It’s been just over a month now, since Oktoberfest in La Crosse.
A festival that was cancelled in 2020, because of the pandemic.
When it comes to the four-day festival’s return in 2021, no specific numbers from the La Crosse County Health Department on how Oktoberfest impacted the community.
Cases remain high, deaths are on the rise though nobody’s pointing the finger at Oktoberfest as the cause.
“We’re at a case rate, I would say, similar to what we saw really early in 2021 and so our staff are feeling squeezed again,” Paula Silha, La Crosse County’s health education manager, said.
She added that, “Yes, there were cases associated with Oktoberfest. I can’t give you an exact number because as our cases have trended up in the last couple of weeks, our data management person hasn’t had the time to go into the files and look exactly at where the exposure occurred.”
Since the week of Oktoberfest, however, cases have actually trended down a bit, while deaths over the past two months have gone up considerably as compared to last spring and into summer.
According to county data, La Crosse was at 54 cases per day from Sept. 26-Oct. 2. The week of Oktoberfest it dropped to 51, then 41 a week later. The past two weeks, cases have remained steady at 37 a day, which is still considered a very high transmission rate.
Silha wouldn’t point to any one event for why the case rate remains that way. There were many festivals. People are going to high school and college games, as well.
When that happens, and people aren’t getting tested or isolating, the virus gets passed on.
The issue, she noted, is just a recurring theme. Whether it’s 37 or 54 cases a day, that number is too high and, eventually, it makes its way to those who are most vulnerable.
“It’s concerning to me when I hear that long-term care facilities have such a high level of cases again because the older adults aren’t going out in the community and picking up COVID because they don’t usually leave,” Silha said. “But it’s the unintended consequence of this pandemic that these very fragile, older adults are the ones who are infected.
“And many of them do fine, but there are always some who are even more fragile or have additional health conditions that make their recovery not go well.”
From March 11 to August 15, there were three deaths related to COVID, bringing La Crosse County’s total to 94. A month later, that number was 102. Now, it’s 116.
The county reported three deaths last week related to COVID-19, which hasn’t happened since before the health department began posting deaths again on social media back in August. New county data is reported on Wednesdays.
La Crosse: 60.7%
Silha reiterated the talking points that are important, but we’ve heard over and over about wearing a mask in public places, washing hands and, of course, getting vaccinated if you haven’t already done so.
What could help move the pandemic along is the ability for 5-11 year olds to now get vaccinated.
“When the vaccine is approved for kids, then some parents are more likely themselves to be vaccinated,” Silha said. “I think that’s really a good thing and what we need to be doing.
“That’s what we’re seeing, actually across the globe. The countries that have higher vaccination rates, really are having less of an impact from COVID.”