MONROE — As COVID-19 cases surge locally and across the state, all public schools in Monroe are going virtual through the end of October.
School District of Monroe Administrator Rick Waski announced the change in an email to parents Oct. 15, explaining that it was a response to the "escalating number of positive COVID-19 cases and quarantines in our district schools, combined with the highest number of active cases and percentage of positive tests we have had in Green County."
Green County reports 119 active cases, with four hospitalized, as of Oct. 15. The percentage of residents testing positive over the past 14 days continues to rise and is currently at nearly 16%, its highest yet. Three Green County residents have died since June from COVID-19.
Lafayette County is experiencing a similar uptick and reported its first COVID-19 death on Oct. 14. It had 86 active cases and 10 probable cases.
Wisconsin had a record-breaking 3,747 new confirmed cases on Oct. 15. The Department of Health Services reported that the average daily case number has more than quadrupled over the past six weeks and average daily deaths have more than tripled.
Waski said the school district intends to return to face-to-face instruction in all five district buildings the week of Nov. 2, but only "if the numbers ... show decreasing tendencies."
"It is my belief, and the belief of a vast majority of the board of education, that face-to-face instruction in any form is superior to entirely virtual instruction," he wrote in the email to parents, adding, "We realize that this is a challenge for families, particularly those with elementary school-aged children. We would not be making this move if we didn't feel it was absolutely necessary."
In the Monroe school district as of Oct. 15, 91 students and staff are in quarantine or are currently positive for the novel coronavirus.
Green County is averaging 16 to 17 new cases daily, said RoAnn Warden, public health officer. Most are from household or community transmission.
The county has 24 active outbreak investigations, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, including seven outbreaks stemming from private gatherings.
Although COVID-19 spreads most easily indoors, Warden said outdoor gatherings are also causing outbreaks in Green County.
"These are outdoor parties where people would think that they're safe (like a) barbecue, congregating around a table or around a fire. We have not seen consistently indoor private gatherings (causing outbreaks). It's across the board," she said.
Even "drive-up" gatherings where people stay in their cars but interact with open windows have been sources of outbreaks.
It highlights the need for people to stay home or within their household unit when possible to limit the spread of COVID-19 and that even outdoor backyard get-togethers with extended family can be risky, Warden said.
Contact tracers do not ask about mask usage.
At a county health committee meeting Oct. 14, public health nurse Vicki Evenson said she's seeing people test positive who aren't initially having symptoms so they continue going to work after getting tested.
"Then they develop severe (symptoms)," she said.
Still, Warden said, more and more of those getting tested at the local testing sites are symptomatic at the time of testing.
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.