Graham Kilmer
MKE County

COVID-19 Spread Stable, But Testing Declining

Young people continue to drive transmission. Health officials concerned by low testing numbers.

By - Sep 11th, 2020 03:13 pm

3D medical illustration of 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Image by [CC BY-SA (]

3D medical illustration of 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Image by (CC BY-SA)

The spread of COVID-19 is largely stable right now, in Milwaukee County. It’s not going up and it’s not going down. New people are being infected at a consistent rate.

For both school aged children and the wider population in the county, the seven day average for new cases is currently holding steady. Though for adults, that trend is “pointing downward,” said Darren Rausch, director of the Greenfield Health Department.

Rausch has been working with a team of epidemiologists from the Medical College of Wisconsin to track COVID-19 locally. Their weekly report shows that the county continues to have a promising transmission rate. The data in the report has a lag of about four days, so it is most accurate up to September 6th.

Currently, that rate is below 1.0. That means for every new case of COVID-19 that person is, on average, giving it to less that one other person. This means the community is suppressing the disease. And based upon the timeline, Rausch said it’s “likely both mask mandates are driving some of the decrease in cases both within the city and within the county.”

Since early summer, young people aged 18-39 have had the highest number of cases in the county. And since the beginning of July, they’ve had the highest rate of cases. Right now, the incidence rate for COVID-19 among that age group is 37 cases of COVID-19 per thousand people. For the most at-risk age group, people 80 years or older, who once had the highest case rate, the incidence is 24 per thousand people.

And now, the 18-39 year olds have the highest number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 of any age group. Though, the people 80 years or older continue to have the highest rate of hospitalizations.

Recently, white people in the county have surpassed Black people for total number of cases, and appear as though they will pass the Hispanic population for total cases in coming days. White people also have the highest number of deaths in the county. Despite representing approximately three-fourths of all county residents, white people have made up a disproportionately small share of COVID-19 cases.

However, Black and Hispanic people are still disproportionately affected by the virus in the county. A member of the Hispanic population is still two-times as likely to develop COVID-19 as the white population. And the Black population continues to have the highest rate of COVID-19 related hospitalization and death in the county.

The positive case rate — which measures how many tests are coming back positive for the virus — is still trending in the right direction. The positivity rate last week in Milwaukee County was 4.2 percent, with 3.2 percent in the city and 5.3 percent in the suburbs. For children, 18 and younger, the positivity rate over the past week was 5.5 percent. The state as a whole has a positive case rate in excess of 10 percent over the past two weeks.

Since the second week of July, the number of tests completed in the county has been steadily dropping. “It’s certainly concerning to us that we’ve had so few tests in the last few weeks,” Rausch said.

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Categories: Health

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