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COVID-19 cases climb in Forest County, with one death

Forest County in Wisconsin has reported its first coronavirus-related death and seen its number of COVID-19 cases more than double in a matter of days, according to public health officials.

A total of 27 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the county as of Wednesday afternoon, the Forest County Health Department posted on social media and its website, adding almost all appear connected in some way to the public health investigation at The Bay at Nu-Roc Health and Rehabilitation Center in Laona, Wis.

However, one of the two new cases reported Wednesday “is not linked and is currently isolating at home,” Forest County Public Health officials said on their website. “County health officials are working to determine how the individual may have become infected and are contacting others with whom the positive case had close contact with.”

Officials also confirmed this past weekend that a person had died from virus complications. No other details on the case were provided.

“We are extremely saddened by this loss,” said Jacee Shepard, health officer of the Forest County Health Department. “Our deepest condolences go out to their family, friends and loved ones.”

Forest County did not have its first positive case reported until May 6.

The health department stated it would “continue to work closely with The Bay at Nu-Roc leadership and staff, along with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Division of Public Health and the Division of Quality Assurance, to ensure all appropriate measures are in place to keep the residents and staff safe and healthy.”

The health department encouraged county residents to minimize contact with others by staying home when possible, practicing physical distancing and good personal hygiene, and staying alert for COVID-19 symptoms. Those who think they have symptoms should contact their health care provider to request a test.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Forest County had done 483 tests, with 27 positive, 442 negative and 14 results pending. Among the 27 confirmed cases, 24 are in isolation, one is hospitalized, one has been released from isolation and one is deceased.

Health officials said they expect the number of cases to grow with expanded testing and contact tracing. The Forest County Health Department will continue to update its Facebook page with current COVID-19 counts.

Figures for Wisconsin counties in the region otherwise held stable Wednesday. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ COVID-19 site listed Marinette County with 32 cases, including two deaths; Forest County with 24 cases — three fewer than the county’s tally — and one death; Vilas County with six cases; Florence County with two cases; and Iron County with two cases and a death.

Statewide, Wisconsin had recorded 16,462 cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday afternoon, with 539 deaths.

In the Upper Peninsula, Houghton County again had the only new case in the region for the second straight day.

For the Upper Peninsula, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID-19 data site Wednesday showed Baraga County with one virus case; Chippewa County with two cases; Luce County with three; Houghton and Schoolcraft counties with four cases; Gogebic County with five cases and a death; Dickinson County with five cases and two deaths; Mackinac County with six cases; Menominee County with eight cases; Delta County with 17 cases and two deaths; and Marquette County with 54 cases and 10 deaths.

The MDHHS also has separately listed prison inmates as positive in Luce and Chippewa counties.

The U.P. as of Wednesday afternoon had 111 positive cases, including 15 deaths, according to state figures.

Iron, Keweenaw, Alger and Ontonagon counties have yet to report a COVID-19 case in the Upper Peninsula and are the only counties in Michigan not to have at least one positive coronavirus test.

The MDHHS statewide reported 504 confirmed new COVID-19 cases Wednesday for a total of 55,608 to date. The state had 68 new deaths — which included 14 deaths that happened earlier but were confirmed through vital records and testing — for 5,334 to date.

Dickinson County Healthcare System on Wednesday continued to show only three county residents testing positive at its facilities, with two deaths, along with five positives from other counties; those counties were not identified. DCHS had tested 539 people for COVID-19, with eight positive, 488 negative and 43 results still pending. DCHS noted there are several additional sources of testing in Dickinson County.

The Dickinson-Iron District Health Department on Wednesday posted it continued to have five positive cases, with two deaths, one recovered and two “still active.” The DIDHD usually lists total numbers tested in both counties but did not Wednesday.

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