Health experts say La Crosse Co. has yet to peak as case surge continues

Published: Jun. 17, 2020 at 5:59 PM CDT
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The La Crosse County Health Department announced a spike of 15 positive COVID-19 tests last week, raising the county's overall total to 82.

In just one week, the total has more than doubled.

20 new cases announced by health officials Wednesday gives the county a total of 173.

La Crosse County has seen 41 new COVID-19 cases in just two days.

Health experts say the spike was expected with the economy reopening. While an increase would have always occurred, they say waiting a little longer might have resulted in lower numbers.

"I think that no matter when we would have reopened, we would have seen this, but we would have seen this on a different scale," said Megan Meller, a Gundersen infection preventionist. "If we would have waited to reopen when cases got really incredibly low, I don't think we would see this large of a spike in cases."

The surge is requiring the La Crosse County Health Department to send cases to the state for contact tracing investigations.

Infection preventionists say while pandemics are rare and filled with unknowns, that they would not call this a second wave, but instead that La Crosse County has yet to peak.

"When we talk waves, we see a peak and then we see a very strong decrease in cases and we never saw that," Meller explained. "We saw a slow steady rise in cases, so off of that I would argue that we are still in our first wave of the coronavirus pandemic."

On Monday, the health department listed seven establishments with potential COVID exposure, one of which was Pettibone Beach.

In response to the case increases, La Crosse Parks and Recreation decided to close its two public beaches to lessen large gatherings and decrease chance of exposure.

"We especially understand the importance of the beaches in this hot weather," said La Crosse Parks and Recreation director Jay Odegaard. "It's summer, right? Everybody wants to be outside and having a good time and the pools are closed. It was not a decision that came lightly."

While the beach closures are indefinite, parks and rec is still renting out canoes and kayaks and has plenty of parks and trails open.

Despite case numbers high, the county has avoided severe disease with no current hospitalizations or deaths.

"We have plenty of beds open. We have our COVID unit still up and running," Meller said. "We're good for testing, we have a good testing capacity. Now we're able to test everyone who is coming in."

Health experts encourage social distancing, face coverings, avoiding bars, and taking food to go instead.

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