Despite ‘high’ COVID-19 infection classification, La Crosse health officials see better days ahead

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — The CDC’s new classification levels depend on COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations and hospital capacities. For counties classified as “high,” masks are still recommended.

That includes multiple counties in western Wisconsin, including La Crosse, Buffalo, Trempealeau, Vernon and Monroe.

The seasons are changing, and COVID-19 cases are dropping. The La Crosse County Health Department hopes the county could drop down to CDC-classified medium levels as soon as this week.

“As steep as our upturn was, our downturn has been equally as steep, which we’re thankful for,” said Meghan Buechel, an infection preventionist at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse.

The CDC’s new case level classifications recommend masking for counties at high transmission, not those at medium or low.

“It’s a little broader, but I think it’s a better indicator of when we’d be feeling the pressure to respond,” said Audra Martine of the La Crosse County Health Department. “Until our numbers do reach the level that shows that we have it under control and we are able to manage all areas for our community members safely, we recommend following the CDC guidance.”

Trends locally are pointing to better days.

“We have recently closed down our COVID unit — so this is really exciting news for us in recognition that we are definitely making strides forward,” Buechel said.

Even as cases decrease, masking requirements remain the same at hospitals.

“The CDC’s recent update applies to community settings, but does not apply to health-care settings,” Buechel said.

Both Gundersen Health System and Mayo Clinic Health System will still require masks.

In the meantime, health-care experts still say the best way to get protected is to be vaccinated.

“No better time than the present to check and get your questions answered, so that if you are someone that would consider having vaccination that hasn’t done it yet or getting the booster to do it now,” Martine said.

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