These Next Few Weeks are a Pivotal Moment for Our County and Our State
Since late August, Dane County has been experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases. Cases initially were associated with UW. Now, however, we are seeing an increase in non-UW cases compared to UW cases. While it is almost impossible to prove causation, the epidemiology of these cases does follow what we’d expect to see if UW associated cases “spilled over” or transmitted disease to other parts of the county. Because it can take up to 14 days for someone to show up as “positive” on a test after being exposed to COVID-19, any transmission between the UW population and the non-UW population would show up in the data 2-4 weeks after the UW case spike.
Additionally, in the past week, Dane County has seen an increase in hospitalizations. From what we know from discussions with health care organizations, these hospitalizations do not seem to be driven by transfers from other counties or regions and do seem to be mostly Dane County residents.
The hospitalization data we have in WEDSS show that hospitalizations are distributed across age ranges. (WEDSS is the database that contains data from lab testing and contact tracing; hospitalization data is only collected at time of diagnosis, so hospitalization data from this database is an undercount of the true number of people with COVID-19 in the hospital.)
These data show us that nowhere is isolated—not a college campus and not our county. The rest of our state is experiencing a remarkable increase in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, and Dane County is not isolated from that increase, as people work in and visit neighboring counties, just as how UW students are not completely isolated from Dane County as they work in and visit off-campus areas.
Our actions can stop COVID-19 or spread COVID-19, and it’s up to us to prioritize the health and well-being of our community.
On October 2, Janel spoke to the public alongside local health care organizations urging the public to take action to curb the spread of COVID-19. Here were her remarks:
The surge in people diagnosed with COVID-19 across the state is alarming. This is no different in Dane County. The spike that was first associated with UW students is now much more widespread in our community.
No part of Dane County is immune.
We’re seeing an average of 139 people a day test positive for COVID-19. That means thousands of people are quarantining. Families, schools, and businesses are impacted.
I stand here today, with partners from healthcare, to stress that this is a pivotal moment in our response. You have heard that hospitalization rates are up, you have heard for months to physically distance, wear masks, and avoid gathering.
For cases to go down, for kids to get back in schools, for businesses to fully reopen, now is when we all need to act.
Limit trips out. Use curbside pick-up and other shopping and dining options.
Don’t gather. A quick search of the word “packers” or “wedding” in the notes that contact tracers take shows that we are creating opportunities for COVID to spread, not avoiding them. Keep your gatherings virtual.
Keep wearing your masks, but recognize that they are not a substitute for avoiding outings or gatherings.
We are at a critical juncture: cases are diffused throughout the county, not just in downtown Madison.
In the next two weeks, the number of cases can rapidly spike given the spread of infection or they could go back down the levels we saw at the end of August.
Our community has the power to decide our fate. It doesn’t matter if you live in Cambridge or DeForest or Cross Plains or in downtown Madison, our recommendations are the same: stay vigilant, stay home.