HUDSON -- St. Croix County has one of the highest case activities in the state, alongside nearby Polk and Burnett, the Health and Human Services Board heard on Wednesday, April 21.
The county’s activity is ranked at very high, with an average of 29 new cases a day, epidemiologist Elle Klasen said.
Case activity is increasing most in the 10-to-19-year-old population.
“Unfortunately we are seeing a shift now to our younger age groups carrying the burden of COVID-19 in St. Croix County,” Klasen said.
The county has a mask advisory in place and is offering guidance and recommendations to businesses and organizations based on the very high risk level.
Some residents spoke out against masks at the meeting, saying they do not work and are causing fear. An anti-mask, anti-vaccine protest was held outside the county building ahead of the meeting.
Public Health officer Kelli Engen said masks remain the best way for people to keep themselves and loved ones who may have health conditions or vulnerabilities safe. The science of masks is they reduce spread, Engen said. According to the CDC, mask use protects both the wearer and others, and works best when everyone wears one.
The low case spread in Wisconsin schools is an example of how well masking works, Engen said. The schools were cited for some of the best nonpharmaceutical interventions, by having kids masked and socially distanced.
Engen emphasized that the pandemic is not over.
“I understand everyone is very tired, we are 14 months into this, we are tired. And I don’t want this to be a fear-based education series, but we absolutely need people to know that this isn’t over and our numbers are spiking,” Engen said.
The mask advisory is in place until June 6. It is not an order, meaning it is not enforceable.
“It's just educational and a pretty darn easy thing to do,” Engen said, though she recognized not everyone can wear a mask.
Vaccinations are still underway in the county. Now more than 33,000 residents have had at least one dose. Almost 22,000 are fully vaccinated.
“That number does continue to climb daily,” Klasen said.
In the 65-plus category, more than 76% of the total population in the county is fully vaccinated.
The county is working with the local school districts to host COVID-19 vaccine clinics, like it has for influenza in the past.
As one of the only local providers with Pfizer, currently the only vaccine in the U.S. open to 16-18 year olds, Engen said the county saw an opportunity.
The county sent out a survey in all districts to parents and guardians of students 16-plus. Of the more than 1,000 responses, about 65% of parents and guardians wanted their children vaccinated, Engen said.
The vaccine clinics will be at the end of the school day for those who are interested.