And Then There Were Four: WI Counties Without Positive Cases

And no one is totally sure why. A combination of luck, rural life, lack of testing, or asymptomatic residents. It seems most health experts thing that COVID-19 is present statewide…but some rural areas are lucky to not develop a hot spot. This time last week there were six counties…now four.

Lincoln County confirmed its first case of coronavirus Friday, more than a month after Wisconsin’s first safer-at-home order took effect in late March.

Tuesday, Forest County reported its first case, joining 67 other Wisconsin counties on the coronavirus map.

The four survivors? “Taylor, Langlade, Forest, Pepin and Burnett counties still had not confirmed any cases as of Monday, even as cases statewide surpassed 8,000.”

There are a few different factors that could contribute to the lack of cases in those counties, said Malia Jones, an assistant scientist in health geography at the Applied Population Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Jones studies how infectious diseases spread.

While more obvious factors, such as low population density and low testing numbers, can contribute to a small or nonexistent amount of confirmed cases, some of it could simply be luck, she said.

The lower population density in northern Wisconsin could be a factor, she said, because the closer contact people have, the more opportunity there is for the coronavirus to spread.

As Merrill Mayor Derek Woellner put it: “A good portion of the population lives in the country out at the end of dead-end road, and they like it that way. They’re used to only coming into town once a week.

“If you look at Lincoln County, that makes sense,” Woellner said. “In the city of Merrill, we’re assuming the virus is here and it just isn’t exploding at the moment.”

If there were a large outbreak in these counties, we likely would know about it, Jones said, because more people would be in the hospital. In all likelihood, the counties have a handful of missed cases rather than a missed outbreak, she said.

So, I have a family member with vacation property in one of the golden counties. It’s not being used right now…so it seems to me that I should pack my bags and hide out there until this ‘blows over’! There’s no internet though…so I will miss our chats! Stay safe!!


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