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COVID-19 levels increasing this fall


Every fall season brings a host of respiratory illnesses- you’ve always got your colds, flus, RSV.

This year, we also need to be aware of COVID-19.

Cases are up around the state and country.

School is back in full swing, and that means respiratory illnesses like COVID are spreading.

For example, COVID levels are very high in Merrill compared to the past six months, according to wastewater surveillance data.

That said, COVID isn’t considered a pandemic anymore, so we don’t have the same caliber of data collection.

Dr. Ajay Sethi, Professor of Population Health Sciences at UW-Madison, explained that there isn’t a ton of wastewater testing done in the Northwoods, but cases are still increasing.

“The new cases of COVID seems to have been increasing throughout the summer, and certainly began increasing in the month of September when schools reopened for the new academic year,” he said.

Across 17 Aspirus hospitals, cases are up slightly, rising from 8 or 9 to 15 or 16 hospitalized patients, according to the hospital’s spokesperson, Andrew Krauss.

Dr. Sethi says it’s important to be aware of transmission levels in your community to get a better understanding of the precautions you need to take.

“Right now, COVID is spreading, as we kind of expect. I can say, last week, I knew five people at the campus, who are either my students or staff or people I work with, who had COVID. And so you get a sense of, of, of what transmission is like just thinking about what's going on around you. So that situation awareness is very helpful. And when you feel the transmission is increasing, and the surveillance data supports that, it's a good idea to avoid those crowded places, it's a good idea to put on a mask to avoid picking up an infection,” he said.

“I know a lot of people don't wear masks in crowded situations. And you know, that's obviously a risk that they're willing to take and accept. And I'm one of those people. I don't always wear a mask, but sometimes in some situations, I do feel more comfortable doing that. And when I see other people wearing a mask, I respect their choice, because you never know what types of risk people might have just by looking at someone,” said Dr. Sethi.

COVID booster vaccines are now available and recommended for this fall.

“We know that for older adults, the vaccine stands to be very important because they're at the greatest risk for severe disease. With younger ages, there's still benefit as young as six months of age to getting vaccination,” said Dr. Sethi.

If you’re concerned about the booster, talk to your doctor about whether it’s right for you.

“Of all the different [respiratory] infections, COVID is definitely the one that has the most unknowns. It causes a lot of, you know, illness and can be difficult for people who are at risk for hospitalization. And it's just a good reminder that we have to live with COVID at the same time, we ought to respect what COVID can do,” said Dr. Sethi.

In the Northwoods, vaccines are available at multiple locations.

Check out Vaccines.gov for more information.

Hannah Davis-Reid is a WXPR Reporter.
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