Wisconsin officials concerned about spike in COVID-19 cases

Photo by Logan Rude

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – More than 27% of Wisconsin residents have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, but state health officials expressed concern Thursday about a further increase in positive cases, including variants, which led to new travel advisories. during the spring break season and discarding other safeguards.

Over the past seven days, the average number of new COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin was 439 and the percentage of positive tests was 2.5%, compared to 2% two weeks ago. There are now 69 detected cases of the most contagious B117 variant first identified in England, up from 55 last week.

Infection rates have recently risen in some states, including neighboring Michigan and Minnesota, and public health experts warn at every opportunity that relaxation of social distancing and other measures could easily lead to another increase.

“In a way, we are lulled by a sense of security here in Wisconsin because we had such a bad time and just having it bad doesn’t seem too terrible to us,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, undersecretary of state health, during a news conference call on Thursday.

While weekly cases topped 6,000 at the height of the pandemic in mid-November, the current level of around 450 new positives per week is still very high, Willems Van Dijk said.

“We were never at a low level of disease activity,” he said.

Willems Van Dijk cautioned against traveling or engaging in other risky behavior as the state continues to move forward with vaccines. Next week, Wisconsin is scheduled to receive about 35,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in a single injection, he said, which will help jump-start immunization efforts.

“We don’t want to take five steps back just when we’re on the cusp of things getting a lot better,” he said.

More than 2 million people with certain underlying conditions, including being overweight or high blood pressure, are eligible for the vaccine this week. The general public is scheduled to be eligible on May 1. About half of the other states plan to open eligibility to everyone before then.

Wisconsin will need to receive more vaccines than it is currently receiving before that date can be brought forward, Willems Van Dijk said.

“We continue to evaluate this and we will see where we are,” he said. “Once we have confidence in the supply of the vaccine that we are receiving and the timing of the vaccine, we will make the decision and announce it.”

As of Thursday, more than 27% of Wisconsin residents age 16 and older had received at least one dose and nearly 16% were fully vaccinated, according to the state health department. Almost 74% of people over 65 have received at least one dose.

Wisconsin’s fourth community-based coronavirus vaccination clinic will open April 6 in Wausau, Governor Tony Evers announced Thursday.

The clinic at Northcentral Technical College will join previously open community clinics in Janesville, La Crosse and Racine.

“These vaccination clinics continue to serve Wisconsin by giving people more options to get vaccinated,” Evers said in a statement. “And in doing so, we get one step closer to getting back to our way of life in Wisconsin.”

The Wausau clinic will administer at least 400 doses of vaccine per day, with the capacity to go up to 1,000 daily doses, the Evers administration said. The first appointments will be for those on the Marathon County Health Department waiting list for priority patients.

As of Saturday, the Janesville clinic had administered 5,703 doses of vaccines and the La Crosse clinic had administered 2,021 doses, the governor’s office said. Racine’s clinic just opened on Tuesday.

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