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Chippewa Co. public health director fears Delta variant surge

Leader-Telegram - 7/21/2021

Jul. 22—CHIPPEWA FALLS — Chippewa County public health director Angela Weideman last held her weekly COVID-19 press conference on June 9, saying she hoped they would no longer be needed.

However, COVID-19 cases are surging once again nationwide, with roughly 83% of new cases now the Delta variant. Many lawmakers in Washington have resumed wearing masks as cases are spreading, including among people fully vaccinated.

However, COVID-19 cases in western Wisconsin haven't substantially increased in recent weeks. That hasn't eased Weideman's fears about the virus.

"I am definitely concerned," Weideman said Wednesday. "I have definitely gotten a lot of questions from the community and my staff about what we can expect in the fall."

Weideman is informed of the number of new cases in the county, but those samples aren't always given a genome sequencing test to determine if they are the Delta variant.

"I am not able to give a good number on what percent coming in are the Delta variant," she said.

Chippewa County has now vaccinated 30,049, or 46.5%, of its estimated 64,500 residents. However, the county still lags beind the state's 51.2% rate of people having at least one dose. Weideman said the recent uptick in cases hasn't been the main reason for some people who recently got vaccinated.

"We've had a few reach out for vaccines that initially were hesitant," Weideman said. "Some people got them because of the opening of Canada (planned for mid-August.)"

Others who were recently vaccinated got the shot because colleges are going to require them, she added.

Weideman said she is still not aware of any fully vaccinated Chippewa County residents who later were hospitalized or died from the virus, although she knows of two breakthrough infections, meaning people got vaccinated but later tested positive.

With what is happening with the cases surging nationwide, Weideman again urged the unvaccinated public to come in and get a shot.

"With what we're seeing with case numbers rising, it is exceedingly important they go get vaccinated," she said.

Children under age 12 still cannot get vaccinated. As cases rise among younger people, Weideman is hearing more questions about how to keep kids safe, especially with the school year approaching.

"We still meet with our schools every other week," she said. "All schools in Chippewa County are talking to us and asking our recommendations. They are asking what they can implement."

Chippewa County remains at a moderate risk level for the virus at this time.

Weideman said her office still takes online vaccination appointments, but they also are inviting the public to walk in and get a shot during their clinic periods.


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