By Shereen Siewert

Health officials in Marathon County are urging the public to stay home and avoid social or family events as the number of COVID-19 cases continues its upward surge.

“The only way to slow down the pace is for everyone to stay home more and not go to parties, games, and social or family events,” said Judy Burrows, Marathon County Health Department public information officer. “The best help we could have is for people to skip social gatherings and stay home so our schools and businesses can stay open.

Marathon County is reporting an additional 41 positive cases on Friday, bringing the total of confirmed positive cases to 1,234. Of those, 354 are active cases.

In a news release issued Friday Burrows said gatherings like weddings, showers, sporting events, school and work are contributing to the increased spread of the disease, with large gatherings acting as super-spreader events.

Statewide, 19 percent of cases range in age from 10 to 19, with 3 percent younger than 10. But the highest number of cases are overwhelmingly in the 18 to 24 age group, which had a case rate five times higher than any other group two weeks ago, according to the state Department of Health Services.

Gov. Tony Evers this week urged residents to wear masks and practice social distancing amid what he called unprecedented and near-exponential growth in cases.

Hospitalizations are also up sharply including those at Aspirus in Wausau, officials said.

Earlier this week local health officials announced they are unable to keep up with the influx of cases and have exceeded their capacity to contact people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 in a timely manner. The health department is hiring contact tracers through Westphal Staffing to help inform people about their COVID-19 status.

Marathon County is about three to four days behind in making contacts about cases and close contacts as of Friday, Burrows said.

More information on how to protect yourself and others can be found here.

Wausau Pilot & Review maintains a COVID-19 resource page with current case counts and information here. Posted numbers, provided by Johns Hopkins University, may vary from those on the Marathon County Health Department page because they are updated at different points each day. Data visualization is provided by HiGeorge.