COVID-19 cases from La Crosse universities are included in county’s daily case count

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) -La Crosse County health experts say once students went back to college, they had a feeling COVID was going to be a problem.

“I’m not surprised,” public health nursing manager Jacquie Cutts said. “I think that everybody was hopeful that people would be slightly less mobile and less social than they normally are.”

Now UW-La Crosse is under a shelter-in-place order. And the spread among campus students in part caused coronavirus cases to skyrocket to record-high levels in La Crosse County.

“So PCR-confirmed positive cases that are living in La Crosse county are included in our count,” Cutts said. “That would be inclusive of college students.”

UWL uses two types of tests: PCR and antigen.

PCR tests are much more accurate, but can take longer to confirm if a case is positive.

“So it’s this particular type of test that takes multiple samples from the same plate, and all of them have to come back positive for the test to be returned positive,” Cutts said.

Antigen tests are done at the point-of-care and are much quicker, but aren’t as accurate.

“And that’s why DHS recommends that you confirm a positive antigen with a PCR test,” Cutts said.

UWL includes both types of tests on its COVID-19 dashboard. They’ve done more antigen tests than PCR tests.

“You use your antigens to kind of give you a clue that I should really use one of my PCR’s to test this person and confirm that they’re positive,” Cutts said.

Some students have been packing up their bags because of the outbreak.

“I think it’s really difficult depending on where you’re sitting and what your perspective is on how to handle that,” Cutts said.

And whether or not it’s safe for kids to go back home, health department leaders say it’s the student’s choice.

“I think that a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t going to help anybody because it’s just a difficult decision to navigate,” Cutts said.

Cutts also says in the first nine days of September, about 10 percent of cases in the county were asymptomatic. Most of those asymptomatic cases were college-aged kids.