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COVID-19 has impacted our lives for a year now.We've lost loved ones, found a new appreciation for the outdoors, and worked through the struggles of a more virtual and remote lifestyle.Businesses learned to adapt, the government went back and forth on restrictions, and we're in the middle of one of the greatest vaccination efforts of our lifetime. WXPR spoke with business owners, tribal leaders, medical experts, and people whose lives have been upended by the pandemic. Follow this link to listen to the special report.

Wisconsin Opens COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline as More Doses Become Available

Wisconsin DHS

People in Wisconsin can now call a hotline to get answers to any questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

The hotline workers can answer questions about where to get the vaccine, assist with registration, and answer medical questions about it.

The number for the hotline is (844) 684-1064. People can call between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

The Department of Health Services hopes this will help people, especially those that lack a good internet connection.

“Often times when you open hotlines like this you’re getting tens of thousands of calls so we wanted to with organizations that are professionals at this. It’s actually staff by two organizations,” DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk.

One of the things the hotline can help with is walking people through the state vaccine registry system.

The launch of the system was slightly delayed as health departments worked through the kinks with Microsoft.

“This brief delay was because we’re working with Microsoft to improve the vaccine registry user experience for anyone registering and to ensure that the waitlist functionality was working correctly for vaccine providers,” said Willems Van Dijk.

Oneida County is testing vaccine registry right now.  It should be available soon.

More than one and a half million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Wisconsin. More people per capita have been vaccinated in Wisconsin compared to any other Great Lakes state.

DHS said with the new vaccine availability and increased supply it will be able to make major progress this month.

“After reviewing plans submitted by local health departments and school districts, we will be able to meet everyone’s first request, meaning that the majority of our teachers and K-12 staff will be able to get vaccinated this month,” said Willems Van Dijk.

The good news on the vaccine front, comes with a warning.

While COVID-19 cases are declining, the state is seeing more cases of the variant that has been known to cause more rapid spread of the virus.

Willems Van Dijk is urging people not to drop their guard especially with the end in sight.

“I know we’re all tempted to just be done, right? Spring is coming. It’s been a year of coping with COVID-19. We are sick of staying home. We are sick of isolation. We are sick of wearing masks. We are sick of physical distancing. I know that. I know that. But were just not quite ready to let go of those protective behaviors,” said Willems Van Dijk.

There’s been 19 confirmed cases of the variant in Wisconsin and not all tests are checked for the variants so there are likely more cases.

Willems Van Dijk asks people to keep any gatherings outside and to stick with safety measures a while longer.

“We just need a couple more months to bring up vaccine supply, use our protect behaviors to bring disease rates down and we’ll be on the other side of this,” said Willems Van Dijk.

For the first time in months, virus activity level is low in several counties in the state.

Most of the Northwoods is still reporting high activity level.

DHS is reporting another 677 new COVID-19 cases Thursday and 12 more deaths.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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