Positive COVID-19 tests on upswing in Oconto County

Cases more than doubled during July
Oconto County Public Health Director Deb Konitzer tells the County Board on July 23 that simple acts like hand-washing and wearing a mask in public “go a long way to make a difference” in preventing COVID-19 community spread.

Warren Bluhm | NEW Media
Warren Bluhm
News Editor

The Oconto County Board has extended the local COVID-19 emergency declaration through Sept. 24, ratifying its chairman’s action with a unanimous vote July 23.

The original emergency proclamation was set to expire July 17.

“It continues to be necessary and expedient, for the health, safety, protection and welfare of persons within Oconto County, that reasonable and prudent steps be taken to treat those who may become infected with COVID-19 and to prevent, limit and contain the community spread of COVID-19,” said the emergency declaration. It was signed by County Board Chairman Paul Bednarik and approved unanimously by supervisors during their regular monthly meeting.

Public Health Director Deb Konitzer reported that the county has seen significant community spread of coronavirus since the beginning of July. From March through June 30, Oconto County had registered 59 positive tests for the virus, but that number more than doubled to 133 by the time of the board’s July 23 meeting.

As of Sunday, the county was up to 140 positive cases. About a half-dozen COVID-19 patients from Oconto County were hospitalized, Konitzer said. No one from the county has died so far.

Konitzer said her office continues to encourage people to limit gatherings to 50 people or less, although “we know that’s not what the community is currently doing, and there’s no rules, guidelines, laws that say that cannot happen.”

She told supervisors they can be “ambassadors” to advocate for common-sense ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and she said that includes social distancing, washing hands, staying home when you’re ill and encouraging people to wear masks.

“People don’t like to wear masks, but if we wear masks, that keeps your germs to yourself, You’re helping everyone around you,” Konitzer said. “But it’s just a matter of, it needs to be a good majority of people that need to wear masks.”

In answer to a question, Konitzer said about 78% of Oconto County residents with COVID-19 have recovered, but she added, “that’s the largest percentage of people who are not recovered that we’ve ever had.”