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Baraboo library closes doors over COVID-19 concerns, health officer says cases headed in 'wrong direction'

Baraboo library closes doors over COVID-19 concerns, health officer says cases headed in 'wrong direction'


Baraboo Public Library Director Jessica Bergin said that although the building has shut its doors over COVID-19 concerns, visitors are likely not in danger of being exposed to the virus.

“There’s no reason for people who have recently visited the library to worry as no one has tested positive,” Bergin said Wednesday, the first day the library shut down.

Four staff members were exposed to COVID-19 outside of the library, she said, which prompted an announcement late Tuesday on the Baraboo Public Library website and a social media page that the building would be closed for disinfecting.

The library sanitizes its high-touch areas every few hours, Bergin said, but because of possible exposure to employees, even though it didn’t happen in the building, they want to ensure it is deep cleaned. Part of that process is heavily disinfecting the common areas where those four employees work.

“We’re really being abundantly cautious here,” Bergin said. “We’d hate for someone to get exposed at the library.”

The exposed employees did get tested for COVID-19, but no one had been notified as of Wednesday afternoon whether they were positive for the virus. Part of the closure was due to a lack of staff as well, Bergin said. With only four full-time employees and about 12 additional staff members, it would be hard to maintain their level of service while the exposed employees can’t work. They aren’t sure when the library will reopen.

“We are waiting basically on test results,” Bergin said.

The library will continue to offer curbside pickup and Bergin said the book drop slot will remain open. None of the library’s planned programming will be affected, she said.

Library officials presented a plan to the Sauk County Health Department, which was accepted as a positive procedure to maintain public safety, Bergin said.

The department’s website and workers have guidelines to help businesses follow to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to staff and customers. A chart outlining “Expectation for Businesses Dealing with COVID-19” urges establishments to require that an employee with close contact to a confirmed coronavirus case stay home from work for 14 days after exposure. The facility should encourage testing, especially if an employee develops symptoms, and if they do have signs of being infected with the novel coronavirus, a test result will determine how they should proceed.

If positive, the health department advises that the employee should stay in home isolation until 10 days have passed since symptoms began and can only return to work if they are free of respiratory symptoms and a fever of more than 100.4 for at least 24 hours without the aid of medication. If the employee does not get tested, they should follow the same protocol, staying home 10 days. If negative but the employee has symptoms, they should stay home from work for 10 days after symptoms began and show no signs of symptoms or a fever.

As of Wednesday, Sauk County had one new hospitalization related to COVID-19. There are 81 active cases throughout the county.

Sauk County Health Officer Tim Lawther provided updated statistics to Baraboo Common Council members Tuesday during their meeting. Baraboo has the highest number of infected people, he said. At the time, of the 168 total cases, 37 were active, which accounts for about 40% of the county’s cases. As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, the city’s total had risen to 172, according to the Sauk County COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

“We are continuing to do an incredible number of tests,” Lawther said, which is a positive standard for the county to maintain. “We have tested over 14,000 people so far.”

A few indicators in the statistics have been concerning, Lawther said. Case numbers continue to rise. He said the trend is still going upward as the number of positive cases increased by 17 between Monday and Tuesday. The department uses the measure of doubling time to determine how quickly the virus is spreading.

“The last day of June, we were at 62 days it took us to double those number of cases,” Lawther said. “We’re currently at 21 days. Another indication, obviously, that the curve is going the wrong direction.”

Sauk County also averaged one or fewer cases per day in the “first few months of this epidemic,” Lawther said. At the end of July, the county was at 8.2 cases per day and currently, positive cases are at a rate of 9.6 cases per day.

“Again, another indication that we are going the wrong direction in our COVID containment,” Lawther said.

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.

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