‘I hope I’m Wrong’: La Crosse County Health Department director concerned about in-person classes

Jen Rombalski says she expects case spread in schools holding in person classes this fall
Fall school concerns

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – La Crosse County Health Department director Jen Rombalski told News 8 Now, Wednesday, she expects COVID-19 spread in schools this fall. School officials at each district have made their own decisions on how to handle the fall semester.

The school itinerary for the fall for students and parents depends on where they live. Some schools are starting in-person, online, or both. Some districts are having high school sports and others are not. There is no consistency across the region or the state.

“It’s going to take federal and state leadership to really set that framework, and provide recommendations that are evidence-based,” Rombalski said.

Rombalski said the evidence they know points to COVID-19 case spread in schools that hold classes in person.

“I would say that I would expect to see disease,” Rombalski said. “I expect to see cases, and contacts, and impact.”

She acknowledged school district officials are in a tough spot when it comes to fall decisions. However, she said when a likely outbreak occurs, it will be on families to keep children who are sick at home.

“And that can be tough because 14 days is a long time for some of these families,” she said.

Some colleges across the country are already experiencing spikes in cases. Tuscaloosa Alabama is closing bars for the next two weeks after University of Alabama officials said there has been an unacceptable rise in cases on campus.

“In the meantime, I would rather be safe than sorry,” Rombalski said.

Rombalski understands the concern of parents because she is a mom.

“I have three kids who are in K-12 education and it’s concerning to me,” she said.

Rombalski said their knowledge about the virus could change. She said she doesn’t want to see case spikes in schools.

“I hope that we don’t. I hope I’m wrong,” Rombalski said.

The advice they give is based on the data they have right now.

“We don’t set recommendations or guidance based on our own beliefs,” Rombalski said. “That’s inappropriate, and unprofessional, and irresponsible.”

Despite a decrease in daily case counts nationwide, Rombalski pointed out more work she said is necessary for the community to get through the fall.

“We still have a lot of disease in our community and we have a lot of spread, and our job is to work together to keep that spread down,” Rombalski said.

The CDC changed its recommendations saying not all asymptomatic patients need testing. Rombalski said the change doesn’t change their approach to testing in La Crosse.
The county does have the capacity to test people with mild symptoms.