City of De Pere gives COVID-19 update
By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – At its Tuesday, Oct. 6, virtual meeting, the De Pere Common Council received a COVID-19 update from De Pere Health Director Debbie Armbruster.
“The health department and the health care system are busy,” Armbruster said. “In the last two weeks, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases and had several schools close. We’ve seen in the community some people still don’t want to do the mitigation strategies the health department has suggested. Masking has gotten better but not wonderful.”
When contact tracing has taken place, Armbruster said in her update a number of the cases have been traced back to large gatherings.
“Weddings and funerals have increased our cases,” she said. “All De Pere residents will be receiving a letter from the health department stating there’s been a 500-percent increase in the number of active cases within the city limits since Sept. 1.”
Armbruster said the health department is overwhelmed in regards to contact tracing.
“We haven’t been able to get back to people in a timely fashion,” she said. “What we’ve done in De Pere is to immediately send out letters to those who test positive and get to them as soon as we can. We’ve had to prioritize, but we’re hoping the letters help. One interview with index tracing takes about an hour, and then we still have to contact others who might have been in close contact with the positive individual.”
In the case of the Brown County Health Department, Armbruster said it’s taking up to 10 days for contact tracing to be completed.
“It hasn’t been taking that long for us in De Pere, but it’s not within the 24-48 hours we’d like,” she said. “We’ve hired more staff to help with contact tracing. It’s taxing on us, so the whole community needs to pitch in. As of Oct. 6, there were 116 positive COVID cases in the four area hospitals. That might not seem like lots, but there are numerous other medical conditions out there. Hospitals have chosen to postpone some elective surgeries and doubled their hospital beds.”
St. Norbert College update
Armbruster said St. Norbert is doing “very well” in its COVID mitigation.
“Right now, there are 10 active cases at St. Norbert,” she said. “The college has tight control over the staff and students. If people get sick, they are immediately put into quarantine, their symptoms are monitored daily and contact tracing begins. Students are not supposed to be going into other’s rooms. I applaud St. Norbert with how they’re doing.”
At the time of her update, of the 10 active at cases, nine are students and one is a staff member.
The peak for the college was at the end of September when there were 20 active cases.
COVID-19 death in De Pere
De Pere has had one COVID death of a man who was in hospice at the time he contracted the virus.
“My question is when someone dies of COVID, how do we record the death?” asked Alder Dean Raasch. “Do we say they died from COVID or with COVID? According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), roughly 6 percent of all COVID-reported deaths are from COVID alone. I think COVID deaths are being treated differently, so I get confused by this.”
Armbruster said the man developed the virus about a month before he passed away.
“I was upset we had to say we had a COVID death in De Pere,” she said. “Unfortunately, the person was probably near death at the time he contracted the virus. Because he had COVID, it’s considered a COVID death. Did the virus cause him to die? I’m not a medical examiner, but you are correct – he did have other comorbidities that likely accelerated his death.”