Portage County Health Department provides update on county virus conditions
By Taylor J. Hale
STEVENS POINT – Portage County Health Department officials were present during the April 13 Portage County Economic Response Team Briefing to give an update on the COVID-19 virus in the county.
As of April 13, only four cases of the virus have been found in the county, and of those four, three have fully recovered.
“Three of our four cases are recovered, meaning they have been released from isolation and are no longer symptomatic to the point of spreading the virus,” said Health Officer Gary Garske.
There have been 222 people tested for COVID-19 in the county as of April 13, with a growing number each day. Garske noted that the state is still seeing an increase in both the number of cases and deaths. He recommends following CDC guidelines and wearing a protective mask or cloth over the face when leaving home.
Local Business Concerns
County health department officials noted seeing a shift in business complaints over the last two weeks.
“First it was complaints about non-essential businesses being open, now we’re getting complaints from workers of essential businesses, wondering ‘why are we still open,’” Garske explained.
Garske said that the Department of Health Services models project the peak of the virus to hit the state around April 23 to May 23.
With an impending spike, department officials are concerned if hospitals and long term care staff will have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) gear.
“I would say our hospital partners truly are still gearing up for this next step of the expected surge of capacity,” Garske said. “Once that medical surge comes, there’s doubt that we would have enough to get through the medical surge.”
Garske added that some facilities are asking their staff members to reuse their PPE masks up to five times if they are not soiled.
Officials noted that CREATE Portage County and other organizations’ efforts to supply protective gear had been much appreciated by healthcare staff.
Garske said medical professionals believe that social distancing is making a significant impact on slowing the spread of the virus.