La Crosse healthcare systems see sharp decline in COVID-19 testing, new cases

Mayo Clinic Health System leaders say COVID-19 testing fell 50% since January

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Both La Crosse healthcare systems say they are seeing a sharp decline in new cases of COVID-19. La Crosse healthcare experts say they’re optimistic about those numbers.

Mayo Clinic Health System nursing leaders experienced their busiest COVID testing in January. However, a nursing administrator said things are looking up as testing in Southwest Wisconsin fell 50% since then.

“I always spoke about there’s a light at the end of the tunnel with this,” said Megan Meller, an infection preventionist at Gundersen Health System.

Hearing the word surge has become routine for healthcare leaders.

“January was our busiest month for testing,” said Joannie Schmidt, nursing administrator at Mayo Clinic Health System.

Surges have been Schmidts’ life over the past two years.

“We were seeing on a few days 600 tests a day being done at Southwest Wisconsin Mayo,” Schmidt said.

She said her staff needs a break.

“We’re getting tired,” Schmidt said.

This week the word surge is replaced with the word decline.

“There’s a drop in the number of new COVID cases,” said Dr. Ala Dababneh (M.D.), an infectious disease consultant at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

More than 23,000 Wisconsin residents had COVID -19 symptoms onset or diagnosis on Jan. 3. Confirmed and probable cases have declined sharply. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported little more than 1,000 residents on Feb. 8 with COVID-19 symptoms onset or diagnosis. The seven-day average is also falling.

“That percentage has gone down remarkably,” Meller said. “Every day it’s going down by a percentage point. It’s very encouraging to see.”

“We’re hoping that trend continues and that the surge that we saw earlier is would be a thing of the past,” Dababneh said.

News that means Schmidt and healthcare workers alike will get a chance to exhale.

“This decrease in numbers really are giving a chance for staff to just work less,” Schmidt said.

However, Meller said people need to understand their health risks and remain responsible.

“If you’re more at risk for getting severely sick from COVID, still practice masking,” Meller said.

Leaders say healthy hygiene and masking remain important to prepare for the next variant, so the COVID conversation doesn’t change from decline back to surge.

Experts say people should get tested they think they have symptoms. Otherwise, they could end up spreading the disease to other people without knowledge. Experts still recommend a booster dose even if a person had their normal vaccine series and experienced COVID-19 infection.

For more county testing information visit these links. 

La Crosse County, Monroe County, Trempealeau County, Vernon County, Crawford County, Houston County (MN), Winona County (MN), Eau Claire County, Chippewa County.

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