MONROE — Nine Green County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 20 but "it's really deceiving to say there's only nine people in Green County that have this," RoAnn Warden said Wednesday afternoon, April 8.
Warden, the public health director for Green County, made the comment at the April county health committee meeting.
Also on April 8, Lafayette County reported its second positive COVID-19 case. Both individuals "have remained under quarantine" and are in daily contact with public health nurses, according to Elizabeth Townsend, public health director of Lafayette County.
Warden disclosed some demographic information on Green County's confirmed positive cases to county supervisors at the meeting. In keeping with social distancing recommendations to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, the meeting was held over telephone conference. It was chaired by county supervisor Harvey Kubly.
Of the nine people confirmed to have COVID-19, four are female and five are male. Five have been hospitalized and two remain hospitalized.
The ages of the nine vary widely. One person is in their 20s, one is in their 30s, three are in their 40s, one is in their 70s and three are in their 80s.
Six of the nine people contracted COVID-19 through community spread. Two traced their exposure, separately, to out-of-state travel. One is a healthcare worker but does not work in a healthcare facility in Green County.
The cases "initially appeared on the fringes of our county" to the north, Warden said, and "now they're all throughout. There's no real cluster if we were to put them on a map."
Quarantine of sick individuals is working to contain the spread.
"In none of our confirmed cases has there been secondary transmission," she said.
In total, 181 people have been tested in Green County since March 11. Statewide as of April 8, the Department of Health reported a total of 2,756 positive test results, 30,115 negative test results and 99 deaths.
Limited lab testing materials for COVID-19 is still a "big barrier" in assessing the spread, which is a frustration that is not unique to Green County and has "everyone across the world" competing, Warden said. Across the United States, in keeping with federal testing guidelines, medical providers are prioritizing the most serious or urgent cases, such as hospitalized patients and healthcare workers.
"I know we have a lot more (COVID-19 cases) in our community," she said. "People want to be tested, we want to test them."
Wisconsin currently has 14 labs processing COVID-19 tests, and several dozen more are anticipated to start soon, she said. Gov. Tony Evers announced a plan last week to increase testing capability by partnering with private labs.
Warden said she expects her department to get test kits in the next week or two. The tests will be kept on hand to give out only in special circumstances, for example if the coroner needs one, if there's an outbreak in a longterm care facility or at the jail or to test anyone who can't be transported to a hospital.
As health officials learn more about the new virus, which was first identified in December in China, "we're seeing that people can be infectious and not have symptoms, or they can be infectious in the days before they develop symptoms."
"I think one of the most challenging things has just been managing the information. The situation is rapidly changing," Warden said. Her department is taking on "rumor control" and trying to direct people to reliable, accurate information on its website, gcpublichealth.com.
"We don't want Dr. Facebook to be the source," Warden said.
Warden told the committee public health nurses are working seven days a week to track cases, field calls and follow up with those who are in quarantine. One nurse who left the department in December has returned to help with the increased caseload. The department is also tracking its expenses related to the the coronavirus pandemic because "we'll be applying for those FEMA dollars if and when they come, and they will."
Getting personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves, gowns and masks to healthcare workers is the current top priority.
"Everybody is short," she said. Healthcare workers are sanitizing masks for reuse and using washable gowns to extend their supply.
One committee member asked Warden if she is worried about people immediately going out to party in large groups when the governor's "Safer at Home" order expires April 24. Warden said she expects the order will be extended and that when it is lifted, restrictions will slowly phase out "so you don't have this 'opening the gate' scenario."
On April 8, the state Department of Health reported it may recommend extending the "Safer at Home" order past April 24 if there's a spike in the number of COVID-19 patients due to in-person voting for the April 7 Spring Election.