Daily COVID-19 Growth Slowing in Milwaukee County
But deaths and hospitalizations are growing.
The recent surge in new cases of COVID-19 across Milwaukee County appears to be waning, but there is still significant levels of disease in the community.
The daily number of new COVID-19 cases, which peaked in early July, has been trending down in recent weeks. This is true even in the suburban communities where cases and transmission rates recently skyrocketed.
The latest report from a team of epidemiologists at the Medical College of Wisconsin tracking the disease locally shows that cases peaked in Milwaukee County in recent weeks.
And transmission rates for the county, the city of Milwaukee and the suburbs are all back under 1.0. This means that for every new case of COVID-19 that person will likely give it to less than one other person. This is the transmission rate communities must maintain to eventually suppress the disease.
However, there has been an increase in deaths and hospitalizations in recent weeks. These two metrics are considered lagging indicators because of the time it takes COVID-19 to make someone severely sick or die. It, unfortunately, makes sense a rise in hospitalizations and deaths would follow the recent spike.
Darren Rausch, director of the Greenfield Health Department, noted that these are the age group populations that have school-age children. “And when we talk about re-opening schools we’re not only worried about community transmission amongst children that are school aged,” he said. “We’re also talking about community transmission amongst their parents and families as well.”
The positive case rate (the percentage of tests that confirm a new case), which is considered an important metric for tracking the disease in real time, was 7.7 percent this past week. That’s down from 8.9 percent the previous week. The 14-day trend for the positive case rate, however, is flat. But as Rausch said, it is “certainly better than an increase.”
School districts preparing for re-opening schools are working closely with local health department while formulating their plans, Rausch said. The current cases and rates of COVID-19 are, and will continue, to have an impact on the decisions school leaders are making.
To that end, Rausch noted, we can all take measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Continue to wash your hands, watch your distance and wear a mask, he said.
Wearing a mask has become bizarrely controversial not only in Milwaukee, but across the country. It is much less so across the world. Dr. Ben Weston, director of emergency medical services for Milwaukee County, said “the debate over the utility of masks, in this pandemic, should be over.”
Masks clearly play a role in slowing the spread of the disease, he said. On Thursday, Gov. Tony Evers announced a statewide mask mandate in an effort to slow down COVID-19 in the state. “We could really not be in a better moment to cut down our numbers,” Weston said, considering the recent spike in cases, and the “concerning” growth in hospitalizations.
For a look at statewide data, see our latest WI Daily article.
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