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Southwest Wisconsin: weekly COVID-19 update
covid-19 graphic coronavirus

SOUTHWEST WISCONSIN - Statewide, over the past week COVID-19 diagnoses increased from 3,428 April 13 to 4,499 Monday, and the number of deaths increased from 154 to 230, according to the state Department of Health Services.

By county, the number that reports zero cases has shrunk from 10 to seven. Counties remaining with zero reported cases as of April 20 are Burnett, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Pepin Taylor and Vernon. Counties reporting just one case has shrunk from seven to five; two cases, seven to six; and three cases, seven to four.

The number of counties reporting 10-99 cases has grown from 18 to 22; and counties reporting 100 or more cases has grown from five to six. The total number of cases in those counties has grown from 592 to 797 (25 percent). The counties with 100 or more cases are Racine, Kenosha, Waukesha, Brown, Dane and Milwaukee. In those counties, between April 10-20, the total number of confirmed cases has grown from 2,328 to 3,540 (34 percent).

In Southwest Wisconsin, Vernon County alone has hung on, reporting zero positive cases. Crawford County has held their number of confirmed cases over the last week to three, with all cases recovered.

Richland County’s confirmed cases went from four on April 9 to eight on April 19, with one death. Monroe County has also had one death from COVID-19 during the last week, and has seen the number of confirmed cases almost double in the last two weeks, going from seven on April 7 to 13 on April 20.

The number of COVID-19 coronavirus cases in Grant County over the past week increased from eight to 24, and the number of deaths increased from one to three.

LaCrosse County has held the number of confirmed cases steady at 26 for the last week, and has reported no deaths.

Iowa County increased from five to six cases, and Lafayette County remained at three cases, according to DHS.

The neighboring state of Iowa has seen an explosion in new cases in the last week, with a lot of the cases in the northeast corner of the state. Some reporting has linked these spikes to meat packing plants. Overall, cases in the state increased from 2,141 to 2,902 between April 17-20. 

DHS releases maps

For the first time there is an approximate idea of where COVID-19 cases are within counties where there have been more than four positive tests.

The state Department of Health Services released a census-level map that shows approximate counts of positive tests and deaths by range for up to five, and the number of negative tests. However, the map does not show areas with zero to four cases or deaths beyond reporting they have zero to four cases or deaths. Only one Grant County area — including the approximate boundaries of the towns of Clifton, Ellenboro, Liberty, Lima and South Lancaster — has 13 positive tests, more than half Grant County’s total, and 59 negative tests out of that area’s 3,664 people.

Only one other area in Southwest Wisconsin has more than five cases, northeastern Green County, which has five positive tests and 56 negative tests out of that area’s 6,617 people.

Grant County has been consistently reporting more cases than DHS has on the same day.

“State data lags as they cut off at a certain time (which seems to change occasionally),” said county Health Department director Jeff Kindrai. “Generally, it is about a day behind but there are circumstances when it can be longer than that.

“If you look at the State website there have also been disclaimers about corrections as sometimes cases are related to the wrong jurisdiction and counted and other errors can occur. Grant County is striving to be accurate and prompt in reporting cases.” 

Grant County was reporting the age range of COVID-19-diagnosed people until the number increased into the double digits. The county also has not been reporting information about COVID-19 deaths beyond the person’s age range.

“This information is protected under HIPAA [the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] and state privacy laws,” said Kindrai.

Kindrai said COVID-19 deaths are “determined by the coroner and/or health care provider, and finalized by the state and [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. The Health Department is reporting information as deaths of individuals testing positive for COVID-19. We do not determine if COVID 19 was a cause of death or to what degree it may have been a contributing factor at the health department level (we do not have complete health records available for review or the expertise).”

County health departments became controversial in some areas by recommending against holding church services during the Christian Holy Week, just before a news release from Gov. Tony Evers clarified that church services could be held as long as fewer than 10 people attended, and that services in parking lots where the participants stayed in their cars did not violate the Safer at Home order.

“We offered guidance and advised not to do parking lot services,” said Kindrai. “We stand by the advice. The state did an about-face on this topic overnight, first stating and providing information to all local health departments that parking lot services were not allowed, and then providing clarification the next day saying that they were allowed if rules were adhered to. 

“While technically not in violation of the order [as of Monday] if done correctly, it is still not recommended to pack people into cars and have them gather. As weather improves windows may go down and they may be more interactions than desired. We will see what clarification comes out after April 24.”

Crawford County Independent reporter Gillian Pomplun contributed to this story.