COVID-19 update: Positivity rate falls sharply in Kewaunee, Door counties
The percentage of positive tests for the COVID-19 virus over the past week plummeted in Kewaunee County and fell notably in Door County as vaccinations continued in both counites, although still on a smaller scale than first hoped.
And even with the steadily decreasing number of COVID-19 cases and increasing number of vaccinations, the appearance and spread of more contagious variants of the virus has health officials warning the public to continue the same practices that are helping to slow the nearly yearlong pandemic.
Nationwide, COVID-19 cases are at their lowest numbers since October, and figures for new cases over a weeklong period in Kewaunee and Door counties are the lowest they've been since the beginning of September.
But U.S. health officials are finding mutations of the virus that can spread more easily and perhaps not be affected by treatments, possibly causing another surge in cases this spring. One of them, B.1.1.7, has had six cases identified so far in Wisconsin, and officials say it is likely to be the dominant COVID-19 virus in the country by April.
Because of the uncertainties with the new variants, officials are recommending members of the public to follow the same guidelines as they have for the past 11 months.
"At this point, continue to mask, social distance, wash hands frequently and always stay home when sick," Kewaunee County Public Health Director Cindy Kinnard said in an email. "If you are not feeling well, continue to get tested."
"We are pleased with the decrease in positive cases. However, we do not want people to become complacent," said Joe Krebsbach, director of the Door County Health and Human Services Department. "It is still important to follow our safe practices at this point: masking, handwashing, 6-foot spacing and avoiding large gatherings."
As for the vaccinations, people who are in the state's Phase 1B bracket of the vaccine rollout who are ages 65 and older continue to receive their shots. Both vaccines being used in the counties, from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, require two shots for peak effectiveness.
Figures from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said 19.5% of Door County's population has received at least one shot through Tuesday, a total of 5,400 doses, 465 of those between Feb. 15 and 22. So far, 2,267 residents (8.2%) have completed the two-dose series. The percentage of Door residents who've received at least one dose is eighth-most among the state's 72 counties.
The state also reported that 2,650 Kewaunee County residents have received a shot, 13% of the local population, with 1,390 (6.8%) completing their two doses. Kinnard said her department administered 200 first doses and 240 second doses in the past week.
According to the state health department, 14% of the state's residents have received at least one dose as of Tuesday, up from 12.3% a week ago, while 6.3% have received both doses, up from 4.1%.
However, counties across the state are not yet receiving all the vaccine doses they're requesting because of supply shortages, which has been the case since the vaccines became available. All doses come from the federal government, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services distributes them.
Kinnard said Kewaunee County requested 500 vaccine doses for this week but received 200, all for first doses, the same as the week before. The waiting list there is at about 900, down from 1,166 as of Feb. 15.
Door County received 360 of 1,200 requested first doses along with 60 second doses. It has 320 people on its waiting list, and Krebsbach said the county is accepting applications for it, although it will cap the list at 700 to better manage it.
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Because of the supply conditions, the state has directed providers to schedule appointments only for those who are in Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout who are ages 65 and older. Other Phase 1B individuals such as school and child care workers, people in Medicaid long-term care programs and some other essential workers are able to schedule their appointments starting March 1.
A date hasn't been set for vaccinations to begin for those classified in Phase 1C, which is likely to include adults with chronic or underlying health conditions and essential workers who haven't yet been eligible for the shots.
Key metrics fall sharply
The percentage of positive tests, aka the positivity rate, dropped to its lowest figure since August for a seven-day period in Kewaunee County.
The positivity rate is a metric used by many health departments to measure how well a community is fighting the spread of the virus. The World Health Organization has said that a rate of more than 5% is concerning because it means testing isn’t widespread enough to capture the spread of the virus among the general population.
The rate for Kewaunee County between Feb. 16 and 22 was 4.5%, with seven positives reported from 154 tests by the county health department. That's compared to 16.7% for the week ending Feb. 15, and in each of the last three weeks of January, the rate was above the one-in-three mark (37.3%, 35.4% and 35.5%).
The positivity rate in Door County for the past week also fell below the one-in-10 mark to 9.1% (13 positives from 143 tests), after running between 11.5% and 14.5% each of the three previous weeks. The rates for the peninsula also were as high as one-in-three (34.3%, 33.2% and 33.7%) the first three weeks of January.
The seven-day rate across Wisconsin also plummeted over the past week, from 15.1% as of Feb. 15 to 2.6% as of Tuesday, according to the state health department.
Along with the confirmed positives, Door County reported 195 cases as probable as of Monday, one more than the previous week. Those are cases who have not yet been confirmed positive by a lab but had a positive antigen test or have COVID-19 symptoms and known exposure to the virus. Such cases are considered positive by the department, and those in that category should isolate themselves and contact their employers and close contacts.
Also falling in both counties, though not quite as dramatically, was the number of positive tests in each county per 100,000 residents over the past week, a metric used by the state health department to gauge community spread of COVID-19.
Kewaunee County registered 59 positives per 100,000 people between Feb. 16 and 22, compared to 103 for the previous week and 432 for the week ending Jan. 11, the highest figure so far this year for the county. This week's figure is 45th-highest among Wisconsin's 72 counties, after having the fourth-highest rate in each of the last two weeks of January; Green (273) and Iron (264) were the only counties with a positives-per-100,000 rate above 200 for the week.
Door County's positives-per-100,000 number for the past week is 47, 53rd-most in the state, after hitting 65 and 76 the two previous weeks and a high of 359 on Jan. 18.
Both counties also got through the week without a death or hospitalization attributed to COVID-19 complications. It's the fifth straight week Kewaunee County hasn't added to its COVID-19 toll, which stands at 34, after having 32 of those deaths occur between Oct. 10 and Jan. 18. Door County has reported one COVID-19-related death in the past four weeks, leaving its total at 19.
Since testing began last spring, Kewaunee County has seen 11,775 positives per 100,000, remaining fourth-highest in Wisconsin for a fourth straight week behind Menominee (17,001), Dodge and Jackson counties. Cumulatively, Door County has reported 8,660 positives per 100,000, 49th in the state.
However, Door County did report one death from COVID-19 complications in the past week, raising its toll from the virus to 19, and two people were hospitalized by the virus in that time. It's the first virus-related death in the county since two were reported between Jan. 19 and 25.
Since testing began last spring, Kewaunee County has seen a total of 2,523 positive results from 11,381 tests, giving it a cumulative positivity rate of 22.1%, continuing to edge downward after marks of 22.4% and 22.5% the past two weeks.
Door County has a cumulative positivity rate of 15% (2,404 positives, 16,012 tests), about the same as it's been over the past month. The cumulative rate across Wisconsin as of Tuesday is 17.7%.
One of every 10.6 Door County residents now has tested positive at some time. Fifteen cases are active as of Monday, a decrease from 27 a week ago, while 2,565 cases have recovered.
In Kewaunee County, one in every 8.1 county residents has tested positive at some time, 2,479 cases have recovered, and 10 cases in the county are active, compared to 20 a week ago and 84 on Jan. 25.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: COVID-19 update: Positivity rate falls sharply in Kewaunee, Door counties