Regional public health issues emergency alert, urges people to celebrate small for Thanksgiving

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As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country and Wisconsin, the Southern Region Public Health Officers are issuing a Public Health Emergency COVID-19 Alert to urge residents to follow good public health practices this holiday season. Public health officers stress that it is safest to celebrate upcoming holidays with the people in your immediate household and not risk gathering with others. Traveling, hosting guests indoors, and sharing food, utensils and plates all pose significant risks, they warn. 

“The major difference right now is that COVID-19 cases are increasing in southern Wisconsin, and we have reached a critical level,” explained Debbie Siegenthaler, chair of the Southern Region’s Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards (WALHDAB). “There is an underlying risk for even small gatherings given our case burden rate and percent of positive tests.” 

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has added a new level, “Critically High,” to the burden indicator and activity level for COVID-19. Adding this new category will give Wisconsinites a better idea of how COVID-19 is impacting the state. All public health jurisdictions in the Northeast Region of Wisconsin have reached the Critically High level, with case burdens above 1,000 cases per 100,000 people. 

Critically high levels of COVID-19 cases are resulting in increased COVID-19 related hospitalizations and deaths. Due to escalating cases, public health is not able to notify positive cases and their close contacts in a timely manner. This severely limits efforts to contain the virus. Public health implores everyone to take actions to stop uncontrolled community spread. 

Additionally, Governor Evers signed Executive Order #94, which advises Wisconsinites to stay home, urging them to take precautions to stay safe if they must leave their home, and encouraging businesses to take more steps to protect their customers, employees and the community. 

Everyday practices to stop the spread 

•Physically distance at least 6 feet from people with whom you do not live. 

•Wear a cloth face mask, unless unable to wear one for medical reasons. 

•Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. 

•Indoors: do not gather with people outside of your household. 

• Outdoors: limit gatherings to 10 people or fewer, physically distance and wear face coverings. 

• If symptomatic, call your health care provider, get a test, and stay home while awaiting results. 

• Cooperate with public health officials if you have tested positive or are a close contact. 

“It can be difficult suggesting changes to holiday traditions,” said Siegenthaler. “Remember that safer celebrations offer protection for the most vulnerable members of your family so you can all gather for years to come.” 

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