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ELKHORN

Walworth County’s Public Health Department asked for help and began “crisis implementation” procedures because of rising rates of coronavirus infection.

The department said Friday that the county had seen nearly 600 new cases in the previous two weeks.

“This number has risen exponentially, nearly doubling over the previous two-week period,” according to a department news release. “This increase has created an overwhelming number of cases and close contacts. Despite increased staffing, the number of people to be contacted has now exceeded the capacity of the Walworth County Public Health Department.”

Neighboring Rock and Jefferson counties are already using these emergency procedures for similar reasons.

“We are no longer able to conduct the same level of notification and contact tracing that we would during a typical outbreak. The pandemic has now reached a level in Walworth County that has required us to adapt our response,” while protecting the most vulnerable, Health Officer Erica Bergstrom said in the release.

“Laboratories have also experienced the effects of rising cases and are taking longer to notify Public Health of results, further extending contact timelines,” the news release states.

The department will now give first priority in contacting people with positive test results who are 60 and older and 18 and younger.

“All other individuals will be contacted as capacity allows,” the release states.

Long-term care facilities and schools also remain a priority.

Employers are urged to contact the public health department if they have two or more employees with positive tests.

The department asks county residents who suspect they were in contact with someone with the disease to get tested and stay home while awaiting results.

Those who have tested positive should answer their phones so a disease investigator can ask about symptoms and provide guidance and resources.

They should also notify their close contacts, which are people with whom the infected person has had physical contact or was within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more, either continuously or over any 24-hour period within two days before symptoms started.

Close contacts are asked to quarantine for 14 days.

Everyone else is urged to avoid large gatherings, use a mask, wash hands frequently and maintain physical distance from others.

“If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how mild, stay home. Do not go to work, school, or run errands,” the department advises.

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