By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — The Dunn County Health Department is expecting the current surge of COVID-19 infections fueled by the Delta variant to increase over the next six to eight weeks.
Some sophisticated modeling is looking at the Delta variant surge from a risk management standpoint and from a healthcare system standpoint, said KT Gallagher, Dunn County’s health officer and director of the Dunn County Health Department, during her COVID-19 update on September 3.
Gallagher said that in her opinion, the Delta variant surge in Dunn County is somewhere around the “beginning of the middle.”
“We are anticipating a significant increase in cases because we are changing how we are starting to act and to gather,” she said.
As of September 3, there were 168 active cases in Dunn County with seven people hospitalized.
While the people who are hospitalized are “coming and going,” the number of people hospitalized has remained at seven for the last three weeks, Gallagher said.
To date, 38 Dunn County residents have died from the disease.
Dunn County has not yet begun to see the cases that will result from students being in classrooms, including college classrooms, and cases from people spending more time indoors, she said, noting that because the weather is still warm, people are spending more time outdoors for now.
“I do believe we are going to see an increase for the next six to eight weeks, unfortunately,” Gallagher said.
The current case rates per day are rivaling the number of cases per day that were occurring in Dunn County last November, she said.
Right now, there are about 18 positive cases of COVID-19 per day, with some days having over 30 positive cases, Gallagher said.
Last November, there were 40 cases per day that peaked at 70 per day, she said.
“I don’t think we are out of the woods. I think we have some very dark days ahead of us,” Gallagher said.
The mitigation strategies to keep yourself safe from infection remain the same: being vaccinated, maintaining physical distancing from others, staying home if you are sick, and getting tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms, no matter what your vaccination status, Gallagher said.
“Keep your circle small. Wear a mask when you are outside of your home. These are the things we know work for mitigation strategies,” she said.
With the surge of the Delta variant, Dunn County also is experiencing an increase in re-infections of people who have already had COVID-19.
Twenty percent of the reinfections have happened in the last month, Gallagher said.
Statewide, nearly 52 percent of Wisconsin residents have completed the vaccination series, while Dunn County continues to lag with 41.4 percent of county residents being fully vaccinated, she said.
All together, 18,799 Dunn County residents had been vaccinated as of September 3. Dunn County’s population is a little over 45,000.
In response to a question about using Ivermectin (animal dewormer) as a treatment for COVID-19, Gallagher said the meta analysis to which the person asking the question was referring had been taken from several white papers.
One of the papers, however, was found to be falsified, so the data was skewed in the meta analysis, she said.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Ivermectin “shows promise” in culture but not in the human body, Gallagher said.
“There are a lot of things that show promise in the petri dish. There are a lot of things we know will kill the virus that you can’t necessarily take internally — like sunshine and bleach,” she said.
“That’s why clinical controlled trials are so important. The data is mixed for the other white papers. We need to see the data from clinical controlled trials come to fruition to be able to say, one way or the other, (Ivermectin) is a treatment or preventative for COVID-19,” Gallagher said.
Right now, it looks like the doses that work in culture are doses that are not safe in the human body, she said.
“The dose makes the poison. Water has an amazing safety profile. If you drink enough of it, (water) will kill you,” Gallagher said.
“Just because something has a good safety profile in low doses for its intended treatment, like river blindness, doesn’t mean it has a good safety profile when used at a level necessary to affect COVID-19,” she said.
Gallagher urged Dunn County residents to be good consumers of the data they see.
“I will not be advocating for an off-label use of a drug like that. Currently the CDC and the FDA are recommending not to use (Ivermectin) off label, Gallagher said, noting there were several people who had taken Ivermectin and “had made themselves really sick.”
“Be a smart consumer. Do not take drugs intended for your farm animals — or for any animals, for that matter,” she said.
People who have questions about Ivermectin should talk to their doctors, Gallagher said.
“Keep your circle small. Wear a mask outside of your home. Get tested if you feel sick, regardless of your vaccination status,” she reiterated.