County reports 45 new cases in single day
Local COVID-19 numbers still rising
By Robert Cloud
Waupaca County reported a record number of COVID-19 cases for a single day.
On Saturday, July 25, the county reported 45 new cases.
Waupaca County now has a total of 332 positive cases.
Of the total, 98 cases are active and 220 have recovered.
Fifteen people have died since the pandemic began, with the latest death reported on Tuesday, July 28.
Jed Wohlt, the county public health officer, said several positive cases were identified during the testing the National Guard conducted Thursday and Friday, July 23-24, at the county fairgrounds in Weyauwega.
The guard collected nearly 500 samples.
“Most of the results have come in and have been reported on our dashboard,” Wohlt said.
“Health care providers and laboratories will report the test result to the patient and are required to report positive results to the health department immediately,” Wohlt added.
He said the health department contacts the person who tested positive within 24 hours of receiving the test result.
“We review health care instructions with the individual and also conduct an interview to collect information relative to the disease incident such as symptom onset, types of symptoms, severity of symptoms, possible exposure sources, etc.,” Wohlt said. “Isolation periods are determined through the interview and symptom monitoring is scheduled. We also ask if that individual has been in close contact with others during their infectious period.”
The county health department then notifies those who have been exposed to a person who tested positive.
“Close contacts are asked to self-quarantine,” Wohlt said. “All of this is done to help prevent future spread.”
A total of 16 people work for Waupaca County Public Health Services. Four of them are public health nurses (PHNs).
“The PHNs are experienced in disease investigation and communicable disease outbreaks and have been managing the bulk of the disease investigation and monitoring with positive cases,” Wohlt said. “We have most of our remaining staff trained as contact tracers, and they have all maintained caseloads of contacts while also trying to keep up on their primary responsibilities.”
The thousands of negative test results must also be processed and reported.
“It has been a heavy burden for our staff,” Wohlt said. “They have been logging extensive hours for months. Our core pandemic response team went months without a full day off. We continue to work seven days a week as results and new cases are reported daily.”
Wohlt said county staff are still managing all of the work themselves. The state has offered to help with contact tracing.
However, county staff usually can respond more quickly.
“Timing is important with contact tracing,” Wohlt said.
Waupaca County received CARES funding to help cover the costs associated with the COVID-19 response.
“We have hired three additional nurses and three additional contact tracers to try to keep up and provide some relief for our full-time staff,” Wohlt said, adding that the county plans to add more temporary staff in the coming weeks.
Waupaca County has investigated outbreaks at a total of 18 facilities.
Of those investigations, 13 are still active.
Four active investigations involve long-term health care facilities and four involve non-healthcare workplaces.
Impact on a local business
Thad Marcom, owner of Strongwood in Waupaca, posted about his experience with COVID-19 on his company’s Facebook page on Sunday, July 26.
Marcom was one of seven people at Strongwood who tested positive for COVID-19.
“i personally have had very little of the ‘typical’ symptoms,” Marcom noted in his post. “Started with a very mild chest thing that I thought was my normal summer allergies. Nothing really. Covid never popped into my head. Then the strangest thing happened … all my sense of taste and smell was gone. I mean everything. It’s still gone, six days and counting.”
Marcom said only two of the staff had a fever
“Some suffered from cold chills, hot sweats, sinus pressure, dry cough, body aches, etc., many of the typical COVID-19 symptoms. Someone else had just a small case of shortness of breath. Others, a little runny nose and slight cough. We have one that only had a loss of smell, nothing else. All in all, not one of us was the same. And most of us struggled to detect Covid from our early symptoms,” Marcom said.
The posted noted Marcom’s initial response was “fear, embarrassment, shame that I had not done enough, or that I had done something wrong, and even worse … a negative image.”
He said his experience has taught him to consider his family, employees and the community first.
When asked how the pandemic had affected Strongwood, Marcom told the Waupaca County Post,” “Luckily, residential construction was considered essential, so we did not have to shut down.”
He noted that managing projects became more challenging because Strongwood wanted to reduce the number of people in each crew.
“Residential construction in general has spiked during this time as people are putting more time and value into life at home, and obviously traveling less,” he added.
“Where I have seen worry and frustration is in all the coaches employed at Strongwood. I’m proud to have so many selfless employees who dedicate their time to young athletes, but I’ve seen them be so worried about not being able to be with their teams, and do what they love,” Marcom said.
“So many people have been devastated by this unbelievable time, but overall, we feel very lucky, and grateful for the fact that we have become closer, and realize that Strongwood is actually our second family. We are here for each other, and look forward to getting though this with full support for and from our community of Waupaca,” he said.