Saturday, January 8, 2022

COVID at record heights in Wisconsin, and it's the volume that's the problem

No matter how you slice it, the number of people in Wisconsin testing positive for the coronavirus is at unprecedented levels.
COVID-19 case counts reached record highs again Friday as the omicron variant continues to surge across the state, according to state Department of Health Services data.

The one-day case count increased to a record high of 12,293 cases, while the seven-day average increased to 7,637 cases — more than double the amount of cases just a month ago.
And combined with previous cases that were already being treated, it means that we are also seeing record numbers of COVID-related hospitalizations.
According to Wisconsin Hospital Association data, 2,109 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 — the highest number of people admitted since November 2020.
In looking at where cases are, the big change under the now-dominant Omnicron variant has been that highly-vaccinated, urbanized areas seem to be getting more cases than the rural, less-vaccinated areas that wrre seeing higher numbers of cases under Delta.

That indicates that the original set of vaccinations may be wearing off over time, or not as effective against Omnicron.

Information from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services also backs up the theory that vaccine effectiveness is fading, particularly when you look at infections among children. Those kids ages 14-17 (in green) were able to be vaccinated before school started this year, and had much lower levels of cases than their younger, school-aged counterparts (age 4-8 in orange and 9-13 in yellow). Then Omnicron broke out in December, and you can also see that kids under 3 years of age (in light blue) have had a significant jump in cases.

But it's not just kids, as DHS notes that all age-groups saw their number of cases spike up in December, especially among those ages 35-44 (in light green) and 25-34 (in red), who were less likely to have been boosted than older Wisconsinites at the time.

That being said, it does seem that being vaxxed and especially boosted does still make it less likely you'll come down with COVID, But the gap has been narrowed quite a bit with Omnicron's emergence. At least that's what the early data says in Dane County, which has the highest % of its people vaxxed and boosted in Wisconsin, and offers a decent sample size. (click for clearer picture)

I think this thread by Dr. Ashish Jha at Brown University Medical School sums up the situation well.

Yes, Omnicron isn't as likely to leave to severe illness for individuals as Delta did, especially if someone is vaxxed/boosted. Which means that people in less-vulnerable demographics are going to end up relatively OK (although you still wouldn't want to get it). But given the large number of people that are getting infected, it'll still overload hospitals and might well shut more businesses/schools due to a lack of staff. And those disparities in outcomes will likely become obvious in the next few weeks.

Not great, folks. Not great. I've been limiting my exposure more in 2022 than I was in the last 2 months of 2021, and while I won't go into 2020-style shutdown mode, I'm definitely going to be more aware of my surroundings in coming weeks, even in heavily vaxxed/masked Madison.


  1. Excellent analysis. As a retired teacher, I have quit substitute teaching during this surge, but feel a lot of empathy for the teachers left in the classroom. After a decade of defunding Wisconsin's public schools to the point of a severe teacher shortage, doubly sad to see the Wisconsin GQP "weaponizing" this Omicron virus surge as another reason to rip teachers in this state. Just despicable, but the new norm in the Republican fascist dictatorship of the Midwest-Wisconsin.

  2. It's spelled OMICRON, not 'OMNICRON,' you mediocre state employee. LOLZ!!!

    1. Duly noted. I guess you "owned me", eh?

      Reminds me of the kids I taught in high school back in the day. You know, the peak years of your life.

      LOLZ! And watch out for the OMIcron this week!