County health officials anticipate more cases

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FOND DU LAC – Wisconsin health officials on Friday afternoon announced four more COVID-19 cases in Fond du Lac County, bringing the county total to six.

These were not unexpected, as Fond du Lac County and St. Agnes officials told the public at a press conference Friday morning that several new cases could be announced. Five of the six cases are tied to international travel on an Egyptian cruise, according to a press release from the department.

As of 3 p.m. Friday, Fond du Lac County has more cases of the virus than any other in the state. 

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Public Health Officer Kim Mueller, St. Agnes President Katherine Vergos and county Director of Administration Erin Gerred met in the Fond du Lac City/County Legislative Chambers to inform the public on the cases in the county, preparations for the virus and measures underway to limit the spread.

The county is “leveraging all the resources” it has to support the health department in its response. It continues to work with department leaders to make sure they are making preparations ahead of time, in case there are any disruption in service, Gerred said — although one is not anticipated at this time. The county also had a meeting with local businesses on next steps and how to advise employees.

“As the (public health officer), I know and understand county residents are concerned about the status of COVID-19 and what steps are being taken to ensure the safety of their family, friends as well as their neighbors,” Mueller said.

Number of Fond du Lac County cases expected to grow

At the time of the press conference, Fond du Lac County had two confirmed COVID-19 cases, Mueller said. While she would not comment on the condition of the patients due to concerns for privacy, Mueller said one of the cases is tied to an Egyptian river cruise, which had 22 people on board a small boat. Not all passengers were from Fond du Lac County or Wisconsin.   

Since confirming one person on the boat tested positive, officials have reached out to other passengers on the boat, as well as other known contacts of the person, to test them. In the “last couple of days” the county sent nine to 11 tests to the Wisconsin State Lab, and the Centers for Disease Control officials ” highly expected most of the tests could come back positive, she said. On Friday afternoon, the health department confirmed four more positive tests, all tied to the cruise. 

Due to this, the county is already taking steps with the Wisconsin Department of Health Service to make sure they are conducting contact tracing at the same time as testing, she said. Those who have had contacts are in isolation.

Working to mitigate spread of virus

Although the county is currently not deemed to have community spread, Mueller said the county could. In response, it is important people remain aware and up to date on the current situation virus to ensure their safety and that of others, Mueller said.

To limit the spread, people are asked to:

  • Limit unnecessary travel;
  • Practice social distancing, which includes canceling large social gatherings for the next 30 days, and think about canceling “any unnecessary gatherings” even if they are not considered to be large;
  • Maintain good hand hygiene by not touching hand, eyes or mouth with unclean hands, and by washing hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water;
  • Disinfect surfaces like door knobs, desks and counters ;
  • Be aware of how one is feeling physically. If a person or their children are not feeling well, they should stay home from school and work, and away from members of the public regardless of diagnosis. 

The virus is transmitted by being within six feet of someone who has it and having prolonged contact with them. Mueller described this contact as sitting across from someone and “having a conversation over coffee” with them, not passing someone in the hall. 

The virus can also spread through “direct contact with infectious secretions” with the virus, such as through being coughed on, according to the CDC. 

“We are going to work as hard as we possibly can to provide specific information on the status of COVID-19 here in Fond du Lac County and what steps we are planning to take to ensure we can mitigate and control the spread of COVID-19 here in our community,” Mueller said. 

To assist those who have themselves traveled internationally and domestically; believe they may have been in contact with someone known to have the virus —particularly someone was on the Egyptian cruise; or have symptoms of the virus, like fever, shortness of breath, cough or sore throat, Fond du Lac County Department of Public Health and Agnesian HealthCare have set up a number 1-844-225-1047, to receive further individualized guidance.

As it is cold and influenza season and the viruses share many of the same symptoms, people should consider their own travel and if they been in contact with someone who has been confirmed to have COVID-19 before calling. If they don’t have either of those criteria, they should call their primary care doctor, Vergos said. They should not go into a hospital or clinic without calling first, which help “limit the spread of any virus.”

If someone is having a medical emergency, they should call 911 and let dispatchers know if they have been in contact with someone with the virus, Vergos said.

Think before you run to stores and stock up

While many see the virus as a reason to rush to stores to stock up, Vergos discourages doing so. Additionally, asking people to practice social distancing does not mean they should go into “complete quarantine,” she said.  

“If you’re not symptomatic, if you have not been diagnosed by COVID-19 … you can still go to the store, you can still go the gas station,” she said. “I think we need to take a pause, slow down and get the facts.”

Those who part of populations at higher risk to be negatively impacted by virus, or who have loved ones part of this population, could have some items on hand for if they were to stay in their home for a period of time, she said. However, if people buy up all the items, it will take the stock from people who truly need them.

Community to work to protect those most at-risk to virus’ negative effects

In the coming days, health officials in the county will continue to work together to address the virus, and follow guidelines from the Wisconsin DHS and CDC, Vergos said.

St. Agnes Hospital and county partners have worked together “for years” to plan for a pandemic, and now, the officials meet multiple times a day “as the situation changes by the hour, and sometimes even minute,” she said.

Although there is much unknown about COVID-19, it can be compared to influenza in its symptoms and impact on the community, Mueller said. About 80% of those who get the viruses will have mild symptoms and get rid of the virus without having to get medical help, but the community needs to work together to protect the other 20% who will “have a poorer health outcome.”

While the spread of the virus cannot be eliminated, it can be minimized if people think beyond themselves to the impact on the community.

“This is a time we need to think bigger than ourselves. We need to think of the community at large and whether or not is good for them,” Vergos said. “It’s something to think about as we try to contain or minimize the spread of the virus, not only in our community but the country and the world.”

This video will tilt about three minutes in. Please excuse the technical difficulties. 

Contact reporter Sarah Razner at 920-907-7909 or srazner@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @misssarahrazner. 

Read or Share this story: https://www.fdlreporter.com/story/news/2020/03/13/fond-du-lac-coronavirus-county-health-officials-anticipate-more-cases/5040740002/



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