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Sauk, Columbia County rise to medium COVID-19 community level designation

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Getting immunized (copy)

Emma Thomson, 8, of Sun Prairie, gets her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in November from nurse Brooke Teberg at the SSM Health St. Clare Hospital mass pediatric vaccination clinic in Baraboo. A rise in the COVID-19 community level to medium for both Sauk and Columbia County has health officials urging the public to take preventive measures.

Both Columbia County and Sauk County have joined the majority of the counties in the state now at a “medium” COVID-19 community level, according to health officials.

In a statement released Friday, Sauk County Public Health Director Treemanisha Stewart notified the public that the status has been increased to medium from its previous designation of “low” community level since the system was reconfigured to measure concern based on severe illness and death within a region rather than case rate.

Stewart urged the public to protect against severe illness caused by COVID-19.

“More tools than ever before are available to reduce the risk of severe illness from COVID-19,” said Stewart in the statement. “Getting vaccinated and staying up-to-date remains the best way to protect yourself and your family.”

In Columbia County, the health department released an update Thursday noting that two county residents had died as a result of COVID-19 complications, bringing the total of reported COVID-19 related deaths in Columbia County to 143. As of Thursday, there were 134 active cases and 17 people hospitalized, with two in the ICU being treated for COVID-19.

Lodi Elementary hosts COVID vaccine clinic (copy)

Val Bilkey holds 9-year-old Bricelynn Bilkey's hand during a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in November for children aged 5-11 at Lodi Elementary School.

According to the CDC, as of Thursday, Sauk County had four hospital admissions caused by COVID-19, with both ICU and hospital bed usage percentages increasing by almost 1%.

When a community level is medium, health experts urge anyone who has not yet gotten vaccinated to do so. Stewart said to prevent COVID-19 infection, residents should also get tested if they experience symptoms of the virus, which can include a list of items like a new loss of taste or smell, fever, chills, congestion, runny nose or shortness of breath, among others.

People should stay home and away from others if they do not feel well, Stewart said. For those at a higher risk of severe illness, health experts recommend those living in an area with a medium community level to consider wearing a protective mask indoors and talk to their doctor about other possible preventive measures or treatments. Everyone should wear a mask on public transportation, according to CDC recommendations.

The CDC also recommends that anyone with symptoms who has tested positive for COVID or has been exposed to someone with the virus should wear a mask and isolate from the public if a healthcare provider recommends it.

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

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