Janel Heinrich speaking at press conferenceYesterday, our Director, Janel Heinrich participated in a press conference with the City of Madison Mayor and Dane County Executive. Here are her remarks. 

These are unprecedented times. We are just one of countless communities across the globe reeling from the impacts of COVID-19. But I am proud of, and inspired by, the strength and creativity I have seen throughout Madison and Dane County as people and organizations coalesce and support one another, particularly those who need the most during this difficult time.

Over the past ten days, Public Health Madison & Dane County and Governor Evers have issued orders to require social distancing in our community. Some might wonder, why ask for so much of people? What I can tell you is that the things we are asking you to do: stay home, cover your cough, limit contact with others - are the things we have to do to keep all of us from getting sick.

If we don’t prevent people from spreading COVID-19 to one another, our health care systems will become overwhelmed. There may not be a hospital bed for all the people who need it, whether for COVID-19 or for other illnesses. Whether it’s my mother, or your grandfather, or a neighbor or friend, we need to take collective action to protect ourselves and each other.

Over 1,800 tests have been run in Dane County. So far, 70 have come back positive. And there are likely many other positives in our community that are not being tested. Over half of people with a positive test are in the 20 to 44 age group. This is likely due to the fact that many tests early on were from travelers, most of whom were working age adults.

We’ll continue to look at these numbers, and all of the data available to us. It’s important to know that we’re seeing people from all age groups test positive and everyone needs to take protective measures to keep themselves and their families safe.

Emphasizing this is the fact that, about a quarter of folks with positive tests have no known risk factor. This means they had no known exposure to someone with a positive test, no travel history, and no healthcare exposure. This proportion is increasing. This tells us that community spread is happening and it reinforces why it is important to stay home to reduce the opportunity for community spread. Every person who stays home makes it more difficult for COVID-19 to spread.

When we look at how Dane County data compares to places that saw COVID-19 earlier, we see similar patterns—steady increases in identifying people with COVID-19 as testing ramps up. What is different is that Dane County has been able to learn from these other places and implemented orders sooner rather than later. We are hopeful that putting these measures in place sooner than other communities who experienced rapid increases in illness will have a positive impact, but it will take a while to see the results.

In looking at our contact investigations, those who have tested positive for the virus have increasingly fewer high risk contacts outside the home as time goes on. This is promising, and we can continue to reduce that risk by implementing stronger orders such as the one the Governor will be releasing later this week.

The data are constantly changing, and we are committed to keeping the public up to date with the latest data through Public Health’s website and social media channels. We are working to develop a data dashboard with more real-time data and will let you know as soon as it’s live.

Working together is the only way to contain this virus and protect ourselves and our loved ones. We can, and we will, fight this together.

Read remarks from Satya Rhodes-Conway, City of Madison Mayor
Watch the press conference 

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