Monday, May 16, 2022

Given increasing COVID, is Wisconsin heading toward NYC-type COVID advisories?

Unlike what we were seeing this time last year, COVID cases continue to march higher, even as we warm into Spring and late Summmer. And the country's largest city is now asking people to return to more active mitigation.

WHEREAS, on May 16, 2022 New York City is approaching “high” level of COVID-19 alert which represents high community spread and increasing pressure on the health care system. This is on the basis of three CDC COVID-19 community level indicators: new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days, new admissions with COVID-19 per 100,000 people in the last seven days and percent of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients....

All individuals, regardless of vaccination status or past COVID-19 infection, should wear a mask at all times when indoors and in a public setting, including at groceries, building lobbies, offices, stores, and other common or shared spaces where individuals may interact such as restrooms, hallways, elevators, and meeting rooms. This is particularly important in settings with people who may not be vaccinated or consistently wear masks, or where ventilation is poor. This advisory applies to all individuals in New York City over the age of two years who can medically tolerate wearing a mask.
And we are also seeing this happen in Wisconsin, where we are averaging more than 2,000 new cases a day (and those are the cases reported to the Department of Health Services, people who test positive at home and never report it likely are generally not included in this figure). And with COVID continuing to be more widespread, a few counties have now reached the levels that NYC is trying to avoid.
Seven Wisconsin counties have high COVID-19 community levels, meaning residents should again wear masks in public indoor settings, regardless of whether they are vaccinated, health officials said Monday.

The counties with high rates are Barron and Rusk in the northwestern part of the state; La Crosse County and neighboring Monroe and Vernon counties; and Kenosha and Racine counties in southeastern Wisconsin…..

As of Friday, the state had a daily average of 2,095 reported cases of COVID-19, the highest since Feb. 11. There have been major increases recently in coronavirus levels in wastewater in Eau Claire, Janesville, Kenosha, La Crosse, Lodi and Oregon, among other cities. Since COVID-19 testing has declined and results of increasingly used home tests typically aren't officially reported, health officials are looking at sewage as another indicator of coronavirus spread.

The counties in that high, orange category are in that situation due to increased hospitalization to the level of 1 in 10,000 over the last week. But it's highly-vaccinated Dane County that has the highest rate of new COVID cases in the state (nearing 50 per 10,000 residents over the last week). That's pretty darn demoralizing, but it does seem that the high level of boosters here in the Madison area is why we haven't gone into the orange zone.

The recent increase in COVID cases has not translated to higher deaths in Wisconsin as of this time, even with a slight bump up at the start of May. There has not been a day with more than 5 deaths in more than a month, well below what we were seeing earlier in 2022, and half the level we had this time last year.

It's also worth mentioning that we are under fewer (and basically no) restrictions at this time for both masking and capacity, other than a few school districts. So it's not surprising that we would have more cases. But it's still not a good situation, and while the weather has improved allowing for more outdoor activities, it still seems we have to be vigilant. And given that college graduations, Memorial Day travel and other mass gatherings are in store, we need to nip this in the bud quickly. If not, I have worries that there will be places in Wisconsin that will join New York City in recommending masking and other mitigations. And a lot of people really won't want to hear that.

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