by CHRIS ROGERS
Since Wednesday, Winona County has reported 10 new cases of COVID-19. There have been 17 new cases in the last seven days, and the county’s total is now 110.
“We’ve seen some more cases,” Winona County Health and Human Services Director Karen Sanness said in an interview on Wednesday when asked about the recent uptick. “A lot of those cases have tested positive due to individuals frequenting establishments over in La Crosse. Not all of them, but a majority of them.”
La Crosse County issued alerts after numerous people — predominantly people in their 20s and 30s — contracted the virus after visiting bars, restaurants, and other businesses. Winona County Health and Human Services called out the rise in infections among young adults nationwide in a recent press release. “While people in these age groups generally fare well in tolerating COVID-19, they pose a significant risk to other more vulnerable individuals,” county officials wrote, asking young adults to avoid establishments and gatherings if it is not possible to stay six feet away from other people.
Four Winona businesses voluntarily closed their doors this week and voluntarily disclosed that one of their staff member had tested positive for COVID-19: Wellington’s Pub & Grill, the Red Men’s Club, the Acoustic Cafe, and 929 Beer House. “Out of an abundance of caution, we closed Wellington’s and had all staff members who came in contact with this person tested. All tests have come back negative,” Wellington’s Pub & Grill posted on its Facebook page.
Asked whether and in what situation Winona County would issue public notices about locations where there were clusters of virus transmission, Sanness said, “We’ve been getting this question all day, and we’re seeking clarification from the Minnesota Department of Health … Is it appropriate for us to notify the public of workplaces or establishments where there could have been an exposure? We’re currently seeking clarification from MDH right now on that.”
Sanness stated that the county’s contact tracing program had not, as of Wednesday, identified any businesses where there has been recent transmission at the business. While some businesses have had employees test positive and some have chosen to close as a result, she said, “It was pretty clear that [those COVID-19-positive employees] didn’t report to work and hadn’t been at work for several days before they became sick.”
County: Child under 10 was hospitalized for COVID-19 last month
At total of seven people have been hospitalized for COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic, Winona County Health and Human Services officials reported. That includes one child under age 10 who was hospitalized for COVID-19 in May, according to Public Health Supervisor Melanie Tatge. The child's hospitalization was reported for first time this week because it was accidentally missed in past county reports, county staff explained. Tatge said information on current hospitalizations is private.
While children can carry the virus and it is possible for them to get sick, it is not common for children to get seriously ill, according to the Mayo Clinic. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) have also warned about a trend: Some children infected with COVID-19 have developed a disorder called multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). Symptoms of MIS-C include fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, and feeling extra tired, according to the CDC. Find more information here.
Tremplo Co. risk downgraded from “severe” to “high”
Trempealeau County reported 13 new infections since Wednesday for a total of 112. It has had 22 new cases in the last seven days. Two people were recently hospitalized with COVID-19.
While new infections are still popping up on a daily basis, the recent numbers are a slight improvement from earlier this month when Trempealeau County posted 34 new infections in one week. That improvement was good enough to downgrade Trempealeau County’s risk of COVID-19 spread from “severe” to “high.”
Under the recent “severe” risk level, county health officials were urging citizens to return to safer-at-home practices: no non-essential errands or travel, no indoor gatherings outside the household, and no outdoor gatherings with over 10 people, and no dine-in service at restaurants and bars.
Now, under the “high” risk level, health officials say dine-in service is alright at restaurants that can keep parties six feet apart, as are indoor gatherings of up to 15 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 50. A full list of recommendations by risk level is available here. Regardless of risk level, Trempealeau County urges citizens to stay home if they are sick, stay six feet apart from others, wear a face covering in public, wash hands frequently with soap and water, cover coughs and sneeze, and avoid touching their faces.
“Thank you to the businesses, organizations, and individuals who are following recommendations to help reduce our risk,” Trempealeau County Health Department staff wrote in a release. They asked to avoid travel to severe risk areas. La Crosse County is still under severe risk for spread.
Infections keep growing in La Crosse County
La Crosse County reported 70 more cases since Wednesday and 164 new infections in the past seven days. The county’s total now stands at 384 confirmed cases. Despite efforts to get the public to return to safer-at-home practices, the infection rate there did not slow down this week. La Crosse County recently added new locations to its list of places where COVID-19 exposure has been confirmed.
Elsewhere in Southeast Minnesota, slow spread continued in Fillmore, Houston, and Wabasha counties. Rochester’s Olmsted County is reporting between 20 and 30 new cases a day. Its total infections now stand at 384.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that a child under 10 was recently hospitalized. County reports on all hospitalizations included that case for the first time this week, but county staff explained the child was actually hospitalized in May.