The case activity for COVID-19 has dropped to “high” for Rusk County after state officials last week listed it as “very high.”

Two deaths in Rusk County last week have been linked to COVID-19, bringing the county’s total to 19 since the pandemic started in early 2020.

The Rusk County Health and Human Services reported the fatalities on Friday, June 4. County health officials that day also reported five new cases of the coronavirus. The county now has 43 active cases following an additional cases reported this week, Monday.

Rusk County Public Health Officer Anita Zimmer confirmed the two Rusk County residents passed away from COVID.

“One person passed away at the beginning of the year but the state just counted it in our numbers.  The most recent death was in the month of May and our hearts go out to that person’s family and friends,” Zimmer said.

Since the pandemic started, the county has logged 1,381 total positives and 1,320 recoveries. There have been 105 hospitalized cases total, with two new cases reported last Friday.

The “high” categorization is created by combining Rusk County’s high burden of 240.8 per 100,000 people and their trajectory showing no significant change in cases.

Statewide, the overall case activity is listed as “medium.” At the same time, much of northwestern Wisconsin is experiencing high rates of COVID-19 activity. This includes Rusk County and neighboring Sawyer, Washburn, Barron and Taylor counties. At the same time neighboring Chippewa and Price counties are experiencing “medium” case activity.

Wisconsin officials reported fewer than 100 new COVID cases per day, on average, over last weekend. Nationwide, new infections also continue to decline.

State health officials reported 260 new cases between Saturday and Monday. Over these three days, 11 additional COVID-19 deaths were reported. None of these deaths were residents from 12 western Wisconsin counties.

Statewide, there have been 7,161 Wisconsin residents who have died from virus-related cases, the state reports.

Roughly 2.8 million state residents have now received their first COVID-19 vaccination.

In Rusk County, 31.0% of residents, or 4,392 individuals, have received at least one dose of the vaccine. By comparison 28.6% of residents, or 4,052 individuals, have completed the vaccine series.

“One of the strongest tools we have, besides masking, social distancing, and hand hygiene- is VACCINE.  Vaccines prevent serious illness and death.  Some of our residents cannot receive the vaccine right now due to age restrictions (under 12) or because of medical contraindications but because our rates are so low, all unvaccinated people are at high risk of contracting the illness and risk of side effects from the illness,” Zimmer said.

Cases nationwide have also fallen with 6,067 new cases reported on Monday along with 253 new deaths. The country’s seven-day average also has declined to 13,927, down substantially from Jan. 10, when the seven-day average was 254,876. As recently as May 8, about one month ago, the country’s seven-day average was 42,014 new cases.

Overall the nation has now recorded more than 597,000 deaths from the virus.

“Despite having plenty of vaccines available, free to everyone, and vaccinators willing to give the immunizations, the number of people getting vaccinated each week remains low.  Low vaccine rates, no masks, returning to normal will lead to increases in positive numbers,” Zimmer said.

Declines in US Covid-19 cases, emergency department visits, hospital admissions and deaths were largest in age groups that were most vaccinated and show how vaccinations are working to fight the coronavirus, according to a new study published Tuesday in the US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

CDC researchers calculated the rates of COVID-19 cases, emergency department visits, hospital admissions and deaths by age group between Nov. 29 and Dec.12, before vaccines were available, and April 18 to May 1, after vaccines had been available for several months.

COVID-19 incidence was 69% lower among all adults during April 18 to May 1 when compared with the prevaccination period. For people age 65 and over, 50 to 64 and 18 to 49, it was 79%, 71% and 66% lower, respectively.

Emergency department visits for Covid-19 per 100,000 visits during the latter time frame were 59% lower among all adults when compared to the prevaccination period. People 65 and older had the largest change – 77% lower.

The most recent fatality in the county linked to COVID-19 was reported on April 23.

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