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Wisconsin hits another COVID record, National Guard training soldiers to assist hospitals and nursing homes

Wisconsin National Guard
National Guard members assist with COVID testing.

It’s another record day for COVID cases in Wisconsin.

The State Department of Health Services is reporting more than 13,000 new COVID-19 cases Thursday.

The state is averaging nearly 10,000 new cases a day.

DHS Secretary Designee Karen Timberlake says even though the recommendations to stop the spread is the same, she’s asking people to hear them different.

“Although the good news is that early research is showing omicron to be less severe than earlier strains of the virus for many people, especially for vaccinated and boosted people, the risk to our community has never been more dire,” said Timberlake.

The Northwoods is also seeing a sharp increase in cases.

Vilas and Lincoln counties are each reporting more than 200 new COVID cases in the last week. Oneida County has reported more than 400 new cases in that time frame.

Hospital systems throughout the state are still stressed.

As of Tuesday, 2,278 people were hospitalized because of the virus, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

That’s more than any other point during pandemic.

The state is now training National Guard Members as nursing assistants to help fill staffing shortages at nursing homes and hospitals.

“For now, we’re making sure we can get people out and into the field doing the work that that these skilled nursing facilities need them to do, so that hospitals have more places that they can be discharging people and free up additional hospital beds for people who truly need hospital-level care,” said Timberlake.

About 50 soldiers were deployed to six nursing homes during the past week.

Another 80 soldiers who started training this week will deploy at the end of January. 80 soldiers will begin training in early February and deploy by the end of that month.

Schools & COVID

Kids and teens under 18 make up the largest age group testing positive for COVID-19 right now.

Preliminary data from the Department of Health Services shows more than 14,000 Wisconsinites under 18 tested positive for COVID last week.

The next highest age group was 25 to 34-year-olds with 10,000 new cases last week.

Governor Tony Evers is urging districts to use every resource possible to prevent the spread of the virus within Schools.

“We want our kids to be in the classroom. And just as we have since the beginning of the pandemic, my administration continues to work to provide the necessary support and resources for our kids and our educators and districts with the things they need to be safe,” said Evers.

According to Timberlake, 78% of public schools in the state use the testing program.

Evers urges more schools to sign up for the testing program, require masks, and hold vaccine and booster clinics.

“Schools are uniquely positioned to help educate families about the benefits of the vaccine as well as meet kids and parents where they are and in their own neighborhood,” said Evers.

No county in the Northwoods has reached the 50% mark of getting kids age 12 to 17 vaccinated.

It’s even fewer in the 5- to 11-year-old age group.

All counties in the area have 15% or less in that age group vaccinated.

This week has seen several schools in the Northwoods switch to virtual learning. They include Crandon, Minocqua J1, and Watersmeet Township districts.

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