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21 new cases, La Crosse County to request three more National Guard testing sites

Kaitlyn Riley

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The La Crosse County Health Department added 21 new Coronavirus cases Wednesday, bringing the county total lab-confirmed results to 335 with 132 individuals recovered.

Four people remain in the hospital, but Health Director Jen Rombalski said not all four are hospitalized because of severe COVID-19 symptoms. Some were placed in the hospital to avoid spread in care facilities.

La Crosse County intends to complete three more Wisconsin National Guard testing sites before the end of August when the health department believes the National Guard will no longer be available as a resource. Rombalski said staff submitted an application Tuesday for a location in downtown La Crosse around July 10.

Of the total testing done in La Crosse County since the pandemic began, nearly 3 percent of the 10,152 tests are positive. Although it appears to be a lower overall percentage with little severe disease and no deaths, Rombalski continued to express concern for what the recent outbreaks could mean for local residents, businesses, and the health care system.

She noted warning signs for health care capabilities. Four times in the past two weeks, ICU and immediate care bed availability in the region dipped below 30 percent.

Once again, Rombalski called on the community to continue practicing habits that the health department believes can slow the spread of the Coronavirus such as wearing fabric face coverings in public, social distancing, and only traveling for essential purposes.

“I ask that you are hopefully doing that, but then also, thinking about extending that ask to your friends and family and neighbors,” Rombalski said. “This is tough for me, so I know it is tough for you as well, but it is so important that this becomes the expectation.”

She added members of the community can protect one another by not leaving home if they are not feeling well, even if they are experiencing minor symptoms.

Rombalski also targeted her request for better practices toward workplaces noting individuals are meeting in person without wearing face masks or sitting six feet apart.

“We’ve had a number of situations in our community, one this morning, where this is impacting businesses in our community because an individual was minorly symptomatic or in their pre-symptomatic stage, infectious, and in a setting where they exposed other individuals,” Rombalski said.

Most cases have been among individuals between 20-29-years-old, but the health department advised against negatively judging the age demographic or any individual who is diagnosed with COVID-19.

“No one is seeking to be a positive case of COVID-19,” Rombalski said. “No matter who those folks are, they are members of our community. Judging and stigmatizing, can be very harmful.”

Unintended consequences include individuals not being willing to cooperate with the health department for fear of identification or repercussion. Those who are lab-confirmed have become more hesitant to share contacts because they do not want to be perceived in a negative light, according to Rombalski. That may limit the health department’s ability to take action and warn individuals of what to watch for in terms of symptoms.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in both radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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