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Omicron isn't in Wisconsin yet, but Delta picks up pace

Percent Positive by Test Dashboard.png
Wisconsin Department of Health Services
Percent of positive COVID tests as of December 2, 2021

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has not been found in Wisconsin yet, but it could be soon.

Scientists are actively searching for the variant by sequencing PCR tests, says Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the chief medical officer of the Department of Health Services Bureau of Communicable Diseases.

But there’s a lag between the time when someone gets tested and when the sequencing results of that test become available.

“So it’s possible, perhaps likely, the Omicron variant is circling more widely in the United States,” Dr. Westergaard says.

In the meantime, the Delta variant remains the most common variant in the state.

It’s found in more than 99 percent of virus samples that DHS lab partners evaluate, and it’s spreading quickly.

The state is adding thousands of new COVID cases every day, at a pace that hasn’t been seen since a year ago.

However, unlike in December of 2020, patients coming into hospitals this year tend to be younger and sicker and they have to stay in the hospital longer.

“It’s a different version of COVID-19 this November, December than it was last year,” says Dr. Ashok Rai, the President and CEO of Prevea Health. “Delta definitely acts differently. Our patient population is different. Our most vulnerable are protected, which means the majority of what we’re seeing is unvaccinated individuals get very, very sick.”

More patients needed a ventilator to breathe just a few days ago, on November 30, than on any other day during the pandemic.

That’s putting a strain on the state’s healthcare systems.

Dr. Rai says about 20 percent of beds in his system’s hospitals are occupied with patients being treated for COVID or its long-term effects.

On a single day, one of those hospitals had to turn down 28 patients, including three stroke victims. Those families had to seek care hundreds of miles away.

“This wouldn’t happen if we had those beds and staff available to take care of them, which are now being occupied by COVID patients,” Dr. Rai says.

DHS officials say the best way to stop the spread of COVID and stay healthy is to get vaccinated.

Erin Gottsacker joined WXPR in December 2020. As a Morning Edition host and reporter, Erin reports on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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