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March 25: Weekly Driftless Region COVID-19 update
COVID variants_032321

Editors note: this story is updated as of Tuesday, Mar. 23, in the COVID variants section to reflect growth in numbers.

DRIFTLESS - Over the past week COVID-19, diagnoses statewide increased from 569,932 on Monday, Mar. 15 to 572,770 on Monday, Mar. 22. That is a statewide increase of 2,838 cases. The number of deaths increased from 6,536 to 6,576, an additional 40 deaths, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS).

According to the Monday, March 22 issue of Up North News, “the state Department of Health Services (DHS) reports 855,820 people in Wisconsin have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, good for 14.7 percent of the state population.

“More than two million Wisconsin residents affected by a variety of pre-existing medical conditions are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,

“The new group of eligible people includes those 16 or older with conditions such as cancer, pregnancy, being overweight or obese, high blood pressure, and asthma. Nearly 70 percent of the state’s population is overweight, according to state Department of Health Services (DHS) data, so the new group ensures a vast majority of state residents will be eligible for the vaccine, whether through work or health conditions.

“Wisconsin’s vaccination outlook is generally positive, with the state on track to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 by July, Deputy DHS Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said last week. President Biden has set July 4 as a target for the nation to return to something resembling normalcy. 

“Evers has said the state will open up vaccine access to anyone who remains ineligible by May 1, in line with a directive from President Joe Biden. Speaking in Kenosha earlier this month, Evers said the final group could become eligible sooner and that he and DHS will try to make that happen.”

Also, on Monday, Gov. Tony Evers signed into law a bipartisan bill that clears the way for Wisconsin's roughly 3,500 licensed dentists to administer COVID-19 and flu vaccines. Dentists must first complete 12 hours of training before they are able to give the shots.

Vaccine distribution

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

Pharmacy partners

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announces that four new pharmacy partners in Wisconsin started receiving vaccine this week as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. This includes the Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network (CPESN), which includes some Hometown Pharmacies, as well as Managed Health Care Associates, Meijer, and Walmart. These pharmacies join Kroger and Walgreens, already part of the program that is a collaboration between the federal government, states and territories, and national pharmacy and independent pharmacy networks.

 “As we prepare to open vaccine eligibility to people with medical conditions, these pharmacies will be critical in providing access to vaccine in more communities across Wisconsin,” said DHS Interim Secretary Karen Timberlake. “Whether you live in a rural area or a city, every Wisconsinite will have the opportunity in the coming weeks to get the vaccine to protect themselves and loved ones from the virus.”

COVID variants

As of Tuesday, March 23, there are 7,781 cases of the three COVID-19 variants in the United States, up 3,085 over the past week. Those are the United Kindom (B.1.1.7), South African (B., and Brazil (P.1)  variants.

Eleven states now have all three variants circulating in their populations. Those states are Minnesota, Illinois, Florida, California, Massachussetts, Texas, New Jersey, Georgia, Maryland, Connecticut and Washington.

There are 7,501 cases of the United Kingdom variant in 51 states and territories, an increase of 2,968 cases. As of Tuesday, Mar.23, there are 69 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in Wisconsin. There are 166 confirmed cases in Illinois, 317 confirmed cases in Minnesota, 986 confirmed cases in Michigan, and 63 confirmed cases in Iowa. Michigan remains second in the nation for UK variant cases in the last week, exceeded only by Florida with 1,040 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 219 cases of the South Africa variant in 27 states (and increase of 81), including one in Wisconsin, and three each in the states of Illinois and Minnesota. The other cases are 50 in South Carolina, 26 each in North Carolina and Virginia, 25 in Maryland,  15 in Georgia, 11 in Colorado, nine in Massachussetts, eight in Washington, seven in Connecticut, five in Hawaii, four in California, three in Texas, two each in Michigan and Idaho, and one each in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New York, Washington D.C., Mississippi, Delaware, Nevada and Maine.

There are now 61 cases of the Brazil variant in the U.S. in 18 states (an increase of 36) – 23 in Florida, six in Illinois, four each in California, Arizona and Massachussetts, three each  in Texas and New Jersey, two each in Minnesota, Washington and Nebraska, and one each in Georgia, Maryland, Connecticut, Ohio, Utah, Oregon, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Editors Note: As so many counties have cut back to only weekly versus daily reporting on Facebook, the Independent-Scout is now using numbers only from the DHS website. Because those numbers have also lagged the counties’ numbers, we’ve preferred the more up-to-date information. Any discrepancies with last week’s numbers are due to that, but will be more consistent going forward after this week.

Crawford Countyhas now had 1,671 total infections. The number of deaths remained at 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.

Vernon Countysaw an increase of seven cases in the last week, increasing to 1,864. The number deaths remained at 41.

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.

Due to expanding vaccine sites and an increase in eligible individuals, Vernon County Public Health will begin a new scheduling process beginning Monday, March 15th. 

Richland Countyhas now had 1,296 total infections. The number of deaths in the remained at 15.

Monroe Countysaw an increase of 55 cases in the last week,  increasing to 4,364. The number of deaths increased by three to a total of 34.

LaCrosse Countysaw an increase in new cases of 41, increasing to 12,340. The number of deaths remained at 80.

Grant Countyhas now had a total of 4,712 infections. The number of deaths in the county increased by one to 83.