ELLSWORTH — Pierce County is at a “tipping point” for COVID-19 activtiy with many new cases among university and K-12 students, Health Officer AZ Snyder said Friday, Sept. 18.

The local health department expected an increase in cases of the respiratory disease when school resumed, but not at the levels the county is experiencing, she said, adding the county is seeing instances of University of Wisconsin-River Falls students bringing the disease home to parents and younger siblings.

Snyder said she is in frequent contact with university administrators as they consider response options.

UPDATE: UWRF suspends in-person classes for 2 weeks in response to COVID-19 cases

The UWRF online COVID-19 dashboard reported 51 positive cases out of 865 on-campus tests conducted Aug. 26-Sept. 16.

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READ MORE: UWRF officials hope to keep campus open despite COVID-19 spread

An outbreak was identified in connection to a Walnut Street yard party in River Falls held Saturday, Sept. 5, the university announced on Facebook. Anyone who attended the gathering is asked to get tested for COVID-19, even if not experiencing symptoms. UWRF testing information can be found at go.uwrf.edu/gettested.

“We’re going to need more than the usual that Pierce County is used to during the pandemic to turn this one around,” Snyder said, such as cancelling activities that involve congregations of young people.

Disease activity in Pierce County was at the “Red” level as of Friday based on metrics in Harvard University’s Path to Zero framework for suppressing the spread of COVID-19. That is the highest risk level, with greater than 25 new cases a day per 100,000 population.

“If serious measures aren’t taken to curb the spread of disease, it’s possible that the health care systems will become overwhelmed in a short time period,” Snyder said.

There were 54 active cases of COVID-19 in Pierce County and 84 current probable cases Friday, according to the county’s pandemic dashboard. Six residents have died due to the disease.

Pierce County Public Health announced this week two instances of a patron who visited a River Falls bar and later tested positive for COVID-19. The potential exposures occurred sometime between midnight and 2 a.m. early Saturday, Sept. 12, at Maverick's Corner Saloon and Broz Sports Bar & Grill.

Wisconsin set a new record Friday with 2,553 new cases added in a single day, according to the Department of Health Services. That broke Thursday’s one-day record of 2,034 new confirmed cases.

There were 12,839 active cases statewide and 1,238 deaths as of Sept. 18.