Rapid increase in COVID-19 positive cases among a younger population causes the La Crosse Health Department to take a stance

La Crosse is seeing a rapid increase in COVID-19 positive cases among the 20 to 29 age range. Health officials have a few words for that age group on just how much they impact the community.

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — La Crosse is seeing a rapid increase in COVID-19 positive cases among the 20 to 29 age range. Health officials have a few words for that age group on just how much they impact the community.

The health department, local schools and business are grappling with how to advocate to the 20 to 29 age group that their actions contribute to rising positive COVID-19 case numbers throughout the region.

“This does spread far and wide in our community,” said Jen Rombalski, director of the La Crosse County Health Department.

According to a local doctor, the spread is reaching elderly care facilities.

“We’ve also had facilities that now have positive residents at a higher rate than we have seen the entire pandemic,” said Doctor Elizabeth Cogbill.

Cogbill says the spread in nursing homes is due to the 20 to 29 population serving as its workforce. She says if the younger population comes into work with COVID-19, the outcome can be grim.

“These older adults are at risk for contracting COVID and therefore they’re at risk for death,” said Cogbill.

The community spread is also a worry for schools.

“The 20 to 29 age group does interact in our schools and with our pre-K through 12 students on a regular basis. As student teachers, through childcare, surround care, as siblings and friends, and also as parents,” said Aaron Engle, superintendent of the La Crosse School District.

And the spread can have a trickle down effect.

“We do know that our students in pre-K through 12 have had a lower incidence of COVID-19, however, they take home whatever they have to their parents,” said Engle.

There’s also concern about what the spread among the younger population will mean for local businesses..

“In that 20 to 29 year old demographic, that’s a sector that provides such a huge value in our community. They’re students that work in our businesses, they have families that come to visit, they are young professionals that make up a significant healthy portion of our workforce.”

Health Department officials still have a positive and hopeful outlook.

“Just because that’s where we are today doesn’t mean we have to stay on that same track,” said Rombalski.

Rombalski says focusing on preventative measures will make all the difference in getting the case numbers under control.  According to health officials, they met with leaders from Western Technical College, Viterbo and UW La Crosse this week to talk about education and safety measures because they’re closest to this age group.