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April 1: Weekly Driftless Region COVID-19 update
COVID variants_033021

Editors note: this story is updated as of Tuesday, Mar. 30, in the COVID variants section to reflect growth in numbers.

DRIFTLESS - Over the past week COVID-19, diagnoses statewide increased from 572,770 on Monday, Mar. 22 to 576,044 on Monday, Mar. 29. That is a statewide increase of 3,274 cases. The number of deaths increased from 6,576 to 6,601, an additional 25 deaths, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS).

On March 25 2021, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and laboratory partners confirmed a third variant strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in Wisconsin. This variant strain, referred to as P.1 (Brazil variant), differs from variant B.1.1.7 and B.1.351, which have both previously been confirmed in Wisconsin.

According to the Monday, March 29 issue of the LaCrosse Tribune, “the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made an impassioned plea to Americans on Monday not to let their guard down in the fight against COVID-19, warning of a potential fourth wave of the virus and saying she has a recurring feeling "of impending doom."

“Speaking during a virtual White House briefing, Dr. Rochelle Walensky grew emotional as she reflected on her experience treating COVID-19 patients who are alone at the end of their lives.

 “We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope," she said. "But right now, I’m scared.

“Cases of the virus are up about 10 percent over the past week from the previous week, to about 60,000 cases per day, with both hospitalizations and deaths ticking up as well, Walensky said.”

Vaccine distribution

Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced on Monday that one million people in Wisconsin have completed their COVID-19 vaccine series and are fully vaccinated against the disease.

Wisconsin has ranked consistently among the top in the nation and first in the Great Lakes States for number of doses administered per 100,000 people, and is first in the nation in percentage of doses administered. Additionally, more than one in two Wisconsinites age 65 and older have been fully vaccinated and nearly three in four have received their first dose. This puts Wisconsin fourth nationally for number of doses administered per 100,000 people age 64 and older. 

Crawford County Health Department is maintaining a waitlist for everyone who is currently eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Wisconsin. The eligible groups include:

• Health care workers (paid & unpaid);

• Long-term care staff and residents;

• Police-fire-correctional institute personnel;

• Individuals age 65 and older;

• Education and childcare staff;

• Individuals enrolled in Medicaid Long-Term Care programs (IRIS, Family Care, Katie Beckett);

• 911 Operators;

• Utility & communications workers;

• Public Transit;

• Food supply chain workers;

• Non-frontline essential health care personnel;

• Congregate living facility staff and residents.

The following were added to the current eligible group this past week:

• Spiritual care providers;

• Restaurant workers.

On March 22, individuals age 16 and older who have medical conditions known to be associated with a greater risk of severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19 will be eligible for the vaccine.  Crawford County Health Department plan to make our link available to this group beginning March 22nd.  Those eligible include:

• Asthma (moderate-to-severe) 

• Cancer 

• Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain) 

• Chronic kidney disease 

• COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) 

• Cystic fibrosis 

• Liver disease 

• Neurologic conditions, such as dementia 

• Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30-39 kg/m2) 

• Overweight (BMI of 25-29 kg/m2) 

• Pregnancy (Please follow-up with your OB-GYN prior to receiving vaccine)

• Downs syndrome 

• Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies 

• Hypertension or high blood pressure 

• Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant, blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines 

• Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissue) 

• Severe Obesity (BMI 40 kg/m2 or more) 

• Sickle cell disease 

• Thalassemia 

• Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus

COVID variants

As of Tuesday, March 30, there are 12,053 cases of the three COVID-19 variants in the United States, up 4,272 over the past week. Those are the United Kindom (B.1.1.7), South African (B., and Brazil (P.1)  variants.

Sixteen states now have all three variants circulating in their populations. Those states are Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Florida, California, Massachussetts, Georgia, Maryland, Texas, New Jersey, Connecticut, Ohio, Tennessee, Washington, Indiana and Maine.

There are 11,569 cases of the United Kingdom variant in 51 states and territories, an increase of 4,068 cases. As of Tuesday, Mar. 30, there are 78 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in Wisconsin. There are 218 confirmed cases in Illinois, 526 confirmed cases in Minnesota, 1,237 confirmed cases in Michigan, and 89 confirmed cases in Iowa. Michigan remains second in the nation for UK variant cases in the last week, exceeded only by Florida with 2,351 cases.

The first of UK variant strain B.1.1.7 was identified in LaCrosse County by genome sequencing by Gundersen Health System on Thursday, March 11. A thorough investigation was completed, but it is unclear where the person contracted this variant strain.

There are 312 cases of the South Africa variant in 31 states (an increase of 93), including two in Wisconsin and three in Illinois, eight in Minnesota, and five in Michigan. The other cases are 65 in South Carolina, 37 in Maryland, 30 in Virginia, 29 in North Carolina, 23 in Colorado, 22 in Georgia, 16 in Washington, 15 in Florida, 10 in California, nine in Massachussetts, seven in Connecticut, five in Hawaii, four in Maine, three each in Texas and Pennsylvania, two each in Idaho, Ohio, Indiana, and Washington D.C., and one each in New Jersey, Tennessee, New York, Alabama, Nevada, Mississippi, Delaware and South Dakota.

There are now 172 cases of the Brazil variant in the U.S. in 22 states (an increase of 111), including one in Wisconsin, 19 in Illinois, and two in Minnesota. The other cases are 49 in Florida, 37 in Massachussetts, 33 in California, 19 in Illinois, five in Arizona, three each in Texas, New Jersey, Ohio and Utah, two each in Connecticut, Washington and Nebraska, and one each in Georgia, Maryland, Tennessee, Indiana, Oregon, Maine, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Crawford Countysaw an increase of six cases in the last week, increasing to 1,677 total infections. The number of deaths remained at 17.

Crawford County Public Health reminds everyone that Govenor Ever’s mask mandate remains in effect until April 5.  If this mask mandate is not extended again, Public Health recommends everyone to continue to wear masks in public to slow spread of disease. Wearing a mask protects and shows respect to other’s health and wellness that may not have been vaccinated or are unable to be vaccinated.  

Crawford County Public Health continues to offer COVID-19 testing for those with no healthcare provider, no or poor insurance coverage, or part of a disease investigation.  We offer this service on Monday mornings outside the administration building by appointment only.  Community testing sites using National Guard personnel are available in Vernon County twice monthly, Lancaster weekly, and Gays Mills will continue with a monthly clinic. 

People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning it has been two weeks or longer since they have finished their vaccine series, can engage in some social situations.

• Visiting with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.

• Visiting with unvaccinated people from a single household who are all at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease, indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.

• Refraining from quarantine and testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic

It continues to be important that fully vaccinated people follow public health best practices in public spaces. This includes

• wearing a mask and physically distancing, staying home if you are sick, practice good washing, avoid large mass gatherings, and avoid non-essential travel.

• Fully vaccinated people should also continue these practices when visiting unvaccinated people who are at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease.

Vernon Countysaw an increase of 10 cases in the last week, increasing to 1,864. The number deaths increased by one to 42.

Vernon County will continue testing every other Tuesday at the Old County Highway Shop, 602 N. Main Street, in Viroqua starting March 23. Subsequent dates will be April 6, April 20, May 4, May 18.

Richland Countyhas now had 1,274 total infections. The number of deaths in the remained at 15.

Monroe Countysaw an increase of 13 cases in the last week, increasing to 4,377. The number of deaths remained at 34.

LaCrosse Countysaw an increase in new cases of 54, increasing to 12,394. The number of deaths remained at 80.

Grant Countysaw an increase of 14 cases in the last week, increasing to 4,726. The number of deaths in the county remained at 83.