Dane County health officials report COVID-19 is reaching all ages and people who were not previously at risk for contracting the virus.

As of March 23, 70 Dane County residents were positive out of the 1,800 people tested for COVID-19, Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC) said at a Monday press conference.

Half of the positives were people age 20-44. A quarter of those who tested positive had no known risk factors, with no exposure through travel or health care or someone who had COVID-19. Heinrich said those numbers show that community spread is happening.

“It is important to know that we are seeing people of all age groups test positive,” Heinrich said. “And everyone needs to take protective measures to themselves and their families safe.”

She said Dane County has learned from other communities that showed rapid increases in illnesses and implemented restrictive orders sooner than later to slow the spread.

Gov. Tony Evers ordered non-essential businesses to close and residents to shelter-in-place starting on March 24. More details are expected on Tuesday.

Dane County officials approved of the Evers’ newest restrictions.

“If we don’t prevent people from spreading COVID-19 to one another our health care systems will be overwhelmed,” Heinrich said. “There may not be a hospital bed for all the people who need one, whether COVID-19 or other illnesses, whether it’s your mother, grandfather, friend or neighbor.”

At Monday’s press conference, Parisi said Evers informed officials that even stricter guidelines are likely to go into effect soon but people will still have access to essential services.

“You will always be able to go to the grocery store, the pharmacy, the doctor, take your pet to the vet, get your broken furnace fixed. That will not change,” Parisi said. “You don’t need, or will ever need to buy three months worth of groceries.”

Parisi said supply chains are strong and encouraged people not to hoard food and supplies that will limit access for their neighbors.

He said the county’s focus has been on people who are in vulnerable situations with housing, food and other immediate needs.

The Alliant Energy Center has been set up as a food packaging center for Second Harvest Foodbank and other agencies.

Local churches and non-profit organizations have also partnered to get food to seniors and families in need.

The county and the City of Madison have secured 100 hotel rooms for the homeless, he said.

Parisi asked people to cooperate with the COVID-19 guidelines that are expected over the next few months ahead.

“It will much less challenging if we go through this as a community and remember that we are all on the same team,” Parisi said. “We will eventually be on the other side of this and our journey there will soften greatly if we realize that we are all in this together.”

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