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February 18: Weekly Driftless Region COVID-19 update
COVID Variants_021821

Editors note: this story is updated as of Wednesday, Feb. 17, in the COVID variants section to reflect growth in numbers.

DRIFTLESS - Over the past week COVID-19, diagnoses statewide increased from 550,639 on Monday, Feb. 8 to 555,708 on Monday, Feb. 15. That is a statewide increase of 5,339 cases. The number of deaths increased from 6,055 to 6,166, an additional 111 deaths, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) on Monday announced a $6.1 million investment to support community-based organizations in raising awareness and access to COVID-19 vaccine among communities that have faced both historical and current barriers to healthcare services and the COVID-19 vaccine. $3.1 million of the investment will fund efforts to activate organizations to serve as trusted messengers to build vaccine confidence and reduce barriers that may impede vaccinations in urban and rural areas. 

The remaining $3 million will supplement current vaccine equity work being done by Federally Qualified Health Centers, Aging and Disability Resource Centers, Family Health La Clinica, Minority Health Grantees, and United Way of Wisconsin 2-1-1.

 “In just two months, we have vaccinated almost one million Wisconsinites with their first dose of the vaccine,” said Governor Tony Evers. “We need to continue our efforts and outreach to make sure to get as many Wisconsinites protected from COVID-19 as possible. By investing in trusted organizations to engage in strategic outreach, coordination, and vaccine education for racially and geographically diverse populations, we are better able to protect our communities that have been hit hardest by COVID-19.”

According to the Coulee COVID Collaborative update released on Friday, Feb. 12, the United States has reached a new milestone. More people have now received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine than have tested positive for COVID-19. As of last week, Over 26.5 million people in the U.S. have received the COVID-19 vaccine. This surpasses the 26.3 million total people who have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Last week marked the launch of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program which is a collaborative effort between the federal government and state health officials to provide free COVID-19 vaccinations at participating pharmacies. While these locations will initially have limited capacity to vaccinate, this program will play a critical role in accelerating local vaccination efforts in underserved communities.

The Walgreens in Viroqua is one of the locations included in the initial roll out of the program. To inquire about the availability of a vaccine appointment, go to

Due to the limited amount of COVID-19 vaccine available nationwide, the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program will start small and expand as vaccine supply increases. Wisconsin will launch the program with 178 Walgreens locations across the state, with the majority of sites located in underserved areas. For the first week, the federal government will directly ship 17,800 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to the 178 Walgreens locations.

New quarantine guidance

On February 10, the CDC issued updated quarantine guidance for vaccinated persons, specifying that fully vaccinated people who meet certain criteria will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19.

Specifically, vaccinated people with an exposure to someone with COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria:

• Are fully vaccinated (i.e., exposure occurs ≥2 weeks following receipt of the second dose in a 2-dose series, or ≥2 weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine)

• Are within 90 days following receipt of the last dose in the series 

• Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure

COVID variants

As of Wednesday, February 17, there are 1,299 cases of the three COVID-19 variants in the United States. Those are the United Kindom (B.1.1.7), South African (B., and Brazil (P.1)  variants.

There are 1,277 cases of the United Kingdom variant in 54 states. 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.

As of Wednesday, Feb. 17, there are five confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in Wisconsin in the Eau Claire, Waukesha and Milwaukee areas. There are 25 confirmed cases in Illinois, 18 confirmed cases in Minnesota, 67 confirmed cases in Michigan, and eight confirmed cases in Iowa. 

There are 19 cases of the South Africa variant in  states, including one in the state of Illinois, first reported on Sunday, Feb. 14. The other cases are two in South Carolina, two in Virginia, seven in Maryland, one in Texas, one in North Carolina, and one in Washington D.C. 

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 now three cases of the Brazil variant in the U.S. – two in Minnesota, and one in Oklahoma. 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 13 new cases and antigen-probable cases, increasing to 1,683. The number of deaths remained at 17.

This week, Crawford County Public Health has received 100 doses of Moderna for first vaccinations and 140 doses of Pfizer for second vaccinations. We are scheduling individuals into clinics from our current waiting list.  

“We are asking everyone to please remain patient as we do have a large waiting list and only receiving limited amounts of vaccine weekly” says Crawford County Director of Public Health Cindy Riniker.

If you would like to be added to our waiting list, go to or call our office at 608-326-0229.

In her bi-weekly COVID-19 update on Friday, Feb. 12, Riniker confirmed that the county would continue in ‘Phase Three’ for the next two weeks. This allows for indoor capacities of 75 percent, and for mass gatherings of 100 or less indoors, and 250 or less outdoors. Riniker emphasized that public health measures such as mask wearing and social distancing are still recommended.

Riniker said that the county is currently monitoring six outbreaks, with no new outbreaks in the prior two weeks. The positivity rate was 1.7 percent, down from 2.4 percent in the prior two week look back period. She said that the average number of new cases per day is one, and that the county continues to see a good amount of tests. She cautioned, though, that the amount of community spread of the disease remains high at 64 percent of cases having “no idea” how or where they contracted the infection.

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.

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 3:00 PM

This community COVID-19 testing event is open to all Crawford County residents and those in our surrounding communities (age five and older) who are experiencing one or more symptoms of COVID-19 and for asymptomatic individuals per Public Health recommendation.  Testing will be done by nasal swab and there is no cost to participate. The Crawford County Public Health staff will follow-up on results of all testing 3-5 days post the event.

Vernon Countysaw an increase of 16 cases in the last week, increasing to 1,803. The number deaths increased by two to 39.

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 13 cases, increasing to 1,261. 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 65 cases in the last week, going from 4,130 to 4,195. The number of deaths in the county remained at 30.

Juneau Countysaw an increase in cases of 28, growing to 2,846. Of the 2,846 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 18.

LaCrosse Countysaw an increase in new cases of 116, going from 11,918 to 12,034. The number of deaths increased by one to 75.

On Monday it was announced that LaCrosse County Health Department director Jennifer Rombalski will now serve in the role of director of the Office of Policy and Practice Alignment at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the county announced in a statement Monday.

Rombalski has led the county health department for five years, the statement said, and will now join the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. It was not stated which position she would assuming.

Grant Countyhas seen an increase of 43 cases in the last week, going from 4,585 to 4,628. The number of deaths in the county remained at 79.

Lafayette Countyhas seen an increase of 22 cases in the last week, increasing to 1,418. In addition, the county reports 152 antigen probable cases. The number of deaths in the county remained at six.

Iowa Countyhas seen an increase of 13 cases in the last week, increasing to 1,821. The number of deaths in the county remained at nine.