Juneau County is seeing a jump in cases of COVID-19 in the latter half of June, with more than 15 new cases the last several weeks, following a recent outbreak at Cruisin’ Chubbys outside Wisconsin Dells and two exposure events at bars in downtown Mauston.
Health officials announced the outbreak at Cruisin’ Chubbys, a business described as “Wisconsin’s largest nude gentleman’s club,” on June 19, with two non-outbreak exposure events occurring at State Street Tap and Randall’s Bar announced on June 29. The dates of the exposure events for State Street Tap are June 24-26, and for Randall’s June 25-26. On July 1, the Juneau County Health Department announced an additional non-outbreak exposure event at Kwik Trip on Academy Street in Elroy, with the dates of possible exposure for that event from June 24-29.
An outbreak is defined by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services as “two or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the same facility or associated with a single event, with onset within two maximum COVID-19 incubation periods of each other (28 days).”
The increase in cases in Juneau County from 24 in the middle of June to 39 as of June 30 is following statewide trends, with Wisconsin reporting 28,659 cases with several hundred new cases each day.
“In public health we anticipated this increase as a result of the state beginning to open up,” said Juneau County Health Officer Amanda Dederich following the Cruisin’ Chubbys outbreak. “Ideally this opening would have been a little bit more controlled to ensure these cases didn’t rise too quickly and overwhelm our local healthcare system and public health capacity. Although we have significantly increased statewide and local testing capacity and contact tracing capacity, these are still limited resources.”
Dederich said the county’s case load is still in a manageable range, but warned the Juneau County Health Department is seeing more possible exposures for each positive case compared to early positive tests.
“This means people are interacting more often and with more people at that one time,” Dederich said. “We still have to be cautious, and we shouldn’t be 100% back to normal. With every decision you make, understand the risk that’s involved and that you aren’t just interacting with those 10 to 20 people at the party, you are also interacting with everyone those people have interacted with recently. Be vigilant as you begin to reconnect with family and friends, and remember there are reasons why large events are being cancelled this summer: the threat still exists.”
According to Dederich, recent outbreak events in neighboring counties and across the state are “having spillover effects” on Juneau County.
“The spread of COVID-19 is not predictable,” Dederich said.
Juneau County has increased testing rapidly during the pandemic, aided by drive-through testing events held by the National Guard. The National Guard held a testing event in Juneau County most recently at the New Lisbon Correctional Facility from June 29 through July 1, while a previous testing run at Mauston High School June 8 collected about 190 specimens for testing.
Dederich said the department is continuously monitoring the pandemic, and will provide additional updates as necessary.
“We use a decision matrix and tree for when we have to release public information and notification, not every outbreak warrants this type of public notification, it is really based on part on our ability as a health department to effectively identify those who have been potentially exposed,” Dederich said. “Based on our disease identifications, if we identify a high risk to the public our department will notify the public about the possible exposure.”
The recent outbreak at Cruisin’ Chubbys and the exposure events at State Street Tap, Randall’s, and Kwik Trip warranted such notifications, while other exposure events have not. Dederich said that following the Cruisin’ Chubbys outbreak, where seven new cases were confirmed in a weeklong period, that not all of the seven cases were associated with the Cruisin’ Chubbys cases and instead came from four separate exposure points.
“Exposures and outbreaks can happen anywhere, and you must assume that when you are in public you will most likely come in contact with someone who is positive,” Dederich said.
The Juneau County Health Department is recommending all people in the county follow safety guidelines, including practicing social distancing and keeping six feet of distance between non-household members, washing hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer, wearing a cloth face-covering while in public, staying home when sick and avoiding face-touching.
“Wearing a cloth face covering protects those around you, and while wearing a face mask does take some getting used to, I wear mine because that’s such a small inconvenience compared to the potential that I could infect someone unknowingly who is immunocompromised,” Dederich said. “I cannot tell when I’m going through the grocery store or in public spaces or at work who is a cancer survivor, an expectant mother, who has diabetes, or another condition that puts them at risk.”
Of the positive cases in Juneau County, Dederich said each of the individuals had a “great range” in symptoms.
“Some of these people have experienced the very traditional things we’ve seen in the media: shortness of breath, cough, fever, others have only lost their sense of taste or smell, had a very mild headache, or had stomach problems,” Dederich said. “We want you to get tested if you are having any of these symptoms, be aware of what those symptoms are and call your healthcare provider to get tested. We have worked really hard to increase the capacity and availability of testing in our local area.”
For those who have issues getting a test, Dederich said a Google form is available on the Juneau County emergency information page at co.juneau.wi.gov/emergency-information.html for comments or questions. Anyone with financial concerns over testing can also inform the department via the form, and find a list of free community testing sites across the state.
“Without people getting tested, public health cannot effectively contain this disease,” Dederich said. “Once someone receives a positive test, we provide guidelines on quarantine and isolation to keep their friends and families safe from possible exposure whenever it is possible and prevent community spread… We work with the individual who is positive to get a list of close contacts and places they have gone to determine if a notification to those contacts or the public is warranted. The containment starts with the testing, but it is also super vital you are cooperating with the public health nurses in our county and counties around us.”
Reach Christopher Jardine on Twitter @ChrisJJardine or contact him at 608-432-6591.
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