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Wisconsin Among Top States in U.S. for Vaccine Rollout as COVID-19 Cases Drop but Remain High

Wisconsin DHS

For the first time since early September, the 7-day average in Wisconsin has dropped below 1,000.

The Department of Health Services is reporting 681 new covid-19 cases Tuesday and 39 more deaths.

While it’s good cases are dropping, state health officials say it’s still too high.

During a state update Tuesday, DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said following COVID-19 safety guidelines are more important than ever.

“We face the possibility of increased transmission with the emergence with COVID-19 variants including those, including those recently identified in Wisconsin,” said Willems Van Dijk.

A case of a new variant first found in England was just found in Waukesha County. This is the second one found in Wisconsin.

COVID-19 cases have been on the decline since they peaked in November aside from a slight bump after the New Year.

Chief Medical Officer Ryan Westergaard said it’s not just one factor driving case numbers down. He says it’s likely a combination of people getting immunized, people forming healthy habitats and local contact tracing.

“One of the reasons I think our November wave was so terrible and so deadly was that the epidemic grew quickly that local health departments ability to identify cases, do contact tracing and reach out to contacts and notify them they were exposed was completely overwhelmed,” said Westergaard.

Westergaard said now the state has built up better capacity for contact tracing.

Credit Wisconsin DHS

On the vaccine front, Wisconsin is now among the tops states when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine rollout efficiency.

The state has now administered more than 793,000 doses of the vaccine. 174,000 of those are people who have gotten both doses.

Willems Van Dijk said that’s great news and shows that Wisconsin’s vaccine system works, but she also urges caution.

“We might go up and we might go down a bit in state rankings, but our goal and what we have focused on since the beginning is getting as many shots into arms as quickly, as safely, and as equitably as possible,” said Willems Van Dijk.

The equitable part has been more of a challenge lately.

Willems Van Dijk said DHS is looking not only at the capacity of a vaccine administer when filling vaccine requests. It’s also looking at it geographically.

“What we realized is some communities where there were lots of vaccinators, they may be receiving a disproportionate number of vaccines. Beginning several weeks ago we also added a population factor into our formula,” said Willems Van Djik.

Willems Van Dijk said that the allocation from the federal government has increased slightly.

She said Wisconsin is still on track to enter the next phase in March, though that could change if allocation drops.

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