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February 11: Weekly Driftless Region COVID-19 update

Editors note: this story is updated as of Thursday, Feb. 11, in the COVID variants section to reflect growth in numbers.

DRIFTLESS - Over the past week COVID-19, diagnoses statewide increased from 543,165 on Monday, Feb. 1 to 550,639 on Monday, Feb. 8. That is a statewide increase of 7,204 cases. The number of deaths increased from 5,897 to 6,055, an additional 158 deaths, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Monday COVID update

On Monday, Feb. 8, the White House COVID-19 Response Team held a public briefing.

White House COVID-19 Response Team Lead Andy Slavitt reinforced that the focus of the vaccine effort to start has been to vaccinate those most at risk, in cluding residents in long-term care facilities and skilled nursing homes. To date, 40 million doses of the vaccine have been administered to these populations, as well as to frontline healthcare workers.

“The fact that America has supported putting those most at risk first in line to receive the vaccine is a testament to the selflessness of the American people,” Slavitt said.

Slavitt explained that the response team would also be turning their attention to ensuring equity in vaccine distribution. He said there is an all hands on deck emphasis on working to secure more supplies of vaccine, as well as mobilizing additional vaccinators such as retired healthcare workers.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky emphasized that America continues to remain in a serious situation, despite declining case numbers. She said that the number of new cases had declined almost 20 percent in the last four weeks, and hospitalizations declined almost 17 percent, but she said that the number of deaths had risen 2.4 percent between January 31 and February 6.

“The new COVID-19 variants remain a very significant concern, and have potential to reverse all these positive trends we’ve been seeing,” Walensky said. “That is why everyone needs to continue wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding travel and gatherings, and employing all the public health measures we’ve been recommending all along.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci reported that there are two key issues he wanted to communicate around. First, he addressed the idea that with short supply of vaccine, the focus should shift to providing more with their first dose, and less on ensuring that people get their second dose.

“Without further research we know that the current vaccines are protective against the original or ‘wild’ type of the virus that has been dominant in America so far,” Fauci said. “But when a patient receives the second dose, the protection is ten-fold higher and provides a greater breadth of response that is at least partially protective against the new variants of the virus.”

Second, and related, Fauci explained, if a patient were to only have the first dose, and then produce a ‘sub-optimum’ response, that could spur the development of even more new virus variants. We are currently projecting that the United Kingdom variant of the virus could become the dominant strain in the U.S. by the end of March, and the Pfizer and Moderna MRNA vaccines are effective against this variant.

COVID variants

As of Thursday, February 11, there are 944 cases of the three COVID-19 variants in the United States (up 245 from Monday, Feb. 8). Those are the United Kindom (B.1.1.7), South African (B., and Brazil (P.1)  variants.

According to an article on WebMD, “the coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom is rapidly becoming the dominant strain in several countries and is doubling every 10 days in the United States, according to new data.

“The findings by Nicole L. Washington, PhD, associate director of research at the genomics company Helix, and colleagues were posted Sunday on the preprint server medRxiv. The paper hasn't been peer-reviewed in a scientific journal.

“There are 932 (up 242 from Monday, Feb. 8) cases of the United Kingdom variant in 34 states (up one from Monday), an increase of 242 cases and one state. This variant, known also as B.1.1.7, is estimated to be 50 percent more transmissible, but so far, has shown no reduction in the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.

“The true number of cases is certainly higher. Normal coronavirus tests do not detect if an infection comes from one of the variants. Only genomic sequencing can do that, and the U.S. has only recently begun to ramp up that type of testing.”

As of Tuesday, Feb. 9, there are now two confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in Wisconsin. The first was in the Eau Claire area, and the one just announced is in the Waukesha area. As of Thursday, Feb. 11, there are 22 confirmed cases in Illinois, 16 confirmed cases in Minnesota, 29 confirmed cases in Michigan, and three confirmed cases in Iowa. 

There are nine cases of the South Africa variant in three states – two in South Carolina, one in Virginia, and six in Maryland. What is most troubling is that the first two cases confirmed in South Carolina were not associated with a person that had travelled, nor were they connected with each other, confirming that they were likely the result of community spread. This variant is estimated to be 50 percent more transmissible, and in addition, there is some evidence that the mutation in the virus shows reduced efficacy of the current vaccines. Health experts say, though, that the current and future vaccines have been shown to reduce serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths, even with this variant.

There are two cases of the Brazil variant in the U.S. in Minnesota. The first case was directly traced back to someone that had recently travelled to Brazil, and no information has been released about the second case. This variant is estimated to be 50 percent more transmissible, and in addition has shown some resistance to vaccines, as well as resistance to monoclonal antibody therapies, meaning that previously infected people can be come reinfected. 

Crawford Countysaw four new cases and antigen-probable cases, increasing to 1,670. The number of deaths increased by one to 17.

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.

Drive through testing will also be offered in February and March in both Prairie du Chien and Gays Mills. In Prairie du Chien, testing will take place at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, 201 S. Michigan Street, on March 2, from 12-4 p.m. In Gays Mills, testing will take place at Vosseteig Funeral Home, 325 Sunset Ridge Avenue, on Feb 16, from 12-4 p.m. The Crawford County Public Health Department, Emergency Management and the WI National Guard are hosting a drive thru COVID-19 testing on February 23rd, 2021 at the Vosseteig Funeral Home (325 Sunset Ridge Ave, Gays Mills Wisconsin 54631) from noon to 3 p.m.


This community COVID-19 testing event is open to all Crawford County residents and those in our surrounding communities (age 5 and older) who are experiencing one or more symptoms of COVID-19 and for asymptomatic individuals per Public Health recommendation. Symptoms of COVID-19 can be mild and include:

Politicans respond

Crawford County Emergency Management led a discussion about vaccine availability in the county on Friday, Feb. 5, attended by local leaders from Crawford and Vernon counties, as well as elected leaders or their representatives at the state and federal level.

When asked what the roadblocks are to securing a supply of vaccine in the county, elected leaders or their representatives had the following to say:

“As I understand it, Wisconsin has requested 70,000 doses for next week,” State Representative Loren Oldenburg said. “Once the state knows the number of doses it will receive, then vaccinating entities – public health, hospitals and pharmacies – make their requests, and then DHS decides who gets it – there doesn’t seem to be a real plan.”

“I think about the vaccine distribution effort like a three-legged stool,” State Senator Brad Pfaff said. “Those three legs are infrastructure, supply and demand. Right now, demand is greater than the supply, but it is good that people want the vaccine and want to get back to normal. We obviously need to increase supply, but I want to compliment the counties on the infrastructure they’ve put in place to distribute the vaccine once supply becomes available. I learned from DHS that as of last week, only 27 percent of requests from states were filled by the federal government.”

“It all comes down to supply and demand,” Gregg Wavrunek of Senator Tammy Baldwin’s staff said. “The Biden Administration is taking big steps invoking the Defense Production Act to increase the vaccine supply chain, and their new relief package will contribute an additional $20 billion to making this happen.”

“I’ve sat in on a lot of county-wide meetings recently, and everyone has done an amazing job of building out local vaccine delivery systems,” Tim Hundt of Congressman Ron Kind’s staff said. “There seems to be a dip before we can get the vaccine supply lined up, but if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is approved, that will really help as only one shot is required.”

“We’ve created a good infrastructure but if we can’t get the doses, then we can’t make any progress,” Dan McWilliams, Director of Crawford County Health & Human Services said. “Last week we asked for 500 doses and received zero. The pharmacy received 100 doses, but can only give 10 shots per day – Public Health has the more efficient distribution system.”

“Crossing Rivers Health unexpectedly received 200 doses this week when the county received zero,” Gary Trulson said. “We had asked for vaccine to administer to staff included in the 1A group, and the state had skipped us for a couple of weeks. When group 1B opened for people 65+, we asked for 200 doses for next week, and we have 700-800 applicants for those doses. We would gladly work with the county, but they are using the Pfizer vaccine and we are using the Moderna vaccine.”

“It is difficult for many people 65+ years to travel to receive a vaccine,” Crawford County Emergency Management Director Jim Hackett said. “Our county has 22.6 percent of our population over the age of 65, where the state average is 16.5 percent. This means we have more priority people to vaccinate than average, and public health has a plan in place to travel around the county to administer vaccines, making it much easier for older people to get to the place where they can get the vaccine.”

Vernon Countysaw an increase of 39 cases in the last week, increasing to 1,787. The number deaths increased to 39 as of February 10..

Vernon County Health Department staff is currently working on identifying those that would like to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. To register, go to:

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

Richland Countysaw an increase of 18 cases, increasing to 1,248. 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 68 cases in the last week, going from 4,062 to 4,130. The number of deaths in the county remained at 30.

Juneau Countysaw an increase in cases of 38, growing to 2,818. Of the 2,818 cases, 548 of them are at the New Lisbon Correctional Facility, with no increase in cases there. The number of deaths in the county increased by one to 17.

LaCrosse Countysaw an increase in new cases of 165, going from 11,753 to 11,918. The number of deaths remained at 74.

Grant Countyhas seen an increase of 47 cases in the last week, going from 4,538 to 4,585. The number of deaths in the county remained at 79.

Lafayette Countyhas seen an increase of 19 cases in the last week, increasing to 1,396. In addition, the county reports 162 antigen probable cases. The number of deaths in the county remained at six.

Iowa Countyhas seen an increase of 16 cases in the last week, increasing to 1,808. The number of deaths in the county remained at nine.