Clark Co. COVID-19 cases likely higher than eight
Clark County has had only one new coronavirus case reported in the last week. Don’t be lulled into complacency by that, says county health director Brittany Mews, as that could be just the opening the virus needs to infect more people.
Clark County recorded its eighth confi rmed case over the weekend, as Wisconsin’s infection numbers climbed to 3,555 as of Tuesday afternoon. Of those eight, six were connected, meaning that those people had contact with each other and the source is known. For the other two cases — including the one reported over the weekend — there is “no known source,” Mews said, and that tells public health experts there are likely more people in the population with COVID-19.
“We truly don’t know where those people picked it up from,” she said. “We know there’s a lot more cases in the county.”
That alone should warn people that it’s not yet safe to mingle with others in groups or to ignore Gov. Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” order. Mews said Clark County may have a relatively low number of cases at this time, but it wouldn’t take much for that to change. Wisconsin numbers are still on the rise, and no one is sure when the peak may arrive. “We’re definitely not over the hump, I can tell you that,” Mews said. “It’s not rising exponentially, but there are new cases.”
According to a “peak projection” model formulated by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the state is still weeks away from seeing the worst impacts of the virus. As more people are infected and tested, the numbers will rise.
“Due to the time that passes between transmission, symptoms, and a test result, policies like Safer at Home will need more time to result in a significant decrease in cases reported,” the DHS website says. “This means Wisconsin’s peak will most likely occur within three to seven weeks (between April 23 and May 23).”
While the official data shows Clark County with eight cases, that’s not realistically accurate, Mews said. That number is almost surely higher because of limited testing capabilities in the area. Local health providers have varying criteria for which patients get tested, Mews said, and there is a shortage of things that are needed to test more people.
County health departments do not conduct testing, and providers such as the Marshfield Medical Center system and Ascension determine who and when they will test. They work within their supply chains to get the supplies needed to rule patients in or out as COVID-19 positive.
Mews said some providers are telling patients with COVID-like symptoms to go home and isolate themselves until they’re well. In those cases, a patient may well have the virus, but is not tested and the case not counted in the official statistics.
Also, there are very likely people with the coronavirus who don’t show symptoms and have no idea they may have it, but can still transmit it to others.
“You have to have symptoms to get tested,” she said. “People can be asymptomatic carriers.”
As of Tuesday, 107 people had been tested with negative results in the county.
Mews said there is concern among public officials that people will start to let down their guard as new infection numbers slow, and especially when business, schools, etc. may begin to reopen. Once the “Safer at Home” order is lifted and social distancing habits wane, the coronavirus may reassert itself.
“We could have another outbreak,” Mews said.
For now, Mews said April 24 is still the target date for the governor’s order to be lifted and schools to possibly reopen, and no one from the state on a Monday conference call was willing to say otherwise. That’s just a square on a calendar, Mews said, and isn’t a magical time when everyone will again be safe.
“It’s not just going to stop overnight,” she said. “On April 24, it’s not just gonna go away.”