166 positive cases recorded since March, 153 have recovered, but 13 are still considered active, and seven have been hospitalized. There have been no deaths in the county from COVID-19.
Sixty persons are being monitored via community tracing.
And over 20% of Sawyer County residents (4,111) have tested negative. Some have been tested more than once but are counted only as one case/person.
Since last week, Lyons reports most businesses are complying with the statewide masking mandate for public places.
“Most businesses are in compliance,” she said. “However, there are a few out there that I keep hearing about.”
On Sept. 1 the Hayward School District was the county’s lone district to allow in-person attendance. After one week, Lyons said, there have been no symptomatic cases reported in Hayward schools.
Starting Tuesday, Sept. 8, the Winter School District began K-5 in-person attendance, and on Monday, Sept. 14, the Winter middle and high school students will transition from virtual to in-person attendance.
The Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) K-12 will continue with virtual schooling until Sept. 21. However with the lower rate of spread for COVID-19 in the county, Lyon believes LCO may reconsider its timeline.
Lyons said there is much more interest in being vaccinated for seasonal influenza this upcoming flu season than in years past.
People are concerned about possibly becoming ill simultaneously with the flu and COVID-19, which has no vaccine at this time, Lyons said.
Increased flu vaccinations and mask wearing should noticeably reduce the number of people who become ill from the seasonal flu this year, she said.