by CHRIS ROGERS

 

COVID infections in Buffalo and Trempealeau counties continued their upward trend this week, as public health officials urged people to get vaccinated, wear masks, and practice social distancing, among other precautions.

In Trempealeau County, there were 111 new COVID cases confirmed in the past week, up from 102 last week, and 49 the week before. In Buffalo County, there were 35 new infections, up from 25 last week. 

Winona County’s own seven-day case total dropped to 77 as of Tuesday — compared to 161 last week — but the decline seemed to be largely the result of a three-day gap in infection reporting over the Labor Day Weekend. Going into the weekend, the seven-day case total stood at 146.

With regional hospitals already operating near maximum capacity, one additional Trempealeau County resident and three more Buffalo County residents were hospitalized for COVID last week, according to the county health departments. Winona County reported four new residents were hospitalized for COVID, including three needing intensive care.

“The numbers have been concerning for several weeks now,” Trempealeau County Health Officer Aron Newberry said. His department is recommending residents wear masks indoors and get vaccinated. “We’ve been working with all of the schools very closely, the superintendents and their nurses and talking to them about the layers and mitigations they can do there,” Newberry added.

“It is concerning to us — the level of transmission we’re seeing,” Buffalo County Health officer Josie Knauber said. “That’s partly attributed to the delta variant spreading more rapidly and infecting people more easily than the original strain.”

“Where our case rate is at today, in the first week of September, is where we were at last year at the end of October,” Newberry said. Of course, last October’s spike led to the worst surge of the entire pandemic last November and December, when dozens of local people died from the virus. “Absolutely,” Newberry said when asked if he thought the current surge could lead to a repeat of last winter. “We think that there’s every reason to believe cases will rise,” he added.

Asked whether she was concerned that hospitals would run out of capacity if cases keep rising, Knauber responded, “That’s been a concern for everyone, I think, throughout the entire pandemic. We’re constantly trying to reduce the number of cases of COVID and reducing the hospitalizations and deaths … That’s why we’re encouraging vaccinations, encouraging masking. We’re not seeing that yet — that we don’t have capacity at hospitals — but it’s something we’re constantly working to prevent.”

“If you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, now is the time,” Newberry stated. He noted Wisconsin is offering a $100 reward for people who get vaccinated before September 19. More information is available at http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/100.htm.

“Even if people aren’t concerned about how COVID will affect them, getting vaccinated will help prevent them from spreading it to other people,” Knauber said. “And COVID is dangerous. We want to prevent hospitalizations and deaths, and the vaccines are effective.”

Trempealeau County has had some luck in getting late adopters to make the decision to be vaccinated. “There’s been an uptick and the health care systems have reached out to work with us to try to get more vaccination clinics scheduled in the community because they are at capacity for their Pfizer,” Newberry said. “There seem to be a lot of students who want to go back to school, — minors who are going back to school are really after that Pfizer [vaccine].”

To find local vaccination sites, visit http://www.vaccines.gov.

Chris@winonapost.com