Door County’s tally of COVID-19 cases has held steady for nearly two weeks, with 39 positive test results and three deaths. It’s good news, said Door County Public Health Manager Sue Powers, but not a reason for residents and visitors to let their guard down.
“My biggest concern is that people get tired of the precautions and social distancing and get complacent,” Powers said. “COVID is not over.”
Across the country, many states are reporting increases in hospitalizations and new cases, though testing has also increased considerably. When Door County opened a temporary community testing site June 2-4, 400 people were tested, but just three yielded positive results. All three were residents of neighboring counties.
Powers said she would only be guessing if she tried to pinpoint the reasons why Door County has escaped a larger outbreak, but the fact that the crisis hit before the tourism season – when the population is small and spread out – certainly helped. When Door County’s first cases were reported, large events had already been canceled; schools, restaurants and churches had closed; and no festivals were on the schedule.
“The cases early on when Safer at Home was enforced, when people were following guidelines, it was pretty simple to contact trace,” Powers said. “Everyone had been at home. Cases began with people who had traveled and returned and were quarantining themselves. Our follow-ups were much simpler. Now it is much more complicated with many more possible exposures.”
LISTEN: Get more of the latest on COVID-19 in Door County from this week’s podcast. Myles Dannhausen Jr. and Andrew Kleidon discuss the situation at the beginning of the episode.
Powers also said the county benefited from collaboration among departments, governments, hospitals and the Door County Emergency Support Coalition in combating the challenges of the virus.
Powers said some people hold misconceptions about the role of Public Health in managing business decisions. Though the department still recommends people avoid nonessential travel and follow recommendations to wear masks and maintain social distancing, the department does not weigh in on the operations of every individual business or event.
“People have the impression that if an event is taking place, that Public Health said it’s OK,” she said. “That is not the case. We are not in charge.”
The department considers gatherings of 10-50 people as high risk and advises against gatherings of more than 50 people.
Powers said that if she walked into a business and the employees were not masked, she would not feel comfortable remaining there. A growing body of evidence has pointed to masks being one of the best ways to control the spread of the virus.
Powers also clarified procedures for how positive tests are recorded. Although positive tests are counted in the person’s county of residence, the local health department is notified if a seasonal resident tests positive, and it performs follow-ups with that person and their contacts within the county. If that person will reside in the county for several months, that result will be counted in local numbers.
“If they’re only here for a week, we’re still going to do the follow-up to protect our community,” she said. “It’s the same if they live elsewhere but work in Door County. We’ll be notified, and we’ll follow up with their employer.”
She said there have been fewer than 10 such instances to date.