First COVID-19 death in the county
Aspirus closes local clinics to reassign personnel
The Marathon County Health Department on Saturday confi rmed the first death in Marathon County of a person infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID- 19). The death was of an elderly resident.
“We are saddened by the loss of one of our community members,” said Joan Theuer, county health officer. “I along with our community extend our sympathies to their loved ones.”
The death, one among 154 COVID- 19 related fatalities statewide, comes as the state has registered 3,428 people confirmed to have the disease with 29 percent of this number, 993, being hospitalized.
On Monday, Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm said Wisconsin has “clearly flattened the curve” for coronavirus through social distancing, hygiene and other measures and prevented sickness and death from overwhelming state hospitals.
Dr. Ryan Westergaard, who works for the department, said, however, that it is unknown whether infections in Wisconsin have as yet peaked and held open the possibilities that infections could surge.
“We haven’t squashed the curve down to nothing,” he said.
Westergaard said it is likely the state’s official tally of confirmed COVID- 19 patients represent between 10 and 20 percent of the true number of people who carry the disease.
Marathon County Health Department public information officer Judy Burrows said reducing the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases does not, in itself, mean that the disease is less threatening.
“Flattening the curve means that we will have a longer period of time to respond to as the number of new cases continue to be identified,” she said. “It is important to remember that this is a novel virus and our bodies have no immunity to it. Therefore we can slow the infection rate but we still have many, many people who are susceptible to this virus.”
Clinics will close
In this uncertainty, one local health care provider, Aspirus, announced Monday that it was closing 16 clinics in Wisconsin and Michigan, including those in Athens, Edgar and Marathon, in order to shift staff over to hospitals that would deal with a surge of COVID- 19 patients.
The other clinics to close include those in Adams, Birnamwood, Bruce Crossing, Mich., Crystal Falls, Mich., Gilman, Hurley, Lake Linden, Mich., Nekoosa, Prentice, Rib Lake, Rome, Three Lakes and Wittenberg.
“The decision to close locations, even on a temporary basis, is not an easy one but it is necessary in order to continue to providing access to primary and specialty care in the safest way possible for our staff and patients,” said Matt Brewer, vice president of operations and chief nursing officer of Aspirus Medical Group. “Closing these locations allows us to use staff and resources where they are needed most and ensure our hospitals are staffed appropriately to care for our communities during a possible surge in COVID- 19 activity.”