The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 more than doubled in Pierce County the week of May 14-20, increasing from 14 to 29. In response, Pierce County Public Health issued a statement Thursday, May 28, urging residents to limit the size of gatherings and avoid traveling outside of the community.

“A doubling of positive cases in a week is very concerning, as this is an indicator that a spike is occurring,” Health Officer AZ Snyder said in a news release. “We did anticipate an increase of positive cases as testing capacity increased, but this increase was much greater than expected in such a short period of time.”

The Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the statewide Safer at Home order May 13, reopening bars, restaurants and other businesses that were shuttered to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

In addition to the sharp increase in cases, the health department reported a similar rise in close contacts between people with COVID-19 and others, threatening to strain the county’s contact tracing measures and hinder efforts to curb the spread of the respiratory illness.

“As a community, we must hold fast to public health recommendations to prevent this spike from developing into a surge of cases,” Snyder said.

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Pierce County Public Health urged residents to follow recommendations in a May 15 advisory, including:

  • Limiting gatherings to 10 or less people
  • Supporting local businesses in adopting practices to safeguard their staff and customers
  • Advising against travel outside of the community

There were 44 COVID-19 cases in Pierce County and 74 in St. Croix County as of Thursday, May 28, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health. Statewide, the total of positive test results was at 16,974 with 2,452 hospitalizations.

Assessing risk

Snyder said families should consider three factors when assessing the risk of venturing outside.

“Being thoughtful about these key risk factors for our summer activities will help Pierce County residents protect ourselves, our families and our communities,” she said.

  1. Time – How long will you be doing the activity involving close contact with others? As the time spent around people who may be infectious increases, infection becomes more likely. People who are infectious may not visibly show symptoms.
  2. Number of people – How many people are participating in the activity? The more people an individual comes in contact with, the greater the risk of exposure to someone with COVID-19. Large gatherings also present a challenge for public health to quickly identify and contact those that may have been exposed.
  3. Proximity to others – Are you able to maintain physical distancing from people who are not members of your household? Activities like contact sports or indoor gatherings with limited space make it very difficult for people to consistently maintain at least 6 feet of distance, even if they are trying to do so.