Mask order overturned, vaccine eligibility open

March came in like a lamb and out like a lion, at least as far as COVID-19 cases are concerned.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 20 new cases of COVID-19 last week, down from the 34 in the area two weeks ago, but still higher than any week since early February. The 54 new cases over the past two weeks were about the same as the number of cases combined from the four weeks prior (55).

Whitehall and surrounding area has been hit particularly hard with 26 cases amongst people with 54773 zip codes the past two weeks, including nine last week. There were five new cases in Eleva last week, four in Osseo and three in Arcadia. None of the other areas in the county had more than one.

The total number of new cases for the month of March were still lower than the county had seen in nearly a year. The 87 cases reported last month were the fewest since May, 2020 when 44 cases were reported.

The Wisconsin Army National Guard is conducting a free community testing on Friday at the Trempealeau County Health Care Center Annex, 23062 Whitehall Road, Independence, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Another community testing event will be held May 14.

Last week Wednesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Gov. Evers’ order requiring face coverings in all indoor public places.

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, I’ve worked to keep Wisconsinites healthy and safe, and I’ve trusted the science and public health experts to guide our decision making,” Evers said in a statement about the decision. “Our fight against COVID-19 isn’t over — while we work to get folks vaccinated as quickly as we can, we know wearing a mask saves lives, and we still need Wisconsinites to mask up so we can beat this virus and bounce back from this pandemic.”

The Trempealeau County face-covering order expired in January and health director Barb Barczak said she has no plans to issue a new order at this time.

“We still recommend wearing a mask — covering both mouth and nose — as it is still the best practice for protecting oneself from the virus,” Barczak said. “We also recommend social distancing of six feet and frequent hand washing.”

County residents continued to get vaccinated as, for the first time, there were more than 2,000 vaccines administered last week. The DHS reported 2,003 vaccines were issued last week, bringing the total county residents to receive at least one dose to 11,055 — or 37.3 percent. The full vaccination series been issued to a quarter of county residents with 7,440 receiving both doses, including 79.3 percent of county residents who are at least 65 years old.

As of Monday, all state residents who are at least 16 years old were eligible to receive the vaccine.

Previously, health department officials have said between 70 and 80 percent of residents should be vaccinated before residents should return to a pre-pandemic state. When that will happen locally, however, is not certain.

“It is impossible to predict how soon we will be able to get all of our Trempealeau County residents protected with a vaccine,” Barczak said. “We have virtually no visibility on which vaccine we will receive and how many of them.  Based on a limited weekly supply, it will take a while to vaccinate Trempealeau County as a whole.”

Trempealeau County Times

36435 Main St.
P.O. Box 95
Whitehall, WI 54773

715-538-4765 (phone)

715-538-4540 (fax)

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