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February 4: Weekly Driftless Region COVID-19 update
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THESE NUMBERS come from the CDC website, and are current as of Thursday, February 4.

Editors note: this story is updated as of Thursday, Feb. 4, in the COVID variants section to reflect growth in numbers.

DRIFTLESS - Over the past week COVID-19, diagnoses statewide increased from 533,917 on Monday, Jan. 25 to 543,165 on Monday, Feb. 1. That is a statewide increase of 9,248 cases. The number of deaths increased from 5,699 to 5,897, an additional 198 deaths, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

The dashboard maintained by the Wisconsin Hospital Association shows the number of COVID-19 in-patients statewide declined on Friday and Saturday, but rose on Sunday.

March vaccine eligibility

Last week, Department of Health Services (DHS) announced future groups that will be eligible tentatively beginning March 1, 2021. Groups are being prioritized due to an increased risk of exposure or vulnerability to COVID-19 and are consistent with the recommendations from the State Disaster Medical Assistance Committee (SDMAC). The groups in priority order include education and child care, individuals enrolled in Medicaid long-term care programs, some public-facing essential workers, non-frontline health care essential personnel, and facility staff and residents in congregate living settings.

 “We’re going to keep getting shots in arms as quickly as possible and as soon we have vaccines available,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “In the meantime, we have to continue working together to prevent the spread of this virus by wearing face coverings and limiting gatherings with others while we vaccinate folks across our state.”

The Department of Health Services (DHS) reported over the weekend that the number of people in Wisconsin who have received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine has reached 101,551, or 1.7 percent of the total state population. The total number of doses administered has surpassed 550,000.

COVID variants

As of Thursday, February 4, There are 541 cases of the United Kingdom variant in 33 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.

While there remains only one confirmed case of this variant in Wisconsin, in the Eau Claire area, there are 12 confirmed cases in Illinois, 16 confirmed cases in Minnesota, three confirmed cases in Iowa, and 22 confirmed cases in Michigan. 

There are three cases of the South Africa variant in two states – two in South Carolina and one in Mary-land. What is most troubling is that the first two cases confirmed in South Carolina were not associated with 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 now two confirmed cases of the Brazil variant in the U.S. in Minnesota. The firstcase was directly traced back to someone that had recently travelled to Brazil. Between Monday, Feb. 1 and Thursday, Feb. 4, another case has been confirmed in Minnesota. This variant is estimated to be 50 percent more transmissible, and in addition has shown some resistance to vaccines, and well as resistance to monoclonal antibody therapies, meaning that previously infected people can be come reinfected.

Crawford Countysaw 12 new cases and antigen-probable cases, increasing to 1,666. The number of deaths increased by one to 16.

At the Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution, there have been no changes in case numbers in the past week.

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.

Vernon Countysaw an increase of 41 cases in the last week, increasing to 1,748. The number deaths remained at 37.

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. 9, Feb. 23, and Mar. 9.

Richland Countysaw an increase of 21 cases, increasing to 1,230. 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 93 cases in the last week, going from 3,969 to 4,062. The number of deaths in the county remained at 30.

Juneau Countysaw an increase in cases of 47, growing to 2,780. Of the 2,733 cases, 548 of them are at the New Lisbon Correctional Facility, with an increase of one case there. In addition, at the Sand Ridge Treatment Center in Mauston, the number of cases increased by one to 51. The number of deaths in the county remained at 16.

LaCrosse Countysaw an increase in new cases of 371, going from 11,382 to 11,753. The number of deaths increased by four to 74.

Grant Countyhas seen an increase of 95 cases in the last week, going from 4,443 to 4,538. The number of deaths in the county increased by one to 79.

Lafayette Countyhas seen an increase of 22 cases in the last week, increasing to 1,377. 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 25 cases in the last week, increasing to 1,792. The number of deaths in the county remained at nine.