Outbreak

JEFFERSON — A second person in Jefferson County has tested positive for the coronavirus, health officials said Saturday.

Gail Scott, director of the Jefferson County Health Department, was informed of the test results about mid-afternoon Saturday. As with the first case reported Friday, she was unable to provide any details due to privacy laws.

Meanwhile, Spacesaver Corporation in Fort Atkinson reported that it had activated its Emergency Business-Response plan after a worker tested positive for coronavirus.

A spokesperson for the company released a statement saying it is taking steps to ensure the health and safety of its team team members.

Company officials added that they will continue to monitor the situation and update employees on any development.

“We have fully activated our emergency business-response plan, are following all necessary protocols, and are working in close collaboration with the local health department,” Spacesaver’s statement read. “It is our absolute first priority to take care of the health and safety of our team members and we are proactively taking all steps consistent with our response plan.

“As an employer of over 400 people, we also recognize concerns regarding employment and income security for our team members and their families,” the release continued. “We will continue to monitor the situation, keeping employees informed on any developments, and will continue to act proactively to protect the well-being of our team members during these difficult times.”

Scott said she could not comment on the Spacesaver announcement.

She has said that positive test results of anyone who works or attends school in Jefferson County but lives in a different county would be reported in the person’s county of residence.

Scott further outlined the process health officials are taking when contacted about a coronavirus concern.

She emphasized that to detect and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Jefferson County, health-care providers and the Jefferson County Health Department are using the latest guidance from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to perform a health assessment and decide whether testing and/or monitoring someone for COVID-19 is recommended.

This involves a thorough investigation, prompt notification of positive cases and follow-up with close contacts, Scott said.

The process might start with someone who has either had symptoms of fever, cough or shortness of breath, or has been a close contact of someone with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection. This person with symptoms or known exposure should contact his or her health-care provider by telephone to receive medical evaluation. If it is a medical emergency due to severe symptoms, the person would seek emergency care. Either the health provider or the emergency provider would assess whether the person needs to be tested for COVID-19 or other illness.

“There are specific criteria for testing or not testing,” Scott said. “That is why it is really important to talk to your medical provider.”

If COVID-19 testing is warranted for a person, a specimen is collected carefully by a health-care provider wearing personal protective equipment and then sent to one of the laboratories in Wisconsin that has been identified as a test site.

“When a test is done, the person and medical information related to this test are entered into the Wisconsin Electronic Disease Surveillance System,” Scott said, noting that WEDSS is a secure, web-based system designed to facilitate reporting, investigation and surveillance of communicable diseases in the state.

“Health-care facilities and health departments have designated health-care workers, such as infection preventionists and public health nurses, who have access to WEDSS strictly for the purpose of reporting and investigating reportable communicable diseases,” she said. “The extent of information that we are allowed to give out about a case is very limited under HIPAA, and generally would include only a person’s county of residence.”

If the circumstances call for more information to be shared, that would be decided on a case-by-case basis after consultation with the state Department of Health Services.

Meanwhile, the county’s public health nurses — who, along with Scott, are on call during nights and weekends — frequently check WEDSS for updates.

“The person who met criteria for COVID-19 testing is considered a PUI, or person under investigation,” Scott explained. “Our staff will see them in WEDSS and make an initial call with that person, ideally the same day as COVID-19 testing was performed. During that initial call, our staff offers education on COVID-19, makes sure that isolation measures are in place, and assesses the patient’s risk level for COVID-19 infection.

“This risk is determined by looking at the medical provider’s notes in WEDSS and conducting an interview by phone with the patient,” she continued. “They are asked about any recent travel, contact with anyone with COVID-19, and symptom history. We make sure to ask if the patient has what they need to stay in isolation at least until lab results are back and will do further intervention as needed.”

Anyone being tested for COVID-19 is asked to self-isolate immediately for 14 days from the date of testing or until lab results come back. This means not going to work, school, or any other activity, and it also staying away from others in the home whenever possible. A person’s length of isolation is determined by his or her risk level for COVID-19.

“The nurses also contact the person who tests negative and, depending on the circumstances, will let them know when they can be released from quarantine,” Scott said.

Some persons who test negative might still need to be quarantined for 14 days from date of testing due to their risk level.

“When I get a call for a positive lab result, it gets assigned to one of our nurses on call who is specially trained to do follow up. They contact the person diagnosed with COVID-19 and conduct contact tracing,” Scott said. “Contact tracing is extremely important and entails a thorough questionnaire from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to find out where our confirmed case has been, when their symptoms started, and look at who they were in close contact when potentially contagious. Have they been at work? Have they traveled somewhere? Our nurses will contact all of the person’s close contacts by phone call as soon as possible. It could be a lot of people.”

“Rest assured, with the assistance of the patient, a person who has been in contact with them enough to be considered a close contact will be notified about it. We will let them know,” Scott said. “The information of these close contacts is also protected by HIPAA, so we do not share information about them with the general public.”

Around the state, there are 381 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and four deaths.

The latest death, in Milwaukee County, was confirmed Saturday morning by the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office. A 69-year-old man died from complications related to the virus.

He had tested positive for COVID-19 and had been hospitalized for several days before he died. He had several major health issues and came to a hospital for shortness of breath on March 14.The man is not from Wisconsin, the Journal Sentinel reported, but he has family in the area.

Earlier this week, a man in his 50s from Fond du Lac County, a man in his 90s from Ozaukee County and a 66-year-old man from Milwaukee County died.

The Ozaukee County man was Robert Blackbird, identified by his family, who was tested and confirmed positive for coronavirus after he died.

He was living at Village Pointe Commons in Grafton. Officials said Blackbird did not have any symptoms before that.

Since then, four additional people have tested positive at the facility. Three are in the same memory care unit as the man who died, and one caregiver, as well.

The health department and CEO of the facility said they are checking employees’ temperatures and symptoms at the door and asking anyone who feels ill to stay home.

Meanwhile, Scott shared the following key messages from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services:

• Younger people, and particularly those who are 18 to 30 years old, aren’t immune to COVID-19. Anyone can contract COVID-19. So it’s important for everyone, including young and healthy people, to practice social distancing.

• Together we can make a difference in the fight against COVID-19.

• Stay home if you can and especially if you are sick.

• Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

• Practice social distancing. Please keep six feet between people and avoid direct physical contact.

• We all need to work together to flatten the curve and protect the capacity of the health care system to serve those who will suffer with the most severe disease from COVID-19.

• If you have questions or immediate needs related to COVID-19, you can: Text COVID19 to 211-211; visit 211Wisconsin.org; or call 211.

Call volumes are high, so please be patient and try to use the text or online options first.

• If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of COVID-19, please call your health care provider

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