Details on COVID-19 testing and availability of treatment in area health-care facilities was presented to the Vilas County Board last week by county public health Director Laurel Dreger, with additional input from Dr. Michael Schaars of Marshfield Clinic in Minocqua.

Officials said there were about 30 counties in Wisconsin where people tested positive for COVID-19, with three cases each in both Vilas and Oneida counties.

“In Vilas, there have been 22 persons tested with 12 being negative and 10 pending,” Dreger told the board last Tuesday. “It can take six to seven days for results. Those tested first are health-care workers.” 

When asked who a person should go to if they think they may be infected, Dreger said their health-care provider.

Schaars indicated any person requiring hospitalization is tested, but Ascension Eagle River Hospital is not one that takes people because they have no ventilators. There are only five ventilators at Howard Young Medical Center and two at Marshfield Clinic in Minocqua.

“What is really needed are masks, gloves, eye protection and gowns that are all in short supply,” said Schaars.

He said the shortage of masks has changed the way they are being used in medical facilities.

“In the past, we would use a mask one time to see one patient and throw it away, using another mask for the next patient,” Schaars said. “We then went to using the same mask all day and many (health workers) are keeping them one week. If they have direct patient contact within 6 feet they get a mask, but patients have to provide for their own protection; no masks are given to them.”

Asked by Supervisor Steve Doyen if a person recovers from COVID-19, are they at risk to get it again, Schaars replied, “We just don’t know if they have antibody protections like you would have with measles.”

Asked about vaccine development, Dr. Schaars said the process takes about 18 months and he wanted to emphasize social distancing for all citizens.

“There will be a surge in cases for a short period of time, but social distancing can flatten the curve, which is important since we have 800,000 hospital beds for an anticipated 35 million that will get sick,” he said.

Schaars said Marshfield Clinic has canceled all nonemergency surgeries, which account for 70% to 80% of their surgeries.

County Board Chairman Ron DeBruyne stated, “This is no joke, our health-care system is fragile, and this has been a learning experience for me as board chairman.”

The county board adopted a resolution declaring an emergency in the county.