ELKHORN — Limitations on COVID-19 testing make it hard for Walworth County to accurately evaluate the spread of the disease, county health officials said Wednesday.
Erica Bergstrom, the county’s public health officer, said that the larger sample size that comes with state data is better for assessing and predicting trends. Walworth County recently has reported only one or a handful of confirmed cases each day.
Testing in Walworth County, like elsewhere in the country, has been limited to those in critical condition.
Therefore, she said, it’s “really, really difficult” to measure the local effectiveness of social-distancing measures.
“If we’re only able to test our highest-risk population, we’re not able to get the full picture of everything,” Bergstrom said.
She said she believes what she has seen at the state level is “promising,” although others across the state face testing limitations, too.
Meanwhile, the latest county figures showed 23 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, said Carlo Nevicosi, deputy director for the Walworth County Department of Health & Human Services.
Seven of those cases are currently hospitalized, he said. Twelve cases have recovered.
The county still has not reported a death from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Rural counties have advantages and challenges during the pandemic. There are fewer interpersonal interactions—such as not having mass transit—but rural counties might have more people who feel alone and isolated, Bergstrom said.
Nevicosi said depression, anxiety and family conflict can increase during these difficult times. Traditional outlets that help people cope might also be unavailable.
He encouraged those who are struggling locally to call 262-741-3200 and ask for the crisis intervention team.
During an interview, health officials also addressed these issues:
- ICU beds: Bergstrom said about 25 or 26 intensive care unit beds are available between Mercyhealth Hospital and Medical Center–Walworth in Lake Geneva and Advocate Aurora’s Lakeland and Burlington facilities. Those figures are from initial planning conversations about a month ago, and she said the hospitals have looked at creating additional beds. Nevicosi said surge plans have not been needed yet.
- Secondary homes: Most of the complaints Nevicosi has heard recently concern people traveling to their seasonal or secondary homes in Walworth County. It’s difficult, he added, because the county wants to help the local economy, but officials also want to limit travel and spread of the disease. So, those who travel to such homes are encouraged to bring 14 days of food and supplies so they can self-quarantine.
- Inventory: Emergency management officials are doing an inventory of items such as gowns, masks, gloves and ventilators, Bergstrom said. She said there is a “very high demand across the country for a very limited amount of supplies.”