JVG_210326_COVID

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

Rock County health officials say they are “not overly concerned” about recent increases in COVID-19 activity and are not changing their recommended restrictions on businesses and gatherings.

During a media call Thursday, epidemiologist Nick Zupan said the county is averaging 14.3 new COVID-19 cases per day, which is higher than recent weeks that saw averages in the single digits.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have remained steady at or around four people for the last couple of weeks, Zupan said. That is consistent with a national trend of declining severe cases.

It would take a much larger increase of COVID-19 cases for the county to consider returning to its Phase 1 safety recommendations, Zupan said.

A tightening of safety recommendations last fall was driven mostly by high numbers of hospitalizations, which are not happening now, he said.

The Rock County Public Health Department currently advises most businesses and facilities to restrict capacity to 50% to slow the spread of the virus. The county’s recommendations are not enforceable because they were not made under an emergency health order.

The county operated under a 25% capacity recommendation for several months in fall and winter.

Katrina Harwood, county health officer, said environmental health specialists are reaching out to businesses and workplaces to ensure safety measures such as wearing masks and physical distancing continue.

Health officials are working with event organizers to ensure planned summer events are done safely, Harwood said.

While COVID-19 numbers are rising, they are still better than the fall peak, when 2,530 people had active cases and 74 people were hospitalized, according to Rock County Public Health Department data.

As of Thursday, the county reported 171 active and confirmed cases of COVID-19.

During the fall peak, the health department said contact tracers could not keep up on their positive case contacts because of the volume of new cases coming in.

Contact tracers now are able to reach out to most people with positive cases and those who were in close contact with positive cases within 48 hours of a positive test, Zupan said.

Health officials nationwide have said the vaccine is the best tool to slow or stop the pandemic, but it will take months to reach herd immunity, which is needed to restore normalcy.

Recent increases in Rock County cases show it is still important for people to wear masks and keep distance from others, Zupan said.

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