Damakant Jayshi

The Marathon County Health Department is recommending precautions amid an uptick in COVID-19 cases and the increased likelihood of more hospitalizations related to the virus.

With its new COVID-19 case rate status updated on Friday, Marathon County is back in the ‘high’ transmission category after staying at ‘medium’ or ‘low’ levels for nearly three months. In February, the county gradually moved from a ‘critically high’ level case rate to ‘low.’ Now, that’s changed.

“Given the increase in reported cases over the past few weeks, it would be anticipated that there would be an increase in the number of hospitalizations,” Rebecca Mroczenski, Communicable Disease Manager at Marathon County Health Department (MCHD) told Wausau Pilot & Review. “Our recommendation is for residents that test positive for COVID-19 and are at high risk for hospitalization contact their medical provider for treatments that would reduce that risk.”

Local health officials urge residents to take preventions steps including masking while indoors.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) too renewed its recommendation that people should be wearing masks when indoors.

“The current 7-day average of hospital admissions now is 3,000 patients per day, which is a 19% increase over the previous week,” CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said during a briefing on Wednesday. “About 275 people die from COVID-19 every day in the United States.” The briefing information was reported by Al Tompkins in his COVID-19 newsletter.

When CDC officials changed their metrics to gauge the level of COVID-19 community transmission, they view hospitalization as a more reliable benchmark than infection rates. Health experts say case numbers might not be accurate given that so many testing center have shut down, as at-home tests became more widely available. The results of at-home tests are rarely reported to public health departments, raising questions about accurate case rate and counts.

Now the hospitalization rate is up, including in Marathon County.

Mroczenski said residents testing positive on a home test should contact their medical provider to determine the need for confirmatory testing based on their situation.

“For those residents, our staff will provide the resident with isolation guidance and answer any general questions they may have about COVID-19,” she said.

The CDC’s Dr. Walensky suggested that in the areas that show up in orange on the map below, including Marathon County, local leaders should encourage people to adopt “prevention strategies like masking in public indoor settings and increasing access to testing and treatment for individuals.”

Data from DHS too shows hospitalizations in the state are rising.

Both Marathon County Health Department and DHS have continued to recommend mask-wearing in indoor settings and taking Covid vaccines and booster doses to those eligible for them.

CDC approves Covid boosters for 5-11-year-old children

The CDC on Thursday approved COVID-19 vaccine booster doses for 5-11-year-old children just when cases and hospitalization have been rising nationwide.

The decision was made this week at a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

“CDC now recommends that children ages 5 through 11 years should receive a booster shot 5 months after their initial Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination series,” the organization’s media statement says.

COVID-19 vaccines for the 5-11 age group was approved in October. According to Kaiser Family Foundation’s Vaccine Monitoring Dashboard, among parents of 5-11-year-olds, about four in 10 (39%) say their child has gotten vaccinated while 12% say they will only get their child vaccinated if they are required for school. A significant number of parents, 32%, say their child will definitely not get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The CDC director noted this hesitation in her statement on Thursday while endorsing the booster shot for 5-11-year-olds.

“Vaccination with a primary series among this age group has lagged behind other age groups leaving them vulnerable to serious illness. With over 18 million doses administered in this age group, we know that these vaccines are safe, and we must continue to increase the number of children who are protected,” Dr. Walensky said. “I encourage parents to keep their children up to date with CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine recommendations.”

According to the federal health agency, more than 4.8 million children ages 5 through 11 have been diagnosed with COVID-19, 15,000 have been hospitalized and more than 180 have died since the pandemic began. Additionally, the CDC recommended that children age 12 and older who are immunocompromised and those 50 and older should receive a second booster dose at least four months after their first.

List of COVID-19 testing centers in Marathon County (per the county’s Health Department):

Marathon Park/East Gate Hall (Mondays, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

Hmong American Center (Fridays, 12 – 4 p.m.)

Wausau School District (every day through summer but could change, and times and location of mobile sites vary)

DC Everest Area School District (at DC Everest maintenance building, Tuesdays, 1 p.m. – 8 p.m. and Wednesdays 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. beginning May 23rd)

Marshfield Clinic (urgent care/walk-in)

Aspirus Weston Clinic (walk-in)

Walgreens (all locations)

CVS Pharmacy (Bridge St.)