With schools and universities set to begin the 2021-22 academic year in the coming weeks, the transmission rate of COVID-19 in Pierce County is at a substantial level, as listed by the Center for …
With schools and universities set to begin the 2021-22 academic year in the coming weeks, the transmission rate of COVID-19 in Pierce County is at a substantial level, as listed by the Center for Disease Control’s COVID Data Tracker.
Neighboring counties are all showing higher risk for COVID-19 transmission. The CDC COVID Data Tracker has Dunn, Pepin, and St. Croix counties all listed at the highest rate of transmission for COVID-19.
As Pierce County enters the substantial category of COVID-19 transmission, Pierce County Public Health has recommended universal masking for all people who are either fully vaccinated or unvaccinated when indoors.
“We are all frustrated to be at a point where even vaccinated people need to wear a mask. It’s not fair that people did the right thing and have to mask anyway. However, if you are one of those unlucky breakthrough cases, you can transmit the virus to others. This is because the Delta variant is two to three times more infectious than the wild strain and produces a ten times higher viral load,” said AZ Snyder, Public Health Director for Pierce County in a press release sent out Friday.
The reason why Pierce County’s COVID-19 transmission rate is lower than the neighboring counties isn’t clear cut to Snyder.
“I can't say for sure why our rates are lower than surrounding counties,” Snyder said. “I think it's just because our county is the best, but I'm biased. I expect that we will go into the highest transmission category in the next few weeks.”
Many things could contribute to increased COVID-19 transmission risks. College students are returning to UW-River Falls this week, K12 public schools will start classes too, and the nearby Minnesota State Fair also begins this week.
Pierce County Public Health cannot help out with mitigating the possibility of the Minnesota State Fair being a super spreader event for COVID-19 and its variants. However, it plans to continue its relationship with UWRF in hopes of mitigating spread.
“Plans for the fall on campus are quickly evolving,” said Snyder. “We're excited to welcome our UWRF students back into town. It is essential for the students and campus leadership to do everything they can to prevent disease spread, including getting vaccinated. Public health nurses will be on campus during Welcome Week to offer vaccines to students, and we'll come back if there's demand later in the school year.”
The data standard that classifies Pierce County as substantial is if the county shows 21- 41 new cases over a seven-day period. If the county begins to record 42 or more cases a week, it will enter the high transmission category.
St. Croix County transmission rates have increased daily since Aug, 15 with 37 new cases being reported on Thursday, Aug. 19, the most up-to-date information available on case numbers.
“We are like the majority of counties inWisconsin at a head transmission level. In regards to our vaccination rates, we have not seen a marked increase in the vaccination rates here in St. Croix County. Right now, we're seeing the greatest increase in population getting vaccinated with those who are 18 or younger,” said Kelli Engen, Director of St. Croix County Public Health St. Croix County’s COVID-19 dashboard currently predicts that case numbers will continue to increase over the next few weeks. The total number of cases reported on Thursday is the highest number of cases that St. Croix County has seen since May 11, when 40 new cases had been reported that day.
Currently, 36.9 percent of Pierce County residents are fully vaccinated and 40.4 percent have received at least one shot. St. Croix County currently has 40 percent of their residents fully vaccinated while 44.5 percent have received at least one shot. Dunn County currently has 40.6 percent of their residents fully vaccinated while 43.4 percent have received at least one shot. Finally, Pepin County has a fully vaccinated rate of 42.1 percent for residents while 44.9 percent have received at least one shot.
Since vaccines have become available to Pierce County residents in January, 2.1 percent of COVID-19 cases identified since then have been from fully vaccinated individuals. The other 97.9 percent have been unvaccinated individuals.
Pierce County remains the only county in the Twin Cities metro area that is not in the CDC’s highest disease category of transmission of COVID-19. With universal masking being recommended for all county residents again, the possibility of mask mandates and how they currently stand for businesses and school districts could easily change within the next week or two as well as if case numbers continue to go up as projections show.
What can you do to help slow the increasing COVID-19 transmission rates?
“Vaccines are working great at preventing hospitalization and deaths. If I was sending a little one to school this year, I’d be sending them with a mask, no question. Individual family choice is fine when someone’s decisions only impact themselves. That’s not the case here. Masks work best when everyone’s wearing them,” said Snyder.