Forest County COVID Vaccine Update

The Forest County Health Department is helping to provide COVID-19 vaccine for individuals eligible in Phase 1a, which includes frontline healthcare personnel, EMS, and those who provide direct patient service or other healthcare services.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced that Law Enforcement and Fire personnel are also eligible to start receiving the vaccine next week. We will continue to provide vaccine for eligible individuals as we receive weekly allocations from DHS.

We will share more information about vaccine availability for other individuals and Phases as it becomes available from DHS. 

Please continue to practice every day preventative measures including:

  • Practice physical distancing of at least 6 feet from people not in your immediate household
  • Wear a mask in public
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Avoid large gatherings
  • Stay home if you are sick and contact your healthcare provider to be tested

If you have any questions or are interested in receiving the vaccine, please call our office at 715-478-3371.  You can also contact your healthcare provider to ask about vaccine availability.

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DHS and Laboratory Partners Identify Variant Strain B.1.1.7 of SARS-CoV-2 in Wisconsin

On January 12, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and laboratory partners identified a variant strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in Wisconsin.

The particular variant, referred to as B.1.1.7, was first discovered circulating widely in England during November and December of 2020. Based on epidemiologic and modeling studies, researchers believe that this new strain spreads more rapidly and easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2. However, there is no evidence that the new strain causes more severe illness or increased risk of death.

“We already know that COVID-19 is easily transmitted through respiratory droplets, and with this new variant appearing to be even more infectious, taking preventative measures like wearing a mask and physically distancing are even more important,” said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm.

In Wisconsin, the strain was identified through ongoing surveillance and whole genome sequencing, a routine practice since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. All viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19, change through mutation, and new variants of the virus are expected to occur over time.

“Mutations among viruses are very common. It’s not unusual – in fact, it’s expected. As time goes on in the pandemic and the virus continues to replicate on a large scale, the genetic sequence of the virus will change,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard.

DHS, the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, and other laboratory partners regularly work together to ensure whole genome sequencing is performed on a small proportion of tests collected. This routine analysis of genetic sequence data assisted in identifying the new variant strain in Wisconsin.

Now in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, molecular surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 will increase in importance to quickly identify and understand new variants. DHS and laboratory partners continue to analyze genetic sequence data to stop the spread of COVID-19. With emerging mutations of SARS-CoV-2, and those that may be more infectious, it is critically important to follow best public health practices, including wearing a mask, staying home, maintaining physical distance, and washing hands frequently.

For up-to-date information about Wisconsin’s COVID-19 response, visit https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/index.htm.

Call the Forest County Health Department with any questions at 715-478-3371 or visit our website: http://forestcountypublichealth.org/ or our Facebook page for more information.

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Vaccine Availability for Phase 1a Individuals in Forest County

Forest County is helping to provide COVID-19 vaccine to organizations that have frontline healthcare personnel that are not affiliated with a healthcare system, hospital, or long-term care facility.

Individuals who provide direct patient service or engage in healthcare services that place them into contact with patients who may have COVID-19 are currently eligible for vaccine during Phase 1a.

Some of the healthcare personnel categories in Phase 1a include:

  • Certified nursing assistant, nursing assistant, nurse aide, medical assistant, nurses
  • Chiropractors
  • Dental services, including dentist, dental hygienist, dental assistants
  • Direct care personnel, for example, people who provide direct care to patients, including in their homes (for example, personal care assistant, home health worker)
  • Emergency medical responders (EMR), including emergency medical technician/paramedic including all levels of EMRs
  • Environmental services, food & nutrition, buildings & grounds in patient care setting
  • Hospice workers
  • Long-term care facilities staff
  • Pharmacist/pharmacist assistant
  • Physicians, physician assistant/nurse practitioners
  • Transportation services to and from health care settings, for example, testing sites, dialysis centers, ambulatory care

This is not an exhaustive list. For a full description of who is in Phase 1a, see the Wisconsin State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee guidance at: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/publications/p02858.pdf

If you feel you or those within your organization are eligible for the vaccine during Phase 1a, please contact the Forest County Health Department for more information at 715-478-3371.  The vaccine is offered voluntarily and at no cost.

This process may take some time. The public is asked to be patient and to continue strong everyday precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

These preventive measures include:

  • Practice physical distancing of at least 6 feet from people not in your immediate household
  • Wear a mask in public
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Avoid large gatherings
  • Stay home if you are sick and contact your healthcare provider to be tested

The Health Department will share more information about vaccine availability for other Phases as it becomes available. 

Please contact our office with any questions or concerns at 715-478-3371.

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COVID-19 Vaccine Updates

On December 12, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer vaccine.  The Department of Health Services (DHS) is distributing the Pfizer vaccine to regional hubs across the state. On December 18, the Moderna vaccine was issued an EUA and shipments are expected to arrive in Wisconsin starting December 22.

From December 14 through December 20, the first week of Wisconsin’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program rollout, the state’s vaccine data are as follows:

  • 84,825 doses of Pfizer and 100,000 doses of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine have been allocated to Wisconsin.
  • 10,358 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered and reported to the Wisconsin Immunization Registry, including 10,358 doses of Pfizer.

The federal government will continue to provide Wisconsin with vaccine doses as more supply becomes available. Allocations of the FDA-authorized vaccines are expected to increase substantially in 2021 as more vaccine becomes available.

Due to the initial limited supply of vaccine, the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SDMAC) developed Wisconsin-specific recommendations on vaccine prioritization. Based on these Phase 1a recommendations from federal and state health experts, the first populations to receive vaccine will be frontline healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

As supply increases, recommendations will likely expand to cover other essential workers, people ages 65 and older, and people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 to receive a vaccine. Later, as more supply becomes available, groups of people at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 and the general public will be recommended to get vaccines.

The Forest County Health Department is enrolled as a COVID-19 Vaccine Provider and is awaiting further information from DHS about our allocations for each phase.  We will continue to provide updates and further vaccination planning as it is available from DHS. 

Getting vaccinated will be one of the best ways to protect yourself and your community. A COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from getting sick and potentially prevent you from spreading the virus to those around you.  A vaccine, however, does not replace the need to continue other actions to stop the spread and keep ourselves healthy.

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