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Wisconsin COVID cases rising but there’s room for optimism

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Department of Health Services

COVID-19 case are rising once again in Wisconsin, but there is reason for optimism.

Right now, the state is averaging more than 1,100 cases a day.

That’s more than three times the number of cases we were seeing a month ago, but it’s still far below anything we were seeing with Omicron surge this winter.

Dr. Ryan Westergaard is the state’s Chief Medical Officer. He says we’re seeing a subvariant of Omicron making its way through the U.S.

“Compared to what we were experiencing in January, it’s not as high activity. So the risk of becoming infected is not as high just being out in general community settings, but it’s higher than it was several weeks ago,” said Westergaard.

This variant of COVID was the one going through Europe several months ago. Health officials had expected it in the U.S. sooner.

Westergaard says there could be a couple reasons for the delay, one being the high natural immunity in the U.S. after the Omicron surge.

The CDC is reporting roughly 60% of the population had COVID after that surge.

Westergaard thinks that might be on the low side since some COVID cases go unreported.

But we could also be seeing a rise in cases now because that natural immunity is wearing off.

“We had so much activity level in January that the whole population has a level of immunity. It’s now starting to wear off as it does after four to five months,” said Westergaard.

The Department of Health Services encourages people to vaccinated, including boosters, for the best immunity.

CDC COVID community levels are still low in the Northwoods and throughout most of Wisconsin. Those levels are dependent on the number of cases as well as hospitalizations in a region.

This surge also doesn’t appear to be causing as severe of illness in as many people.

Hospitalizations have remained fairly steady recently ranging between 150 and 200 people hospitalized per day with COVID.

“I think we have reason for optimism that the risk for severe disease on a large scale is lower than it’s ever been,” said Westergaard.

Westergaard points to a couple of reasons for that.

One being the high number of people that are vaccinated.

More than 64% of the state’s population has at least one dose. 34% has a booster.

There’s a large portion of the population with some level of natural immunity.

There’s also more drug treatment options available to prevent severe illness.

While that may mean you don’t have to be overly concerned about COVID right now, Westergaard says you should still be taking precautions.

“It’s important to know that there are individuals that are highly vulnerable. It’s useful for all of us to consider that we have some responsibility to protect others,” said Westergaard.

Westergaard encourages people who feel sick to stay and get tested to help ensure you’re not accidentally spreading the virus.

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