COVID-19 spikes prompt Winona to redouble safety efforts

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WINONA, Minn. (WKBT) — The city of Winona is redoubling efforts to monitor the community-wide effects of recent large increases in COVID-19 cases, city officials say.
Cases have risen by nearly 125 in just five days, and Winona County’s 14-day average (number of cases per 10,000 residents) has risen to above 32 from a low of around six in early August, according to a news release.
Health officials attribute much of the rise to the return of college students, although they say several factors are involved. The majority of students are practicing safe and healthy behaviors, according to the news release.
City and health officials are collaborating with several community partners to determine whether any changes to policies, enforcement strategies or other procedures could be warranted, the release says.
Key factors that could lead to changes at the city level include:

  • Information from Winona County that contact tracing has revealed a specific location, organization, area or behavior as contributing to large community spread.
  • Evidence of spread in vulnerable populations (nursing homes, long-term care facilities, public housing, etc.
  • Changes to availability of ICU and other critical care needs at local healthcare providers.
  • Decision-making from PreK-12 schools to modify or step back from models of hybrid learning and transition into distance learning.
  • Decision-making from local colleges and universities to roll back hybrid classes, and/or transition to distance learning.
  • Consistent evidence that multiple bars, restaurants, or retail locations are not able or willing to follow capacity, physical distancing, mask-wearing, and other orders and guidelines.
  • Widespread partying, noise complaints and other issues in neighborhoods with a high percentage of off-campus student housing.
    Although the situation could change quickly, none of these factors has been present so far, the news release said. This past weekend, during compliance checks, the police and fire departments documented few issues with bars and very few noise and party complaints in neighborhoods.
    Meanwhile, the city is continuing to strive to minimize the virus’ spread in the community, including ensuring that COVID-19 safety plans are being followed at retail businesses, bar and restaurant compliance checks, weekend neighborhood patrols and regular visits to parks, trails, and other popular destinations.
    The city continues to urge residents to avoid larger and non-family gatherings, practice physical distancing, wash hands regularly, and clean and disinfect surfaces.
    While City Hall and many departments remain closed to the public, most departments offer virtual programming, curbside services and appointments.
    Updates are available at the city’s website.