According to PHMDC during the month of August, Dane County experienced more than 1,300 additional COVID-19 cases, largely as a result of the Delta variant of the virus. Officials note that the increase in infections have impacted both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals.
In Dane County, the total number of COVID-19 cases during the course of the pandemic has reached 49,653, according to PHMDC. From Aug. 16-29, the number of cases increased, averaging 105 cases per day. The number of cases among individuals who aren’t fully vaccinated increased by 25%, and 27% of those cases were children under 12, according to Public Health Madison & Dane County.
Data released by PHMDC shows that cases among unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals have reached levels comparable to cases in April of 2021, with cases among fully vaccinated individuals having reached an unprecedented high.
The significant increase in cases among vaccinated residents is due to both an increase in testing and the higher transmissibility of the delta variant in comparison to past variants, the PHMDC explained in a blog post.
“First, this variant is much more effective at spreading than previous strains of COVID,” the post explained. “Second, recent higher rates among people who are fully vaccinated may partially be due to more people getting tested since the arrival of the delta variant. Third, and this is still under study, may be waning immunity — or immunity that wears off months or years after someone gets vaccinated.”
Compared to fully vaccinated people, individuals who were not fully vaccinated were 2.5 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19, the state department said.
Released PHDMC data indicates that there were 1,472 COVID-19 cases among vaccinated individuals and 8,020 among unvaccinated individuals in Dane County between Feb. 2021 and Aug. 17, 2021.
The PHDMC explained in a public statement that vaccinated Dane county residents who have been infected have experienced less severe symptoms and been vaccinated at a much lower rate than their unvaccinated counterparts.
“In the event of an infection among people who are fully vaccinated, severe outcomes (hospitalization and death) are rare,” said PHMDC.
In response to the increase in cases, the PHDMC reinstituted an indoor mask mandate on Aug. 19 in order to curb the rising infection rate. The new mandate is due to expire on Sept. 19 but may be renewed if infection rates do not noticeably decrease.
In a public statement, Janel Heinrich, the director of PHMDC, urged Dane county residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
“As cases continue to increase, requiring face coverings is an easy added layer of protection to further help keep people safe, including our youngest children not yet eligible to be vaccinated,” Heinrich said.
Students returning to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s campus have furthered concerns of a continued increase in COVID-19 cases, particularly in the wake of student-related mass gatherings such as the recent Badger football game where masks were not required in the outdoor stadium.
As of Sept. 8, 72.8% of Dane County residents are either partially or fully vaccinated, the highest vaccination rate among all Wisconsin counties. Ken Van Horn, the testing director at Public Health Madison & Dane County, announced that the county has averaged more than 2,300 tests per day since late August.
“While we always want people experiencing symptoms to get tested, demand for COVID-19 testing is likely to grow as more businesses and event organizers are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test,” Van Horn said in a City of Madison update.
Dane County continues to offer free COVID-19 testing locations, including the Public Health clinic, local pharmacies and other community test sites.