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COVID-19 is hitting rural communities and healthcare leaders say more testing could help

COVID-19 is hitting rural communities and healthcare leaders say more testing could help
Posted at 8:22 PM, Nov 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-25 21:22:30-05

WISCONSIN (NBC 26) -- Rural counties across the United States continue to be hotbeds for COVID-19 outbreaks. Right now, the White House's Coronavirus Task Force says the nation's top ten counties, with the highest number of cases per capita, are in non-metro areas.

Some local healthcare leaders from Prevea and Bellin Health, encourage residents from rural communities in Northeast Wisconsin to get more testing to slow the COVID-19 trend.

According to the White House's Coronavirus Task Force, non-metro areas with less than 50-thousand people are seeing some of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19 in the nation. Julie Bieber, the Vice President of the Bellin Health Oconto Hospital says many rural communities in Northeast Wisconsin are seeing more positive cases of COVID-19.

"We're not free. Just because we live in a rural community and there are less people, or there is more space... We definitely are seeing an increase in the number of patients coming through that are positive."

Bieber is seeing the uptick in cases first hand. She says too many folks with symptoms associated with the sniffles, the flu, or just a case of "it's that time of the year," are turning out to be COVID-19 positive.

"I think it's really important for people to understand those are symptoms of COVID and we want to make sure that they get in to get tested."

At the beginning of the pandemic, rural testing sites were less common. But in the time since March, they have popped up in Oconto Falls, Peshtigo, Kewaunee, Marinette, and multiple other locations near rural communities across Northeast Wisconsin.

Dr. Ashok Rai, the President and CEO of Prevea says it's been a continued effort to make more testing accessible to folks located in rural areas in Northeast Wisconsin.

"You have to test to be able to control this virus. You have to know who's positive to be able to isolate them."

And while there is still work to be done, in continuing to give more people access to testing in rural areas, Dr. Rai says Prevea's multiple COVID-19 testing sites in Northeast Wisconsin can help in making a dent in positive cases within a community.

"We've tried to create little mini-centers in (WI) rural areas, where testing has been available throughout the summer. But that story is not consistent across the state and across America right now."

To find a COVID-19 testing site near you both Prevea Health and Bellin Health have multiple, free testing site locations stretched across Northeast Wisconsin.