Graham Kilmer

COVID-19 Case Rate Increasing In County

A key indicator changed to red as the positive case rate rises among younger people.

By - Jul 8th, 2020 10:29 am
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Image from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/Rocky Mountain Laboratories (CC BY 2.0).

Image from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/Rocky Mountain Laboratories (CC BY 2.0).

Local officials are warning that “we are not out of the woods yet” with COVID-19, despite many aspects of life shut down in the spring returning to normalcy.

In fact, many indicators at the local, state and national level signal that the virus is resurging.  

On Tuesday, Milwaukee County changed one of its key indicators for tracking the virus in the county to red, signaling a regression locally. The county is seeing a “significant increase in the trend of percent positive values,” Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for Milwaukee County said.

Percent positive is one of the key indicators for tracking the virus, because it is not distorted by the number of tests performed. Increased testing will not increase the percent positive.

“We’re seeing high and increased percent positive values across the country, and this is what’s extremely worrisome,” Weston said. “And in the State of Wisconsin, we’ve been seeing nearly a doubling of this percent positive.”

Urban Milwaukee reported Tuesday that Wisconsin now has the highest rate of COVID-19 spread in the nation. But the story noted that Milwaukee County had a much lower rate of spread than the rest of the state. 

But that could be changing. The change to red for the cases indicator in the county is a bad sign, as Weston noted, a point that Darren Rausch, director of the Greenfield Health Department, also stressed: “That means we’re experiencing significant growth in our case rate in Milwaukee County over the last 14 days.”

Rausch said “we need to be especially concerned” about the growing rates of COVID-19 among the county’s younger population: those in their twenties and thirties. 

Weston said this population is less likely to be hospitalized, and less likely to get severely sick and die. However, “We know that young people do not live in isolation,” Weston said. Young people regularly interact with older, more at risk, members of our community and those with compromised immune systems.

So, while case rates are headed in a worrisome direction, hospitalizations and deaths continue to trend down. Still, those metrics are generally lagging, by a month or more in their ability to indicate the extent of disease in the community.

Public health officials urge the community, and young people especially, to practice physical distancing, wear a mask whenever in public and get tested whenever you feel a symptom.

With the holiday weekend that just passed, socialization, which was already going up with the reopening of bars, likely went way up. County Executive David Crowley urged those that were out and about this past weekend to go get tested.

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Categories: Health, MKE County

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