The Fond du Lac County Health Department released a health alert today (Friday), notifying the community that COVID-19 activity in the area was “very high” as the department received roughly 240 new confirmed cases within the last 24 hours.
“We have seen a rapid increase in the number of daily new cases in past weeks, and the number of cases continues to accelerate upwards,” Fond du Lac County Health Officer Kim Mueller said in the alert. “Due to the escalation in cases, case investigation and contact tracing efforts to effectively identify and control the spread of the virus have become increasingly strained.”
Mueller added that public health has not consistently been able to notify positive coronavirus cases and their close contacts in a timely manner, which severely limits health officials’ ability to contain the virus.
Due to cases exceeding contact tracing capacity, Mueller says beginning Monday, Oct. 26 the Fond du Lac County Health Department will be prioritizing contacting positive cases who are:
- Age 65 and older
- Children who are 18 years old and younger
- All other individuals will be contacted as capacity allows
If someone tests positive, the health department asks that folks stay home a minimum of 10 days from symptom onset. Additionally, if someone has symptoms and has taken a test, the department recommends remaining isolated for 10 days from the testing date.
Public health officials say individuals who have taken a test can return to work or school on day 11 if they are free of fever and if symptoms have improved within the last 24 hours.
Beyond isolation, officials are asking those who take a test to notify their employer or school, notify close contacts and ask them to quarantine for 14 days after previous contact.
Aside from issuing recommendations for the community, the Fond du Lac County Health Department released guidelines for how it will be working with businesses on contact tracing.
Due to the increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19, Mueller says the health department’s process for contacting employment of positive cases will be changing.
The health department will no longer call employers directly. Instead, Mueller noted a modified process will be implemented the week of Oct. 26.
“Since we are not contacting all positive cases during this time, we will not be providing verification of return to work dates,” Mueller said.
Instead, the Fond du Lac County Health Department is asking businesses to discuss return to work dates with employees by reviewing information from local and state health departments.
Businesses and community organizations are reminded to follow Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. COVID-19 guidelines, and to encourage remote work as possible.
As much as possible, retail, hospitality and restaurant businesses are being asked to limit person-to-person interactions, encourage curbside pick-up/delivery and require face coverings of staff and customers.
“Limit capacity within non-essential businesses, bars, and restaurants, retail businesses and organizations to 25%,” Mueller said. “Large gatherings are not recommended at this time such as weddings, golf outings, reunions, and celebrations that bring a large number of people together. Avoid unnecessary activities and travel within the community that puts you in contact with others.”
In order to keep schools and businesses open and keep health care infrastructure intact, the Fond du Lac County Health Department is urging everyone to begin acting immediately to slow the spread of COVID-19.
To do that, the health department is reminding the community to keep six-feet from people they do not live with, wear a face covering, wash their hands frequently with soap and water, stay home as much as possible, get tested if they have symptoms and to cooperate with public health officials.
Each week becomes more critical than the week before as the virus continues to spread because there are more places individuals can become exposed and then transmit it to others, according to Tom Nichols, COVID-19 surge chief for Ascension Wisconsin.
“It’s more important now than it was in March — when there wasn’t much [coronavirus] in the area — to be really vigilant about avoiding crowds, avoiding being around people indoors without a mask on, washing your hands, staying home when you’re sick [and] to really be doing those things we’ve been talking about for so long now,” Nichols said. “The more quickly we can decrease its prevalence, the better we’ll be able to contain it; if you continue to let it spread unabated, it becomes more and more difficult to control with each passing week.”