Board of Health hears County COVID status update

The Marquette County Board of Health met October 5th, hearing lots of updates on the status of COVID-19 in Marquette County from Health Director Jayme Sopha.

Sopha showed illustrations from the Wisconsin Department of Health and national CDC numbers to the committee saying, “The national climate isn’t all that great,” with most of the nation colored in red at this time. “Wisconsin isn’t sitting all that pretty either,” she reported, showing illustrations with counties colored black (very high) or red (critically high). She said counties surrounding Marquette were in critically high status, while Marquette was close behind in high transmission status.

The Delta variant is accounting for the majority of the variants found currently in the disease. About 10.8% of Marquette County’s positive test results are being sequenced to determine the variant behind them, which Sopha said is a very high number compared to other counties. “We gives a better sense of what’s going on in our county than anybody else,” as a result, she said.

Sopha showed a graph that shows the huge increase in cases last year from September through the holiday season and said they are now starting to see that increase again, along with an increase in deaths.

From August to September this year, the county saw a 121 case increase, including positive and probable cases. From September to October, that number rose to 270.

Those in isolation (currently sick) were 5 at the beginning of August, 42 in early September, and 85 in early October. The number of hospitalizations is also on the increase with 95 at the beginning of August plus 19 probable cases, rising up to 118 at the beginning of October, plus 19 probable cases.

The county saw 23 deaths from confirmed cases and 5 from probable causes as of August 8th. There have been 2 deaths from confirmed cases since then, with 3 or 4 more still under investigation for COVID, Sopha reported.

“The Delta variant is sweeping through. It is more virulent, it is more deadly. We are starting to see that trend,” she said. She also told the group that immunizations continue to be important. “Yes, we do see people that are getting sick who have been vaccinated, yes we have seen people who have been vaccinated being hospitalized,” Sopha said. However, looking at charts that compare case rates between fully vaccinated and not full vaccinated people, “it’s not even comparable,” she reported.

Sopha showed national charts that said for fully vaccinated people, COVID is affecting 360.7 people per 100,000 population, with 11.5 hospitalizations and 1.1 deaths per 100,000. However, for not-fully vaccinated people, those numbers are at 1,413.7 cases per 100,000 population, with 98.5 hospitalizations and 11.7 deaths per 100,000.

“It’s not to say that bad things can’t happen, it’s not to say that someone couldn’t pass, but in general the people who are sick that are vaccinated are not as sick,” she said, interpreting that it means the vaccine is working.

Looking a vaccination numbers, Sopha reported that in Wisconsin, 54% of people are fully vaccinated. Among seniors 65+, that number is at 83.5%. However, here in Marquette County, numbers are lower, standing at 46.5% of people who are fully vaccinated and 76.2% among the 65+ population. Sopha said there has been a steady increase of about 2% per month here in the county, as well as a lot of people coming in to receive the booster.

Taking a look at schools, she said a new CDC study looking at schools in two Arizona counties from July to August shows that schools without masking requirements at the beginning of the year had 3 1/2 times more outbreaks than schools that had masking requirement to start the year.

Locally, Sopha said COVID is sweeping the schools in a “pretty significant way.” She said the previous week saw 90 elementary student quarantined in the Westfield district, adding, “Montello is feeling overwhelmed as well.”

“Last year we had all the protocols in place (masking, distancing, remote learning, etc.) but last year the strain that was out there was primarily impacting the elderly. This particular strain seems to be impacting kids at a much higher rate,” Sopha observed. She also noted that people who are passing away have been younger, with recent deaths of someone in their early 30s and another in their early 50s. “Previous to Delta, people were primarily 60 and older,” she said.

Both school districts enacted universal masking requirements in their buildings for periods of time recently, Westfield in late September and Montello this week. Sopha said a lot of kids are having to isolate with illness that might be colds or flu, rather than COVID.

Board member Abby Swan expressed her concern for kids who are quarantined but do not have COVID themselves, as to whether they are getting access to learning during that time. She asked Sopha for a breakdown of ages for COVID cases in the county.

She said they are hoping the younger population will become eligible for vaccination starting the end of October and are working with their local school partners to make sure they have access to clinics for those.

She also briefly touched on reports of early trends that are looking at the incidents of diabetes following a COVID infection and a large study regarding masking being done in Bangladesh.

Sopha reminded the group that Marquette County Health Department has extensive COVID-19 information on the county website ( including vaccination clinic information and booster availability.