Local health departments issue public health emergency


Several Fox Valley health departments issued a public health emergency Friday as a result of the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the area. 

The cities of Appleton and Menasha, as well as Calumet, Outagamie and Winnebago counties, joined to send a news release for the alert. It recommends closing indoor bars, limiting restaurants to delivery and takeout only, canceling indoor gatherings and limiting outdoor gatherings to 10 people and a variety of other strategies to stop uncontrolled spread of the virus.  

The rapid escalation in cases has overwhelmed local public health departments and made it impossible for contact tracers to reach people in a timely manner, a key tool to slow down spread, the release said. 

Local hospitals are also sounding the alarm that bed capacity could be overwhelmed in a matter of weeks. 

RELATED: Community actions must change now to stop the ‘tidal wave’ of COVID-19 patients pouring into Fox Valley hospitals, health care leaders say

RELATED: ‘I wish they could see how bad things are getting’: As Wisconsin hospitals fill up with COVID patients, front-line workers sound the alarm

In recent weeks, several municipalities in the region have been identified as being among the fastest-growing coronavirus outbreaks in the country, according to a list maintained by the New York Times. The Oshkosh-Neenah area is currently first in the nation, followed by Green Bay and Appleton. 

Much of the eastern part of the state is now classified as having “very high” virus activity by the state health department, which had to create the new category as cases surge throughout the state. 

The alert also reminds community members to physically distance, wear a face mask, wash hands frequently, limit gatherings and self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. 

Contact reporter Madeline Heim at 920-996-7266 or mheim@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @madeline_heim. 

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