Coronavirus travel advisory

Rusk County Public Health received notification of its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Friday, April 3.

On Saturday, the health department reported the county’s second and third confirmed cases.

No demographic information was made public through the health department.

The first person, who was not identified, is currently isolating at home and will continue to do so based on guidelines from Wisconsin Department of Health Services, according to Rusk County Public Health Officer/Public Health Supervisor Dawn Brost. Health officials have spoken with the individual and is actively working to identify contacts the person may have had, she said.

“We will follow up with anyone who may have been exposed to provide appropriate guidance,” Brost said. “There is no need for the public to panic.”

The positive cases are at their respective homes in isolation. The probable case has completed quarantine and has been released. The suspect cases are in quarantine at their respective homes monitoring for symptoms. The pending cases are quarantined at home awaiting test results.

“Treatment can happen in Ladysmith depending on the level of care needed,” Brost said. “Most can recuperate at home.”

County health officials have been preparing for a case of COVID-19 in the area and are taking the necessary steps to limit further spread, Brost added.

Brost called this an “unprecedented time” for the county that has an organized, collaborative and coordinated response to COVID-19. The response is coordinated through Joint Incident Command led by Rusk County Public Health.

“Rusk County did receive its first positive case [Friday], but rest assured we are prepared for the situation at hand,” Brost said. “The Rusk County Health Department is monitoring the COVID-19 situation and is working closely with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Centers for Disease Control, healthcare and community partners to keep our community safe. “

Community partners include Rusk County Public Health, city of Ladysmith, Marshfield Medical Center-Ladysmith and Prevea Health and Rusk County.

“This situation is rapidly changing and the health department will update the public as quickly as possible,” Brost said. “We understand that this may feel scary for some as the COVID-19 pandemic hits closer to home, but know that our county is prepared for what might be to come. Please stay home and help do your part to flatten the curve and keep our community safe.”

Symptoms

The World Health Organization reports about 80 percent of COVID-19 cases are mild. Most involve fever, cough and perhaps shortness of breath. People with mild cases are expected to recover without issue, and some may not be aware they’re ever sick. People should follow simple steps to avoid getting sick, including frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water, covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding touching your face and staying home when sick. 

Officials encourage people who are sick to call a healthcare provider before visiting a clinic or hospital to minimize the spread of both COVID-19 and seasonal flu.

Gov. Tony Evers declared a public health emergency in response to new cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, directing the state Department of Health Services (DHS) to use all the resources necessary to respond to and contain the outbreak. 

President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over COVID-19, freeing up additional resources and funding as federal, state and local governments attempt to combat the rapidly spreading disease.

Last week, Evers sent a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency asking Trump to issue a disaster declaration for all 72 counties and Wisconsin tribes. The governor’s administration says the disaster funds will support the following departments: Public Assistance, Direct Assistance, Hazard Mitigation (statewide), and certain Individual Assistance programs; Crisis Counseling, Community Disaster Loans and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Program.

Evers’ letter states hospital capacity in the State of Wisconsin is another major concern with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services predicting the state’s hospital capacity could be exceeded sometime in April.

The letter also states, “COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, a drastic effect on community infrastructure. Hospitals, medical facilities, and first responders are facing challenges rarely experienced before. The process of triaging and isolating potentially affected individuals is significantly disrupting lifesaving and life-sustaining services. Additionally, the insufficient medical resources and capacities of medical facilities, and the already limited number of qualified medical personnel will only continue to rapidly deplete as the impacts of COVID-19 continue to spread.”

Businesses reported that employees have been laid off due to the negative impact that COVID-19 has had on its business. The state is experiencing a high and unprecedented volume of calls and applications for unemployment assistance, and the Department of Workforce Development is seeing historic increases in filings. As of March 25, 2020, the increase in initial claims for the week was led by increases in claims from Food Preparation and Serving Related occupations (4,670% increase) and Personal Care and Service occupations (7,750%) from the prior week.

“The response to this virus has required a tremendous response from the state and all of its communities that far exceeds the resources currently available to us,” Evers said. “By seeking this declaration, we are hopeful the state will be able to access critical programs that are needed to deal with the pandemic now, and with the recovery that will be taking place down the road.”

Within days, FEMA granted the state a major disaster declaration. The declaration provides access to public assistance programs for all 72 counties in the state and the state’s federally recognized tribes.

“I am grateful for the swift action of the federal government in reviewing our request for a major disaster declaration,” Gov. Evers said. “The assistance granted today will help ensure Wisconsin can gain access to critical assistance as we continue our work to respond to this pandemic.”

Staying safe

It is important that everyone works together to stop the spread of COVID-19.

-- Stay home. Avoid social gatherings with anyone other than the people who live in their home (including playdates and sleepovers, parties, large family dinners, and individual visitors).

-- People should not be traveling except to go to the grocery store, the doctor, to pick up necessary items or go to and from work.

-- It is important to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

-- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.

-- Avoid touching your face.

-- If you get sick, please call before going in to the clinic or hospital.

“Rusk County Public Health is ready to handle positive cases of COVID-19. We will continue to work with Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Centers for Disease Control, and our local partners to make sure our community remains safe and healthy,” Brost said.

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