New confirmed cases of COVID-19 are rising in Wisconsin as public health officials warn about the spread of variants in the state.
In the past week, Wisconsin saw a 3.7 percent positivity rate in COVID-19 tests, an increase from its low point a month ago at 2.0 percent. The rate is down from November, when the rate peaked at 17.5 percent.
On Sunday, the average number of cases over the last seven days was 775. On Friday, the state recorded over 1,000 new cases, the highest number in nearly two months. Cases are rising in Dane County, with 16 percent of new cases in the past two weeks in the 18-22 age group.
In a media briefing on April 8, Gov. Evers encouraged Wisconsinites to wear their masks when outside of their homes and to continue social distancing. The Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Evers’ mask mandate on March 31, but mask orders are still enforced in some localities, including Madison.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard discussed new variants of the coronavirus. He said that new variants are common for highly transmissible diseases like COVID-19, but that genetic changes in a virus can make them more dangerous.
“The risk then is that these more dangerous strains of the virus can spread throughout the population and eventually become the predominant strain that’s going around in the community,” said Westergaard. “Then, we’re left with an epidemic that is more difficult to control than the one we had seven months ago.”
The DHS has identified and tracked variants in the state. There are currently five variants of concern defined by the CDC, all of which are present in Wisconsin. The state has recorded 148 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which is believed to spread more rapidly and easily. That variant was recently found in cases in an outbreak at a Dane County child care center.
Cases are also rising nationwide, with Michigan seeing a high average of daily cases. For two days in a row, Michigan has seen 75,000 positive cases, over 100,000 cases this week. The Michigan governor does not have plans to tighten restrictions.
DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk noted that the state has administered over three million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine across the state, meaning over a third of Wisconsin residents are at least partially vaccinated. Over one million Wisconsinites are fully vaccinated.
“As a state, we are moving in the right direction, expanded eligibility, more vaccinators on board, more shots in arms and we continue to progress towards our goal of community immunity,” Van Dijk said.
She noted that vaccine supply was still limited in terms of demand. Fewer Johnson and Johnson vaccines will be available, similar to other states due to struggles at a Baltimore plant.
state news writer