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Rombalski: Increased spread not result of more testing

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - The La Crosse County Health Department reported 240 new COVID-19 cases have come within the past two weeks.

The county has 335 total cases, four hospitalizations, and no deaths.

The drastic increase has raised questions about the reason or reasons for more COVID-19 in the community.

Over 3% of tests have come back positive. That's out of 10,487 total tests and while testing has increased, health director Jen Rombalski said that's not what's causing the increase.

"We have basically debunked that theory," said Rombalski. "It is not a result of increased testing. It is a result of increased virus being present in our communities."

The health director added that different graphics and charts posted on their Facebook page helps debunk the theory.

A rapid rise in cases has kept the La Crosse County Health Department's COVID-19 compass pointed at severe. Rombalski said that they'd have to see the daily case counts cut in half for the compass to turn down to high risk.

Three factors go into determining where the compass is pointing. Epidemiology, health care, and public health status all help direct the tool.
Stress on the public health capacity is slowing down their ability to contact new cases and other potential contacts from those cases within 24 to 48 hours.

"Just to get into green in that area, we need to have less than 10 cases coming in each day to really have the ability to stay on top of that," said Rombalski.

Having only one factor in red and others in a different color would drop the compass to a high risk. Right now, health care remains in green.

The health department said they will continue to meet with city and county leaders on finding more solutions to the problem of spread.

Rombalski added that she still has the authority to write a local health order for specific events or businesses on specific practices.

However, due to the Wisconsin Supreme Court's ruling on the safer at home order, she said there's a lot of uncertainty with the exact authority of her role. Rombalaski added that writing an order to mandate face coverings or shut businesses down would be out of her authority and something she said she wouldn't do at this time or in the future.

Mike Beiermeister

WXOW Weekend Anchor and Reporter

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