UPDATE: The Coulee COVID-19 Collaborative said that four additional people have died from the virus in the past two days from the virus.
The figure was updated Friday afternoon.
There have now been 18 people who died in the county since the start of the pandemic.
La Crosse County Health Department Director Jen Rombalski made the announcement Friday afternoon during a briefing on the health advisory issued earlier in the day. She said the majority of them, but not all, occurred in long-term care facilities.
In the Friday afternoon briefing, Rombalski began by giving some background on what led to the advisory. She stated that “cases were growing at a concerning rate” in the past few months. She said that cases increased five-fold in September compared to August. The current case rate is 26.9 per 100,000 people which puts the county in the red level based on the Harvard model they're using to track cases.
“This advisory is really one step, the first step in a step-wise approach to protect our community,” said Rombalski. Notifying businesses of the 25 percent maximum capacity is step one. The second step, based on a credible report, often from law enforcement, could be a specific order to an individual business from the health department, she said, that may be found not in compliance with the capacity requirement in the advisory. The final step, again based on a credible report, would be issuing a citation or petitioning the court, if necessary, for a specific business that wasn't complying with the order issued in the second step. Rombalski said she sees the third step as a last resort as their goal is voluntary compliance. Education and communication with a business are keys, she said, to make sure a business is complying prior to having to go to the enforcement stage such as a citation.
“It is always our intention in the health department to protect the best of our ability. And the way that we do this is through transparency, communication, and actions that are reasonable and necessary,” she said, “Again, highlighting communication as a top priority.”
Law enforcement will not be enforcing the orders, just providing the health department with reports of their observations, Rombalski said. “We're not seeking out violations. We're not seeking out citizen complaints. We're not looking to give citations. We really want this to be as voluntary as possible. But it does identify that we can take those steps if necessary.”
County Administrator Steve O'Malley said that prior to Friday's briefing, the county reached out directly to more than 700 businesses in the county to provide them with a copy of the health advisory.
Rombalski said that there are already a number of businesses that are voluntarily complying with the request. She pointed to the businesses that voluntarily committed to the Check the Spread campaign in the county.
She said that the advisory helps clarify what's important right now in the county. Rombalski said that because of the gatherings of people who aren't from the same households, and where the health department is seeing spread occurring, that that is what the department needs to take further action on at the present time.
LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - On Friday, October 16, the La Crosse County Health Department issued a health advisory that limits public gatherings in line with the state's emergency order issued earlier this month.
In a statement from the La Crosse County Health Department, it said,
"The local advisory does not change or further restrict public gatherings or business capacity, but rather reinforces the existing state order. Outlined exemptions to the state’s order remain the same in the local advisory and include schools, childcare settings, institutions of higher education, churches, political events, state or federal facilities, and organizations
related to public infrastructure, health care or human services.
La Crosse County Health Department asks for voluntary compliance from all businesses and has provided education to licensed businesses about the advisory. Any law enforcement report detailing a violation of the advisory will be reviewed to determine if further action is needed. Violations are subject to citations of up to $500 plus applicable court fees depending on the frequency and severity of the violation. Businesses with questions can email email@example.com for more information.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, data for La Crosse County has supported the need for further action to protect the public. It remains critically important to follow the guidance available at couleecovid19.org. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should be tested and follow the guidance provided by their local health department and medical provider. Wear a mask, avoid gatherings with those outside your household, practice physical distancing, and wash your hands."