by CHRIS ROGERS
The speed of the coronavirus’ spread in Winona County may be leveling off for the moment, a Winona nursing home reported a seventh staff member and zero residents tested positive for COVID-19, and Trempealeau County reported its second death from the virus last week. Trempealeau County health officials urged citizens to follow COVID-19 precautions so schools can reopen in the fall, and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a statewide mask mandate that started on Saturday.
Virus’ pace in Winona County
After accelerating throughout June and July, the speed at which new COVID-19 cases are popping up in Winona County appears to have plateaued, at least for the moment. As of Tuesday, the county reported 21 new infections in the last seven days, the lowest weekly number since July 12. That doesn’t mean the virus isn’t still spreading, but that its spread has stopped getting faster, at least during the past week. County health officials were cautious not to make too much of it, but said the numbers in Winona County reflected a plateauing of the pace of the virus’ spread across Southeast Minnesota that state epidemiologists had noted.
“We all have to continue to do what we can to keep that number low,” Winona Mayor Mark Peterson said. “If we all do it, we’ll be able to be successful in keeping it low: washing your hands, keeping distance, and wearing a mask.”
As of Tuesday, Winona County’s case total was 249. There were no new deaths in the past week.
Saint Anne of Winona
In rounds of facility-wide testing, the nursing home Saint Anne of Winona reported that three staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-July. They were quarantined and have since recovered and returned to work.
Last week, in another round of all-staff-all-resident testing, three more staff members have tested positive and are in quarantine, and the nursing home reported a seventh staff member tested positive. As of August 3, Saint Anne reported none of its residents tested positive.
“At this time, we are in very close communications with our state and local health officials to ensure we are taking all appropriate steps,” CEO Carol Ehlinger added. “All our associates are following the latest infection control protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], and our state and local health departments. We continue to monitor residents and associates for signs and symptoms of the virus.”
In Trempealeau County the speed of new infections also appeared stable, with 39 new cases in the past seven days — similar to the weekly figures in late July and down slightly from mid-July.
County health officials did not think the virus’ spread had leveled off in Trempealeau County. “I think we’ve been seeing less individual days that are high but the overall rate is still pretty high,” Health Department Public Information Officer Kaila Baer said. She cautioned against making too much of one week of numbers and pointed out that testing volumes fluctuate from week to week based on drive-in testing events. “While it seems to be a decrease because we’re not having those big-number-type of days, now is definitely not the time to think, ‘Oh, we’re doing better.’ Until we see, I’d say a month of case rates not increasingly drastically, I won’t feel comfortable saying we’re doing better.”
Trempealeau County also released a new program, Together Against COVID-19, a coalition of local businesses that have pledged to follow COVID-19 precautions. “I would just really encourage people to take a look at the Together Against COVID-19 initiative to see which businesses are really taking this seriously, and if a business doesn’t see their name on the list, take a form and fill out the pledge because businesses are really going to drive how our community responds.” More information is available co.trempealeau.wi.us/togetheragainstcovid19.
A second Trempealeau County citizen died as a result of COVID-19, county health officials reported on Thursday. The county’s case total was 322 on Tuesday.
Buffalo County’s case total reached 42 as of Tuesday, with five new cases in the past seven days. There were no new deaths.