A collected sample is dropped into a medical bag as members of the Wisconsin National Guard medical team assist with free COVID-19 drive-thru testing at Blackhawk Technical College.

Rock County’s COVID-19 data is improving, but health officials said staying home and following safety guidelines during the upcoming holidays is key to continuing the downward trends.

The Rock County Public Health Department, in conjunction with 15 other county health departments, issued a news release Thursday stressing that people should celebrate the holidays only with people from their own households and avoid traveling, parties and shared foods.

It is the same plea officials made leading up to Thanksgiving. It appears, for now, efforts worked, as there has been no noticeable spike from Thanksgiving.

However, ripple effects from large events can come weeks afterward, public health officials have said. The large spike seen across the state in November has been speculated to be caused, in part, by schools reopening in September.

As of Thursday, there were 1,333 active and confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Rock County, up 40 from Wednesday, according to the Rock County Public Health Department.

The death toll declined by one Thursday to 103. That was caused by a data reporting error at the state level, said Jessica Turner, spokeswoman for the health department.

Of new test results reported Thursday, 42% were positive, more than eight times the county’s goal of a 5% positivity rate averaged over 14 days.

There were 40 people hospitalized in Rock County with COVID-19, down five from Wednesday.

Data from the county’s reopening dashboard shows that although hospitalizations are decreasing, the health care system is still stressed.

County hospitals report not having enough staff to adequately care for the volume of patients they are treating, according to the county dashboard.

Hospitals also are not meeting goals for capacity or resources.

As of Wednesday, the county had 17% of its intensive care unit beds available, 18 percentage points fewer than the county’s goal of having 35% of beds available, according to the dashboard.

County hospitals have 42% of ventilators available, eight percentage points fewer than the county goal of 50%.

Eleven percent of medical/surgical beds are available. The county does not identify a goal for that criteria.

The county health department continues to be strained as well. Contact tracers are able to contact 29% of newly confirmed cases within 48 hours, well below the goal of 75% or more being contacted in that timeframe.