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Officials: Virus may have peaked in schools
Nearly double the positive cases already in Green County in January from December
coronavirus covid-19

MONROE — Wisconsin became a nationwide hotspot for COVID-19 infections in January, and the Green County region was no exception. But the virus may have finally peaked here, local officials hope.

While a mask mandate continues in Monroe schools, officials there said they are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel as far the virus’ impact on daily life and education. The total number of students and staff who have tested positive or in quarantine had dropped to 136 on Monday, from 177 on Friday and significantly higher than that earlier this month.

“The steep climb in student COVID positive numbers that we experienced during the first two weeks of January has subsided,” said Joe Monroe, director of pupil services. “The data over the last week suggests that the number of positive cases is starting to plateau, and we are hopeful that we will start to see a decline soon.”

Masks were required in all School District of Monroe facilities starting Thursday, Jan. 13, as the Board of Education sought to blunt the effects of a wave of COVID-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant of the virus. In the nine days after their return from the holiday break, Monroe saw positive student cases explode by more than 438%, according to district officials.

Local health officials said they are waiting to check official state numbers that come out mid-week in Wisconsin. They remain cautiously optimistic.

“If we do see a decrease in cases this week that would be great, however, we’re still experiencing a critically high disease activity level in the county and seeing case numbers unlike any other time during the pandemic,” said Bridget Craker, public health educator for the Green County Health Dept.  “Additionally, if we do experience a decrease in case numbers this week, it is too soon to know if we will continue to see a downward trend over the next few weeks.”

This month Wisconsin repeatedly broke records for the most COVID-19 infections in a day, and saw more patients hospitalized with the disease than at any point in the pandemic. About 1 in every 250 Wisconsinites has had COVID-19 as of Friday, averaging out to 23,000 cases. So far in January, Craker said, 1,629 Green County residents have tested positive for COVID-19. That’s nearly double compared to the December total of 830 positive cases.

According to state data, unvaccinated Wisconsinites were ten times more likely to be hospitalized than those who got the shot. Last week, the federal government launched its website for ordering free at-home COVID-19 tests, another step families can take to stop the spread. 

Officials continue, meanwhile, repeating the call for more testing, masks and vaccinations. “We strongly encourage community members to get vaccinated and get their booster dose,” said Craker.