La Crosse County Health Department unveils new process to comprehend COVID-19 spread

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The La Crosse County Health Department revealed the risk-assessment process replacing the Coulee COVID-19 Compass Friday.

The health department and our local healthcare systems are shifting to a new method for the community to better understand disease spread.

“I think it’s about flexibility,” La Crosse County Health Department director Jen Rombalski said.

The new tool, called the Coulee COVID-19 Collaborative, will divide information into nine key metrics:

  • New case rate (7-day rolling average)
  • New hospitalization rate (7-day rolling average)
  • Coronavirus care capacity
  • Cases interviewed
  • Identified contacts traced
  • Number of contacts reached within 1-2 days
  • Daily testing goal
  • Testing turnaround time
  • Positive test ratio

Each metric will be given an indicator light about how much spread there is, and if that metric goal is being met.

“We can literally have a conversation with each other and with public health,” Gundersen Health System infectious disease physician Dr. Todd Kowalski said. “And to know here’s what the data shows, here’s what the inter-workings of healthcare are, here’s where we’re really at in terms of our capacity.”

The tool will also have a graph showing the trend of coronavirus cases in the county, as well as the recommendations the community should follow.

It’s not that the compass wasn’t helpful.

“The compass was really important in especially flattening the curve,” Mayo Clinic Health System family physician Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald said.

Ultimately, it was too difficult for the community to understand.

“It places too much emphasis on a single light,” Rombalski said. “It isn’t just quite that simple..That inherently caused some challenges and was not as nimble as it really needs to be going forward with the pandemic.”

Rombalski also says starting Monday, the county will begin releasing weekly case numbers instead of daily numbers.

The health department will have a web page up dedicated to the collaborative next Friday.