Graham Kilmer

COVID-19 Cases Exploding Among Younger Population

COVID-19 in Milwaukee County appears stable, for now. But the disease remains widespread and is not being suppressed.

By - Jul 2nd, 2020 05:15 pm
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2019 Novel Coronavirus. Image by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2019 Novel Coronavirus. Image by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New cases of COVID-19 have held relatively steady in Milwaukee County recently, but both the number of cases and the rate of disease among the county’s younger residents is skyrocketing.

For the entirety of the pandemic in Milwaukee County, people aged 80 or older, who are most at risk, have had the highest confirmed case rates of COVID-19. But as the rate among young people rises, a public health official said younger age groups could end up having the highest rates of disease.

A team of epidemiologists from the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has been tracking COVID-19 locally, and found that the current rate of disease for the two youngest populations in their study, 18 to 39 year olds and 40 to 59 years olds, is the same at 14.6 cases of per 1,000 people.  The rate of disease among those 80 or older is 16.3 per 1,000 people.

“Their rate has certainly increased and is likely to surpass, perhaps, the rate of the 80 plus year population,” said Darren Rausch, director of the Greenfield Health Department who has been working with the team from MCW.

The rate of disease is different from the total number of cases. And younger age groups have had the highest total number of cases for weeks now.

Young people are statistically less likely to die from COVID-19. But it’s not impossible. Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for Milwaukee County, said the youngest person to die of COVID-19 in Milwaukee County was 23.

Both Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley and Mayor Tom Barrett emphasized that young people are seeing a huge spike in cases during a media briefing Thursday. And they urged young people to take more seriously the physical distancing precautions that have proven to limit the spread of disease if not for themselves, then for the sake of those in our community who are at risk for developing serious symptoms or dying from COVID-19

Milwaukee County continues to see its doubling time increase, a positive sign. The doubling time, which measures how long it takes for the number of cases to double, is currently at 64 days for Milwaukee County and 55 days for the City of Milwaukee. The state has a doubling time of 33 days. “This shows us that the state as a whole is still having a lot more cases even though we might be more stable here in Milwaukee County,” Rausch said.

Deaths are also trending down. But Rausch cautioned that deaths have proven to be a lagging indicator of the disease in our community. It also “doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t serious complications and deaths still occurring in and around our community.”

The reproductive rate, which measures how many people on average a single case of COVID-19 infects, continues to hover at approximately 1.0. This means that the disease is not being suppressed. A reproductive rate below 1.0 is needed to show suppression.

There’s COVID-19 everywhere in Milwaukee County. But the hotspots for the disease have primarily been on the city’s South Side. The latest data shows that hotspots for COVID-19 are more widespread throughout the county.

Early in the pandemic, the county’s Black population was the hardest hit. In recent months the disease burden has shifted to the Hispanic community. But the data indicates the rate of disease is beginning to increase again among Black people in Milwaukee County.

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Categories: Health, MKE County

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