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Do your part to fight the spread of COVID-19

Deb Moldaschel
The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch

Last week’s issue of the Herald-Dispatch included a story about the rise in COVID-19 cases in Brown County. At the time that newspaper was sent to press (early Wednesday morning, Nov. 4) the total number of cases in the county was 420. Now, less than one week later, the total is 583. During this time, two more people have died and five people have been hospitalized at the time their case was investigated. The state and national news contains many stories on the increase in cases throughout the midwest. There is no doubt—we in Brown County are at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 with each passing day.

People are curious about where these cases are coming from. Brown County Public Health told us last week that is is widespread community transmission. Is that still the case? What does that mean for us?

Karen Moritz, Brown County Public Health Director, was able to answer those questions on Monday. (The newspaper was printed on Tuesday, because there is no mail service on Veterans Day.) Moritz said the 14 cases reported on Monday were much better than the last several days—27 Thursday, 38 Friday, 35 Saturday, and 35 Sunday—but said cases found on Sundays and Mondays can sometimes be a little lower due to some back-log that occurs in getting the cases loaded into the county’s case investigation and contact tracing list.

“Cases are from a variety of locations in all age ranges,” said Moritz, “there is not one thing that stands out specifically and no one location or hot spot.”

“We have cases from large family gatherings, social gatherings at numerous locations in homes and businesses with reportedly limited use of face coverings and little social distancing, large gatherings for celebrations such as wedding receptions, dining out with several people outside of your immediate household, and cases related to sports teams,” Moritz said. “We now have cases either in residents or healthcare workers, or both, in long term care. We’ve seen and continue to see, clusters in places of employment—some from possible transmission in the workplace, but mostly from the social  and family activity outside of the workplace.”

Moritz said they continue to see very little transmission in the school buildings.

Moritz said they are getting multiple reports of people not masking indoors at retail businesses and some where businesses are not requiring or not enforcing masking of their employees. She said they are doing their best to follow up with businesses where masking of employees is not happening.

“I cannot stress enough the immense pressure and burden that this growth in cases is putting on our community in many ways,” Moritz said. Moritz provided the following list of community impacts and said there are more:

  • Our healthcare providers are stressed with outpatients, inpatients, COVID-19 testing, and health care workers out on quarantine or with their children who are quarantined—it is difficult to staff to the level needed.
  • Our businesses are without employees that are COVID positive or out on quarantine, making it difficult for them to provide goods and services.
  • Our long term care facilities are facing caring for residents with extreme staffing shortages.
  • Our schools are facing staffing issues and the fact that students are on distance learning due to quarantine.
  • Some of the sports teams are quarantined and forfeiting competition.
  • We are seeing increased hospitalization and deaths.
  • Brown County Public Health staff is stretched beyond capacity in many ways with our responsibilities directly related to this increase putting them at risk for stress related illness and we need them healthy right now.

COVID-19 mitigations:

  • Face covering at all times when in public, unless outside greater than six feet from others.
  • If it is possible, stay six feet from others in public, except for your immediate family group. If you are less than six feet away try to keep it for a short period of time.
  • Wear your mask properly—over the mouth and nose, at all times.
  • Follow the policies that workplaces have put into place.
  • Follow the policies that businesses have put into place when you do business with them.
  • Follow the recommendations that are in place for gathering for worship or attending a funeral. •
  • Do not host or attend large gatherings — consider delaying celebrations or do them virtually.
  • With this much spread if you gather inside with people who are not your immediate family (that you normally live with) please mask and remain six feet from each other; there should be no more than 10 people inside or outside at one time. Consider alternative holiday plans – ZOOM meals with others is a great idea!
  • With this much community spread, dining out should be with immediate family.
  • Organizations and businesses should seriously consider continuing with virtual meetings or make sure everyone is greater than six feet from each other, masked, and in a room together for a very short time.
  • For masking in restaurants or at an event with food you are to remove your mask ONLY to put food in your mouth and to take a drink, NOT the entire time. Always mask if you leave your table for any reason.
  • If you are COVID-19 positive, ISOLATE yourself from others and remain home for 10 days.
  • If you are a close contact of a COVID positive case: quarantine for 14 days, remain home – you can order and pick up with no contact.
  • If you even have one symptom of COVID-19 stay home except to go get tested. After you have tested stay isolated if you are symptomatic until your test is back.
  • If you are high risk for complications of COVID-19 home is safest.
  • Answer your phone or call back when the health department calls or sends you a text.

Moritz said we should continue to support local businesses. She said most food places still have carry out options and some have curbside or delivery options; at some places you can order online and pick up your order.

“When you are a patron wear a mask,” Moritz said. “Wear it correctly and watch your distance from others.” Moritz asked people to help with this effort. “This is hard and we acknowledge that,” she said. “But, increasing cases, and people not respecting this virus and working to follow recommendations, is making it harder.

“This is about everyone working together and each individual doing their part.”