Graham Kilmer

Milwaukee County Continues To Suppress COVID-19

COVID-19 is going down locally.

By - Aug 21st, 2020 10:18 am
2019 Novel Coronavirus. Image by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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

Milwaukee County is maintaining a transmission rate that shows it is suppressing COVID-19, but public health experts warn against letting up now.

For the past few weeks, the transmission rate for COVID-19 has remained below 1.0 in both the City of Milwaukee and the suburbs. This means that for every newly identified case of COVID-19, that person is expected, on average, to transmit it to less than one other person.

The transmission rate is key to suppressing the disease in the long term. And its effects are being born out in testing.

Last week, only five percent of all COVID-19 tests came back positive in the county. The week prior that number was seven percent. Public health officials hold up the positive case rate as an important metric for gauging the disease in real time. The average positive case rate for the entire pandemic is 8.3 percent in Milwaukee County. The county hasn’t been around five percent since early June.

Earlier this week we the county saw four percent positivity, said Dr. Ben Weston, director emergency medical services for Milwaukee County. “That’s lower than we’ve seen since the very beginning of the pandemic, way back in March.”

The county has seen a “dramatic decrease in overall testing,” said Darren Rausch, director of the Greenfield Health Department. But that decrease has coincided with a decrease in percent positivity. The state overall is seeing an uptick and has a seven-day positive case rate in excess of seven percent.

The doubling time, which measures how long it takes for the number of cases in the county to double, continues to rise. The doubling time in Milwaukee County is 75 days right now, according to the latest report from a team of epidemiologists from the Medical College of Wisconsin. It’s 39 days for the state.

The number of daily new cases of COVID-19 is trending down. But deaths are holding steady. The county is seeing one to two deaths a day from the disease.

Young people aged 18 to 39 still have the highest number of cases and the highest rate of disease in Milwaukee county. And the county’s Hispanic residents still have the highest number of cases and rate of disease. Recently though, the total number of COVID-19 cases for the county’s white population surpassed that of its Black population.

Rausch, who is working with the MCW team, said that the trends for COVID-19 are looking “promising” but added the caveat that “we still must remain vigilant.” Weston and County Executive David Crowley also said the same.

Personal decisions about hygiene and social distancing, along with the effects of local and statewide mask mandates appear to be making a difference. Rolling back these mitigation efforts will not help the county continue to suppress the disease.

A full copy of the report is available on Urban Milwaukee.

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