Health and Human Services meeting

Marinette County Health and Human Services Director Robin Elsner, left, announced his retirement at Wednesday’s board meeting. He plans to retire next month. At right is Public Health Officer Molly Bonjean.

EagleHerald Editor

MARINETTE—Marinette County is averaging about 30 new COVID-19 cases per day, with a spike of 60 cases one day last week.

Molly Bonjean, the county’s public health officer, presented those statistics Wednesday to the Health and Human Services Board.

“Wisconsin and Marinette County remain in the critically high case activity level,” Bonjean told the board.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Marinette County had 3,230 positive tests through Wednesday. That’s an increase of about 1,000 from early November and about 2,000 from early October.

The county has 14,767 negative tests and 36 deaths through Wednesay.

Marinette County is averaging 7,890 positive tests per 100,000 people and just under 88 deaths per 100,000 people. That’s a fatality rate of 1.1%, according to the DHS.

Bonjean said the hospitalization situation has improved in northeast Wisconsin. She said bed use is at 82% and intensive care unit bed use is at 85%. About 25% of available ventilators are in use, she said.

Bonjean praised county workers who are doing contact tracing, stating that they rarely need help from state contact tracers.

“So that’s encouraging,” she said.

Supervisor Tom Mailand asked if the increase in positive tests is because of more testing.

Bonjean said she has not heard of an increase in testing, adding, “It certainly could be a factor, but I think there are a lot of factors that go into it.”

Bonjean reported that the DHS is implementing revised quarantine options approved by the Centers for Disease Control.

The options for those with close contact to someone who tests positive are:

Æ Quarantine for the full 14 days after the time of exposure. “This remains the safest strategy for preventing the spread of COVID,” Bonjean said.

Æ Quarantine for 10 days for people who remain asymptomatic. They still must self-monitor their symptoms through day 14.

Æ Quarantine for seven days for people who are asymptomatic using a test-based strategy. Individuals may be released from quarantine after seven days if a FDA authorized diagnostic test is collected within the 48 hours prior to the proposed end of quarantine. Bonjean said, for example, a person can quarantine through day 7, and be released on day 8, but they have to get a negative test on day 6 or 7. They also must remain asymptomatic and monitor symptoms for full 14 days.

Bonjean said for all people in quarantine, if symptoms develop at any time, they must self-isolate and contact local health authorities or their health care provider. They also must adhere to mask regulations, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings.

Contact tracing information and other COVID-related material can be found on the main page of the Marinette County website.

Supervisor Mike Behnke asked if a person goes into a large store, like Walmart, how are they supposed to know whom they have been in contact with.

Bonjean explained that large stores like Walmart normally aren’t a concern because people are usually not within six feet of someone for 15 minutes or longer.

“Unless you bump into a buddy and you’re standing there talking in an aisle for a bit, most people are coming and going (past each other) in less than 15 minutes,” she said.

Bonjean said the contract tracers are doing their best.

“If they are able to give us any more information, details, we can try to investigate certain situations,” she said. “It’s not 100% fool-proof, but it’s the best we have and what we are doing is within the (DHS). It’s the best we can do given the situation.”

Bonjean explained that the general recommendation is for citizens to keep tab of their own symptoms.

“The second we become {span style=”text-decoration: underline;”}symptomatic{/span}, we should self-isolate, we should call our primary care provider and see if we need to be tested,” she said. “It’s everyone doing their part.”

Responding to a question about co-workers testing positive, Bonjean said that HIPPA laws make things a bit tricky and it’s up to employers how they choose to notify their employees if a co-worker or customer have tested positive.

She added that discrimination has become an issue with COVID-19.

“We have seen all across the state and the U.S., there have been a significant amount of discrimination that goes on when folks have been diagnosed with COVID,” she said. “There have been some real safety concerns, too. … There have been threats to people testing positive for COVID.”

Behnke said it’s unfortunate that some people are feeling ashamed of getting COVID. “It’s not a dirty virus and that’s the thing we can’t get through peoples’ heads,” he said.