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December 17: Weekly Driftless Region COVID-19 update
COVID is not "just the flu"

DRIFTLESS - Over the past week COVID-19, diagnoses statewide increased from 387,235 on Monday, Dec. 7 to 438,895 on Monday, Dec. 14. That is a statewide increase of 24,563 cases. The number of deaths increased from 3,758 to 4,068, an additional 330 deaths, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Vaccine Q&A

On Friday, December 11, LaCrosse County Public Health Director Jennifer Rombalski, and Dr. Naik of Gundersen Health Systems and Dr. Morcomb of Mayo Health Systems, made a presentation about what citizens should know about and expect with upcoming vaccinations for COVID-19.

“The coming of the vaccine and improvement in our county’s metrics are both welcome news,” Rombalski said. “However, everyone needs to know that getting people vaccinated is going to take time, and things may very well get worse before they get better."

Rombalski said that while we are waiting over the next months into 2021 for the vaccines to become more widely available, everyone should continue to do all the things public health recommends to slow the spread of the virus – stay home whenever possible, limit gatherings, wash your hands, maintain social distance, and wear a mask when out in public.

Dr. Naik explained that he has been involved in vaccine education and implementation for the last 20 years at the local, state and federal levels. He described public health as being “more of a team sport” than an individual sport like golf. He said that means that in order to beat the opponent – the virus – everyone has to work together like we are on a team.

“In the big picture, FDA has voted to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use for people 16 and older. FDA is expected to act on the Moderna vaccine next week,” Naik said. “Once FDA and CDC give the go-ahead, the state will begin to allocate doses of the vaccines. Their plan for allocation can be found on the Department of Health Services website.”

Naike said that the first groups to receive vaccine will be health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

Dr. Morcomb said that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are what is known as ‘MRNA’ vaccines, which means they do not contain live virus.

“What this means is that you cannot get COVID-19 from getting the vaccine,” Moromb said. “The vaccine causes the body to make a protein which confers immunity to the virus. The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses, with the first giving about 70 percent immunity, and with the second, about 90-94 percent immunity. The two doses should be administered about 21 days apart.”

Morcomb said that sometimes individuals who receive the vaccine may experience body aches, fevers or chills a few days after receiving a dose.

“I tell people that having these effects is a good sign because it means that the body is creating immunity to the virus,” Morcomb said. “Some are concerned about how quickly the vaccine was developed, but I want to assure you that every precaution has been taken in developing and testing this vaccine for safety.”

Dr. Naik stated that the best way for us to put the pandemic behind us is for as many people as possible to vaccinated as soon as possible.

“I hear a lot of talk about herd health,” Naik said. “We have never achieved herd immunity through infections – the only process that has worked is a program of vaccination,” Naik said. “The goal of the vaccination program is to provide the virus with as few hosts as possible.”

Crawford Countysaw 70 new cases, increasing to 1,467. Added to that are 31 Antigen Testing positive, bringing the total probable cases in the county to 1,498, making a total probable increase in cases of 200. The Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution accounted for two of these new cases, with 68 coming from the rest of the county. The number of deaths in the county increased by two to 11.

In addition, the Crawford County Public Health Department will be holding COVID-19 testing events twice a week on Mondays, 11 a.m. – 12 noon and Fridays, 9-10 a.m. at the Crawford County Administration Building parking lot, 225 N. Beaumont Rd. Prairie du Chien, WI 53821. All tests must be scheduled in advance.  Call the Crawford County Public Health Department at 608-326-0229 to schedule an appointment. There is no cost to participate.

Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution: The total number of positive cases increased by two, going from 411 to 413. Of those four are released positive cases, 10 are active positive cases, and 399 are inactive positive cases. 

Vernon Countysaw an increase of 89 cases in the last week, increasing to 1,357. The number deaths increased by five, from 23 to 28.

Free COVID-19 community testing will be available every other Tuesday, starting on Dec. 29, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the Old Highway Shop in Viroqua, at the interection of Highways 56 and 14 (across from the Viroqua Food Co-op). Testing events will take place on Dec. 29, Jan. 12, Jan. 26, Feb. 9, Feb. 23, and Mar. 9.

Richland Countysaw an increase of 55 cases, increasing to 979. The number of deaths in the county remained at 13.

Upcoming COVID-19 testing events in the county will be held as follows:

Richland County Fairgrounds, 23630 County AA, Richland Center, Mondays 9 a.m.–1 p.m. and Thursdays 9 a.m.–4 p.m.

Monroe Countysaw an increase of 178 cases in the last week, going from 2,929 to 3,107. The number of deaths in the county increased by four to 23.

Juneau Countysaw an increase in cases of 144, growing to 2,193. Of the 2,193 cases, 535 of them are at the New Lisbon Correctional Facility, an increase of six cases there. The number of deaths in the county remained at eight. 

LaCrosse Countyhas continued to see an exponential increase in new cases in the last week of 440, going from 8,706 to 9,146. The number of deaths increased by three to 43.

Grant Countyhas seen an increase of 183 cases in the last week, going from 3,694 to 3,877. The number of deaths in the county increased by seven to 73.

Lafayette Countyhas seen an increase of 31 cases in the last week, increasing to 1,147. The number of deaths in the county remained at four.

Iowa Countyhas seen an increase of 113 cases in the last week, increasing to 1,469. The number of deaths in the county remained at five.