Novel coronavirus SARS CoV2, which causes COVID-19. Meanwhile, new COVID mutations called variants are now spreading across the U.S., including the Delta variant. Microphotography by National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
COVID-19 infection rates in Wisconsin are now higher than at any time since the delta variant hit in September and October, according to state health department officials.
At a Wednesday afternoon briefing on the rise in cases, Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) officials said most Wisconsin counties are experiencing high transmission rates. “We expect to see a number of counties move into the critically high area today,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer at DHS.
With the 26 Wisconsin residents who died today, total confirmed deaths in the state from COVID-19 have now reached 8,812, Westergaard reported.
“Many of our hospitals are operating at their full capacity, or will be at their capacity in the near future,” he added, putting a strain on the system of care for all patients.
As COVID-19 transmission rates accelerate, Westergaard said, “We need everyone who’s not vaccinated to get the COVID-19 vaccine, saying it “provides the best protection against serious illness, hospitalization, and death.”
Vaccinations have raised hopes that there won’t be another surge in the pandemic like the one last winter. But the trend from last week to this week, Westergaard said, “is very, very concerning and something that we need to watch very closely, because the slope of the curve looks similar to what we saw last fall.”
Other concerning factors include the uptick in flu this year and a shortage of health care workers in hospitals.
“The biggest tragedy that we in our state and our system will need to try to prevent is having our capacity stretched so thin that we can’t save lives that we normally would be able to save,” Westergaard said. “And that’s why we need everyone’s support to flatten the curve as much as we can.” He urged Wisconsinites to get vaccinated, including getting a booster vaccine for COVID-19 as well as a flu shot and to wear masks indoors.
In answer to a question from a Green Bay reporter about Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has challenged the scientific consensus concerning the pandemic, refused to get vaccinated and contracted COVID-19, Westergaard pointed out that people who are not fully vaccinated have a 15 times greater risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19.
“Getting vaccinated is the best decision you can make for your individual health and also to contribute to slowing the transmission of COVID-19 in the community,” Westergaard said.
Over the upcoming holidays, he advised Wisconsinites to keep gatherings small, wear masks if you can’t social distance, get vaccinated and avoid gatherings if you have symptoms.
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