Sunday, May 2, 2021

Even as vaccinations hit new milestones, COVID still not done with Wisconsin

The good news for Wisconsin's battle with COVID-19 is that vaccinations are continuing, and new benchmarks are being reached.

Indeed, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services verified that 2 million figure on Sunday. We're also seeing some individual counties reaching milestones, as Door County became the first Wisconsin county to have 1/2 of their total population be fully vaccinated, and Dane County became the first county to have 60% of its residents get at least one dose of the vaccine.

But what's not so good is that the amount of vaccinations in Wisconsin have gone down in each of the last 3 weeks, and is now back at levels that we had in February.

Which has to make you worry if we are reaching a point of saturation that is well below the 65% of total population (and 80% of the 16+ population that can be vaccinated) that we need to get to herd immunity. Or if we end up with a balkanized state where places like Dane, Door and Bayfield Counties have high rates of vaccination and herd immunity, but other areas are still seeing significant COVID breakouts and are nowhere near mass immunity.

Because while vaccinations continue, so do new COVID infections. We had a slight rises in cases last week, from 4,343 to 4,539, and that's at a rate that is well above what we were seeing 2 months ago.

And while it's good to see that more counties in Wisconsin are reporting shrinking numbers of cases, the counties in anti-vax and anti-mask Congresman Tom Tiffany's district in Northern and Western Wisconsin have been getting the worst of it, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Worse, deaths from COVID in Wisconsin are also back on the rise. Some of this is skewed by a "catch-up" report of 34 deaths on Wednesday, but even without that, it's the largest number of reported fatalities from virus since mid-March.

This continues to indicate that the trend in deaths lag the trend in new cases by 4-6 weeks. So unless we start bringing the case totals down again in the near future, we might expect deaths to remain at the elevated levels of April for a bit.

So while things are certainly better than they looked 3 months ago, there does appear to be some plateuing when it comes to Wisconsin's COVID situation. And while the relaxing of capacity controls and 80 degrees in May allows us to do things that feel more normal, we still cannot operate in a "party like it's 2019" mentality, where we don't mask up, and aren't at least cogniziant of our risk factors. Or else we risk stagnating and having a Summer and Fall that is more limited than it should be.

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