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March 4: Weekly Driftless Region COVID-19 update
Number of UK variant cases in Wisconsin triples in the last week
COVID variants_030221

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

DRIFTLESS - Over the past week COVID-19, diagnoses statewide increased from 559,998 on Monday, Feb. 22 to 564,268 on Monday, Mar. 1. That is a statewide increase of 4,270 cases. The number of deaths increased from 6,284 to 6,412, an additional 128 deaths, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS). 

BREAKING NEWS: On Thursday, March 4, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced that the number of B.1.1.7 (UK variant) cases in Wisconsin had more than tripled in the last week, rising to 19. No information was given about where those cases are located in the state. Last known news was that there had been one case in the Eau Claire area, and several cases in the Milwaukee area.

According to DHS, Wisconsin continues to be a national leader in terms of administering our supply of COVID-19 vaccine. Given the pace of vaccination and additional vaccine supply, starting March 1, new groups will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccine providers are still prioritizing previously eligible groups, such as individuals age 65 and older, before vaccinating newly eligible groups. 

Based on the amount of vaccine doses available, it will take months for all newly eligible groups to get vaccinated; however, education staff are the first priority in the newly eligible populations.

Starting Monday, March 1, these groups are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. However, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services has asked vaccinators to vaccinate individuals in this order:

-Previously eligible individuals

-Education and child care staff

-People enrolled in Medicaid long-term care programs

-Some public-facing essential workers

-Non-frontline essential health care personnel

-Facility staff and residents in congregate living settings

While these groups are eligible on March 1, educators and childcare providers should anticipate receiving vaccines in March and early April, and the remaining groups can plan to be vaccinated in April and May.

On Monday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services is announced that the state will be getting the Johnson and Johnson #COVID19 vaccine! Governor Tony Evers calls it "a game changer" in our efforts to get shots in the arms of everyone who wants one. Learn more at #COVID19_WI

Kids ages 12 months and older can now be tested for COVID-19. The Wisconsin National Guard is now trained to swab this age group. Previously these sites were only for kids older than five years of age.

Last week, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) released a new resource aimed at helping people connect with vaccine providers. The Wisconsin COVID-19 vaccine provider map is designed to improve transparency in the vaccine distribution process, by identifying where vaccine is being sent across the state. It is also intended to help Wisconsinites more easily find and connect with vaccine providers in their area. To view the map, go to:

Whitehouse update

On Monday, March 1, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky reported that she is deeply concerned about the change in the trajectory of new coronavirus infections in the last week. The  decline in both new deaths and new infections has plateaud after a steady decline in recent weeks.

“What you have to understand is that leveling out at 70,000 new cases a day is not a good place to be,” Walensky explained. “A year ago at this time we saw numerous shut downs because new cases were at 30,000 cases per day.”

Walensky said she feared seeing public health measure roll backs in numerous states while the new COVID variants are increasingly spreading. She said that the new, more contagious variants of COVID are a very big threat.

“Now is not the time to relax when we are getting people vaccinated, and we are so close to getting on top of this pandemic,” Walensky said. “Ultimately, it is getting enough people vaccinated that is going to pull us out of this pandemic.”

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients reported that with the emergency use authorization for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, his team has been meeting weekly with all sectors to be ready.

“Yesterday, Johnson & Johnson shipped out 3.9 million doses of the vaccine which will be allocated to states in the same manner as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been allocated,” Zients said. “Johnson & Johnson expects to ship another 16 million doses by the end of March.” 

COVID variants

As of Tuesday, March 2, there are 2,581 cases of the three COVID-19 variants in the United States, up 649 over the past week. Those are the United Kindom (B.1.1.7), South African (B., and Brazil (P.1)  variants.

Variant B.1.1.7 was first discovered circulating widely in England during November and December of 2020. Based on epidemiologic and modeling studies, researchers believe that this new strain spreads more rapidly and easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2.

There are 2,506 cases of the United Kingdom variant in 46 states and territories, an increase of 625 cases. As of Tuesday, Mar. 2, there are 10 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in Wisconsin. There are 69 confirmed cases in Illinois, 78 confirmed cases in Minnesota, 421 confirmed cases in Michigan, and 14 confirmed cases in Iowa. Michigan remains second in the nation for UK variant cases in the last week, exceeded only by Florida with 599 cases.

Variant B.1.351 was first discovered to be circulating in South Africa in samples dating back to October 2020. According to epidemiologic and modeling studies, researchers have found that this new strain, similar to B.1.1.7, spreads more rapidly and easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2. It is not yet known if this variant has any impact on disease severity. There is some evidence to suggest that this variant may affect how some antibodies respond to the virus.

 There are 65 cases of the South Africa variant in 17 states, including one in the state of Illinois, first reported on Sunday, Feb. 14. This is an increase of 19 cases. The other cases are three in California, one in New York, one in Texas, 10 in Maryland, four in Massachussetts, one in Connecticut, one in Illinois, three in North Carolina, one in Washington, four in Virginia, one in Tennessee, one in Nevada, 30 in South Carolina, one in Idaho, one in Georgia, one in Florida, and one in Washington D.C. 

Variant P.1 was first discovered in four travelers from Brazil who were tested at an airport near Tokyo, Japan in early January. According to epidemiologic and modeling studies, researchers have found that this new strain, similar to B.1.1.7, spreads more rapidly and easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2. However, this variant has unique mutations that may affect the ability of antibodies, generated through previous COVID-19 infection or through vaccination, to recognize and fight off the virus. There are now 10 cases of the Brazil variant in the U.S. (an increase of five) – five in Florida, two in Minnesota, and one each in Oklahoma, Maryland and Arkansas.

According to an article in the LATimes, a coronavirus variant that emerged in mid-2020 and surged to become the dominant strain in Cali-fornia not only spreads more readily than its predecessors, but also evades antibodies generated by COVID-19 vaccines or prior infection and is associated with severe illness and death, researchers said.

In a study that helps ex-plain the state’s dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths — and portends further trouble ahead — scientists at UC San Fran-cisco said the cluster of mutations that characterizes the homegrown strain should mark it as a “variant of concern” on par with those from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.

“The devil is already here,” said Dr. Charles Chiu, who led the UCSF team of geneticists, epide-miologists, statisticians and other scientists in a wide-ranging analysis of the new variant, which they call B.1.427/B.1.429. “I wish it were different. But the sci-ence is the science.”

Crawford Countysaw six new cases and antigen-probable cases, increasing to 1,694. The number of deaths remained at 17.

Crawford County remains in Phase Three of the ‘Crawford County-Moving Forward’ plan.  The county will remain in Phase Three until widespread protections are available. Widespread protections mean when a high percent of our population has been vaccinated.  

“We are seeing more vaccine being funneled to our county and hope to see this continue moving forward”, says Cindy Riniker, Health Officer.  “With that being said, we must not reopen too quickly or without the tools in place to minimize the spread of the virus. Doing so could threaten the progress we’ve made and have more significant health and economic consequences.”

The St. Patrick’s Day and Easter celebrations will soon be here and Public Health is asking businesses and the public to strictly adhere to the Phase Three recommendations that include:

• Limit seating capacity to 75 percent or less for restaurants, bars, faith-based services.

• Limit to 75 percent capacity for all stores, retail establishments, gyms, community centers, shopping malls, swimming pools, movie theaters and bowling alleys.

• 100 people maximum at any indoor mass or social gathering.

• 250 people maximum at any outdoor mass gathering.

Last week, Crawford County Public Health was allotted 200 doses of Moderna for first dose vaccinations.  We have scheduled individuals into clinics in Gays Mills and Wauzeka from our current waiting list.  “We continue to ask everyone to please remain patient as we do have a waiting list with more than 700 individuals on it and are only receiving limited amounts of vaccine weekly” says Cindy Riniker.  It is important to note that while the next priority group will be opened up March 1st, vaccinating those on our current list will take precedence.

Crawford County Public Health plans to have the waiting list registration link updated to include education and childcare on March 1st.  To help manage our waiting list, we will open our registration link to the other priority groups in phases to keep our waiting list more current.  If you would like to be added to our waiting list, go to or call our office at 608-326-0229.

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 16 cases in the last week, increasing to 1,835. The number deaths remained at 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:

Richland Countysaw an increase of eight cases, increasing to 1,288. The number of deaths in the county increased by one to 14.

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 38 cases in the last week, going from 4,240 to 4,278. The number of deaths in the county remained at 31.

Juneau Countysaw an increase in cases of nine, growing to 2,874. Of the 2,865 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 19.

LaCrosse Countysaw an increase in new cases of 99, going from 12,133 to 12,232. The number of deaths increased by three to 78.

Grant Countyhas seen an increase of 34 cases in the last week, going from 4,644 to 4,678. The number of deaths in the county increased by one to 80.

Lafayette Countyhas seen an increase of 20 cases in the last week, increasing to 1,463. The number of deaths in the county remained at six.

Iowa Countyhas seen an increase of 14 cases in the last week, increasing to 1,852. The number of deaths in the county remained at nine.