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people tested for COVID in Abby

people tested for COVID in Abby people tested for COVID in Abby

226 people tested for COVID in Abby

Three cases reported at Abby land

By Kevin O’Brien A total of 266 people were tested for COVID-19 at a drive-through testing event held last Friday at Abbotsford High School's parking lot, but the number of positive results is still being determined.

“We do not have all of the test results yet and will release the numbers of negatives and positives when they are all in,” said Judy Burrows, public information for the Marathon County Health Department, in an email on Monday Twenty-seven National Guard members from around the state, along with four public health officers and an interpreter, helped administer the tests.

Burrows said 57 percent of those tested were from Clark County, 32 percent were from Marathon County, 8 percent were from Taylor County and 1 percent each came from Lincoln and Wood (with 1 percent listed as “other”).

Half of those who showed up to be tested spoke Spanish as their primary language, according to a press release from the county health department.

Two days before the testing event, the Clark and Marathon county health departments jointly announced that three employees at Abbyland Foods in Abbotsford had tested positive for COVID-19.

Burrows said the timing of the testing event was “serendipitous,” as it had already been planned before the Abbyland cases were reported.

By the health department’s definition, an “outbreak” occurs when just two or more cases are reported at any place of employment, she said. (A single case constitutes an “outbreak” at a nursing home or other health care facility).

When asked how the department decides when to publicly announce an outbreak at a particular business, Burrow said it depends on a variety of factors, such as how closely the employees work together, how long they have contact with each other and how many precautions are taken at the work place.

For instance, a gas station that keeps its employees behind a plexiglass shield

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staff photo/kevin o'brien and requires them to wear masks and gloves would likely be considered less of a public health risk than a company that doesn’t take the same steps, she said.

If a health department tracks multiple cases to one work site, Burrows said the health department will try to work with that business before releasing the information to the public. It would be very rare to issue a press release without the company’s cooperation, she said.

“Our success in fighting this has come from working with people, not fighting against people,” she said.

In a joint press release with the health departments, Abbyland’s safety director, Todd Jelinski, said the company is “committed to providing a safe work environment for all employees.”

“To the best of our abilities, Abbyland has implemented CDC recommended prevention guidelines such as employees wearing masks, reconfigured workspaces, staggered breaks and lunches to limit employee contact and promote social distancing, and increased sanitization in high traffic areas,” he said.

Jelinski did not return a call seeking further comment.

Health officials try to work with businesses to make sure they are following the best practices for preventing the spread of the virus, Burrows said. She said their goal is to keep businesses open and operating, but they can order a shutdown as a last resort.

“It’s something the county health officer can do,” she said. “It’s not something we want to do.”

For the employees who work at a business with an outbreak, Burrows acknowledged that it can be financially diffi cult for them to take time off if they are sick or are worried about contracting the virus. She said this is especially true for people in the manufacturing and service industries who often aren’t able to accumulate paid time off. “That is a scenario for many, many

people,” she said. “It is a hardship.”

The testing protocol

At last Friday’s testing event, three lanes of traffic were set up in the school’s south parking lot, with testing canopies at the end of each line. A few members of the testing crew were dressed from head to toe in what looked like white HAZMAT suits.

Guardsman David Zalusky said there are 25 Guard groups like his that have been trained to do COVID-19 testing in Wisconsin. He said his group had done three other testing events in addition to the one in Abbotsford.

“There’s usually a big morning rush, and then it calms down after that,” he said.

Once a vehicle reaches the front of the line, the testing itself takes about five minutes, but the whole process lasts about 15 minutes with the paperwork that needs to be filled out.

“The more testing we can do the better,” Zalusky said.

Of the 221 people tested on May 19 at the Northcentral Technical College campus in Wausau, two were positive for COVID-19, one each from Marathon and Lincoln counties.

Those who got tested are expected to get their test results back within three to seven days. Those showing possible COVID- 19 symptoms, such as fever, cough, and loss of taste or smell, were asked to self-quarantine at home.

County health officials are still urging people to follow social distancing guidelines and to stay at home if they are feeling sick.

“We strongly suspect communitytransmission in Marathon and Clark counties,” said Marathon County health officer Joan Theurer. “We continue to request that individuals use social distancing, wear a mask in public, use good hand hygiene, and to quarantine themselves if they are feeling ill at this time.”

PREP WORK -Members of the Wisconsin National Guard prepare COVID-19 testing kits in the parking lot of Abbotsford High School last Friday. The Guard members were recruited from units all across the state and trained to assist with community testing events.STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN O’BRIEN