Couples maintain physical distance while watching a sunset at the Sister Bay beach on Friday, Sept. 28, 2020. Photo by Solomon Lindenberg.

The surge in Door County’s COVID-19 cases this month has included a significant level of community spread, meaning people who do not know where they came into contact with the virus, county Public Health officer Susan Powers said this week.

“There is a fair number that just say, ‘I have no idea where I came in contact with this, and I’ve been really careful,’” Powers said.

The number of active cases in the county has increased sharply over the past few weeks. It has gone from 4 on Aug. 28, which tied the lowest level on record, to 54 as of Friday, the highest level on record. That’s more than double the previous peak of 26 active cases on July 16.

Over the same time period, the total number of cases in the county has increased from 129 on Aug. 28 to 217 as of Friday.

Many recent cases also have been tied to private gatherings among families or friends, such as birthday parties and weddings, Powers said. There have been some cases at workplaces and schools – though those usually have not spread to more than a few other people – and the county has seen some cases of COVID-19 spread within households, she said.

“People are gathering more, because they’ve waited, they’ve waited for months, to get together with family,” Powers said.

She cautioned against the belief that it’s inherently safe to see close friends or family members in person.

“Somehow there’s a feeling that when someone is a good friend, there’s a safety level,” Powers said. “Because you know someone well, doesn’t mean they don’t have COVID.”

The recent cases generally are very mild, Powers said.

At a meeting of the Door County Board of Supervisors’ health and human services committee meeting Monday, Dr. James Heise, the Door County Medical Center’s chief medical officer, said there were no current hospitalizations at the Medical Center due to COVID-19. Heise is a member of the committee.

Door County’s surge in cases reflects a trend both statewide and in neighboring counties, Powers said.

“What I’m hearing from my counterparts across the northeast region is we’re all having the same challenges,” she told the committee Monday. “People are tired of this, they just want to go out and do things. They don’t want to believe there’s any risk.”