MONROE — COVID-19 is continuing to spread locally as Wisconsin has become a coronavirus pandemic hotspot.
As of Oct. 12, Green County reported 106 active confirmed cases. The positivity rate among those tested for COVID-19 within the previous 14 days has been steadily rising and is now near 15%, a record high.
Lafayette County reported 90 active cases and 10 probable cases, as well as a rising positivity rate. As of Oct. 12, about 20% of those tested in the previous 14 days were positive for COVID-19. By the county's disease control metrics, not enough residents are getting tested and over a third of confirmed cases have no known origin.
Lafayette County’s probable cases are primarily from a quick antigen test used as a screening measure on employees in healthcare and long-term care facilities, said Julie Leibfried, interim director of the Lafayette County Health Department. The screening test cannot confirm a COVID-19 infection.
Depending on the situation, she said, some people with a probable infection go on to get a confirmatory test — the widely used “golden standard” PCR nasal swab test.
The Department of Health Services reported on Oct. 12 that the seven-day average of new confirmed cases in Wisconsin was at an all-time high, surpassing the previous week’s number. Hospitalizations have also been rising.
A new statewide order from Gov. Tony Evers went into effect Oct. 8 to limit public gatherings to no more than 25% of a room or a building’s total occupancy, or 10 people. It remains in effect until Nov. 6.
The order applies to gatherings at locations that are open to the public such as stores, restaurants and other businesses that allow public entry as well as spaces with ticketed events.
It does not apply to a business’ outdoor space, such as a patio, or to religious events, political demonstrations, private wedding or funeral ceremonies, schools, factories or state and local government operations or facilities.
Still, the state cautioned on a Frequently Asked Questions page that “large weddings are not a good idea right now,” adding that “there have been multiple examples of weddings becoming ‘super-spreader’ events, where many people have gotten sick and even died from COVID-19 as a result of attending a wedding.
In both Green and Lafayette counties, parties and other big gatherings have resulted in documented COVID-19 outbreaks.
“Locally we have very high disease activity levels, with widespread community transmission, and this order is a way to limit situations where large groups of people are gathering indoors. This is not an order that shuts things down,” Green County Public Health Officer RoAnn Warden said in a statement.
“A vibrant economy and healthy community go hand-in-hand with each one of us doing all we can to slow the spread of this disease in our community using simple, effective public health practices,” Warden said. These include staying at least six feet from others, wearing a face covering and frequently washing hands.
Green County Public Health advises staying home and avoiding group gatherings, playdates and nonessential appointments.
Baumgartner’s in downtown Monroe is one business that will remain closed in light of the new statewide order. Previously, the tavern and cheese store shut down “until further notice” Sept. 26 due to a staff member testing positive for COVID-19.
Following public health recommendations over the past seven months “has been viewed by some as a political stance, and that’s unfortunate,” the business posted to its Facebook page. “We are simply trying to do what we think is safest for our staff, customers and our community. We assure you that we would much prefer to be open and serving you, our customers.”
The post acknowledged the struggles small business owners face during the pandemic but assured that Baumgartner’s is “one of the few and very fortunate independent restaurants that (is) confident that we can ride out this storm and make to the other side okay!”
Where to get tested
Free drive-through testing is available in Monroe on Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Monroe National Guard Armory and on alternating Mondays in New Glarus and Brodhead. To register and make an appointment, go to gchealth.org.
Lafayette County is offering free drive-through testing every other Tuesday at the Ames Multi-Purpose Building, 11974 Ames Rd. The next testing event is 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 27. No appointments are necessary but you can pre-register at register.covidconnect.wi.gov.
Testing is recommended for anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, even mild symptoms, and anyone who has been in close contact with a person with COVID-19. Symptoms typically appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus.