Some question timing of La Crosse County Health Department’s guidance to cancel large events

Oktoberfest is less than a week away, but Health Director Audra Martine says the guidance is not geared towards one specific event

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The La Crosse County Health Department is recommending cancellation of large events.

Health Director Audra Martine says the county started issuing this guidance to event organizers last month when cases started rising again.

Right now, Wisconsin Department of Health Services data shows the county is averaging 31 cases a day, which is actually the lowest rate the county has seen in more than a month.

But Martine says people who go to large events are very likely to contract the virus.

Oktoberfest is less than a week away, but the timing of the health department’s guidance encouraging large events to cancel has gotten people talking.

“I think it’s reasonable,” Appleton resident Alex Osorio said, who is going to Oktoberfest. “But since it’s already going to happen, just can’t do much about it.”

“The timing is a little off I think,” La Crescent resident Casey Anderson said, who is going to Oktoberfest. “I don’t think it’s going to hinder anybody from going.”

Martine says the guidance is not geared toward one specific event.

“Just trying to make sure that people are aware of their risk and aware of how they can keep themselves as safe as possible,” Martine said.

The health department guidance encourages people to — most importantly — get vaccinated if large events don’t cancel.

“Some canceled,” Martine said. “Others have said they’ve delayed events. Some have put in mitigation strategies.”

Oktoberfest is still a go for Sept. 30-Oct. 3, and its website says people are encouraged to use COVID precautions and to stay home if they feel ill.

Economically, Oktoberfest brings in $15 million and more than 200 jobs to the La Crosse region annually, according to a UW-Whitewater study.

“It’s a lot of things to balance, and yet we need to be careful of the safety in our community,” Martine said.

Anderson says the county’s latest guidance won’t stop him from going to Oktoberfest, saying it’s worth the risk.

“It’s time to move on and live our lives,” he said.

Oktoberfest is not the only large event happening in La Crosse next week.

Starting Sunday, the Wisconsin Counties Association is holding its annual conference at the La Crosse Center with Gov. Tony Evers and many county officials from around the state.

Communications consultant Michelle Thompson says the WCA is going forward with the event, and has safety protocols in place for everyone.

News 8 Now reached out to Mayor Reynolds’ office for his response to the guidance.

A representative said the mayor needs to talk with the county before commenting.

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