An update on the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccinations in the county was presented by Stacey Frolik, director of Barron County Health and Human Services, to the Barron County Board of Supervisors on Monday, Feb. 15. Barron County Public Health is a department of the county’s Health and Human Services.
The rate of new cases was dropping in Barron County and for much of the state, Frolik said.
“We are in the orange zone which means we are still having an accelerated rate of spread, but the fact that we are in orange is showing improvement,” she said, referring to a statewide map tracking new cases.
Red was the highest level, with more than 25 daily cases per 100,000 people; orange was the third highest, with 10–25 cases per 100,000 people; yellow was 1–9 cases per 100,000 people and green was less than one case per 100,000 people. Barron County was currently at 18 new, daily cases per 100,000 people.
Barron County and most of the counties across the state were in the red category for much of the past few months. This was the first week Barron County had dropped from red to orange. About six counties were red, most were orange, around 10 were yellow and none were green.
Frolik said Barron County ranked 21st for the rate of spread. Twenty counties were higher, and 51 had lower COVID-19 rates. This was improvement from being the second, third or fourth, as the county had been previously, she added.
Currently the county had around 100 active cases, meaning they had been diagnosed within the last 10 days. The recovery rate was 97 percent. The disease had claimed the lives of 72 residents unfortunately, which was high for one disease, Frolik said. “Many came from outbreaks in local nursing homes or assisted living facilities,” she said.
But the drop in new, daily cases was promising, and one thing she attributed that to was the vaccine rollout. Roughly 10 percent of county residents have had one dose of the two-dose vaccines. Around 1,500 people had gotten the full two-dose series. Currently, people over the age of 65, health care workers, nursing home residents and police and firefighters were eligible for the shots.
Both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were being administered, mostly by local health care systems, which were doing the lion’s share of public vaccinations. BCPH was supporting health care systems by doing small vaccination clinics for health care workers and those not able to get vaccines from the health care systems.
On Monday, March 1, the state plans to move to another vaccination phase, opening up vaccinations to teachers, day care workers and other essential workers. The county was preparing for this with Mosaic Technologies and Barron Electric having agreed to host drive through mass vaccination sites.
But as the demand grows, the shortage of vaccines continues to be the bottleneck in getting more people vaccinated in the county and statewide. The federal government is distributing vaccines to states. Three weeks ago Wisconsin’s allotment was increased from 70,000 per week to 90,000 per week. It was a bump in the number of vaccines, but still short.
“Last week, we had requested 500 doses, just for our public health department and we got 150,” Frolik said. Neither public health nor the health care systems getting the supply of vaccines they need. “Until the production increases and the availability increases we will have to continue working with what we got,” she said.
A new one-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson will be reviewed by the Federal Drug Administration on Feb. 26. Frolik hoped it is successful and gain approval, as a one-dose vaccine would speed up the process.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people who have been fully vaccinated are not likely to spread the disease after coming in contact with a confirmed case, and therefore don’t have to quarantine, Frolik reported. To be fully vaccinated means it has been two weeks since the last shot and not longer than 90 days.
“Even if you are a close contact with a positive case you do not have to quaraintine any longer, up to 90 days,” Frolik said. This was good news, as some people questioned getting a shot if it only protected from symptoms but did not prevent spreading the disease.
However, wearing face masks and social distancing is still recommended for those who have been vaccinated. But as long as you don’t have symptoms, and do not feel sick, you don’t have to quarantine even if you are in close contact with a case, she explained.
“I feel that is a step in the right direction,” Frolik said.