Wisconsin is “moving in the right direction,” with more than 3,250,000 COVID-19 vaccines having been administered — but state public health officials sounded a note of caution on Wednesday, amid an increase in cases driven by new coronavirus variants.
Deputy Health Services Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said 35 percent of the state has gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, and just under 22 percent have completed the vaccine series. She said there is “expanded eligibility, more vaccinators on board, more shots in arms. And we continue to make progress towards our goal of community immunity.”
Until then, Willems Van Dijk urged people not to back off on precautions. “The answer to getting through to the other side of this pandemic is not vaccines or masks, it’s vaccines and masks.”
Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the state’s Chief Medical Officer, said the CDC has identified five COVID-19 variants in the U.S.
“All five of these strains are currently in Wisconsin, and the proportion of the Wisconsin infections that’s caused by the variants of concern is growing, week by week.”
Westergaard said the increase in cases is being driven by infections in younger people and kids. “As of this week, the highest number of cases in any age group is among those under 18. This is a real concern.”
The Department of Health Services on Thursday reported 1,046 cases of COVID-19, the most since February 11, with the 7-day average at 733 cases per day.
Today's #COVID19_WI update & a #vaccine update too. We're proud to say 2M Wisconsinites have received at least 1 dose of vaccine. Thank you to everyone who made this possible.
See #COVID19 data: https://t.co/mAVfWJMI4M
See vaccine data: https://t.co/w98HrJaVgR pic.twitter.com/LyoCHPJe7V
— WIDeptHealthServices (@DHSWI) April 8, 2021
“These more dangerous strains of the virus can spread throughout the population, and eventually become the predominant strain that is going around in the community.” Westergaard explained. “And then, we’re left with an epidemic that is more difficult to control than the one we had several months ago. Unfortunately, this is exactly what we’re experiencing now here in Wisconsin, and nationwide.”
“We are not going to get to 100 percent vaccine coverage probably this year. And there’s a danger of the pandemic getting out of control and having unnecessary illnesses and deaths.”