Graham Kilmer
MKE County

It’s Not College Students Driving Disease

Young people, aged 25-39, are pushing the spread of COVID-19 right now.

By - Sep 25th, 2020 12:16 pm
2019 Novel Coronavirus. Image by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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

Community transmission of COVID-19 is increasing, and it’s increasing among young people primarily, but it’s not college students that are driving the recent spike in disease.

No, it is young people aged 25-39 who have the most cases and the highest rate of disease in the county. And this age group is followed by county residents aged 40-59, who have the second-highest number of cases.

This revelation comes from the latest weekly report produced by a team of epidemiologists at the Medical College of Wisconsin tracking COVID-19 locally.

These two age groups are also the most likely in the county to have school-age children. A fact that also corresponds with what public health officials are seeing among K-12 students. That is, the disease is not spreading from the schools into the community, it’s coming from the community into the schools, said Darren Rausch, director of the Greenfield Health Department, who is working with the epidemiologists on the weekly report.

County residents that are generally college-aged, 18-24 have the third-highest number of cases. And are tied with people aged 40-59.

Across the state, though, 18-24 year olds continue to have the highest rate of disease. And recently, six Wisconsin’s college towns made a list of the top 20 communities in the U.S. with the highest number of cases per capita.

But right now, the county is in the early stages of an upswing in disease. The third since the pandemic began. And it’s “what’s happening in the broader community” that’s driving case rates, Rausch said during a Thursday afternoon media briefing. 

The transmission rate for the county is currently between approximately 1.2 and 1.3, which means each diagnosed case of the disease is generating more than one additional case. Milwaukee is no longer suppressing the disease, and it hasn’t been for weeks.

Based upon the incubation period of the disease, the latest case counts and transmission rates would be influenced by “any end of summer or Labor Day gatherings or parties that may have been held without giving credence to masks and distance and all the important things that we’ve talked about in previous weeks,” said Rausch.

Testing is increasing in the county. Two weeks ago there were 20,000 tests performed and last week there were approximately 17,000 tests performed.

The recent spike in disease is slightly more pronounced in the City of Milwaukee than in the suburbs, Rausch said. Looking at a map of the incidence of COVID-19 in the city, the East Side and South Side of the city continue to be hotspots. And in the suburbs, the North Shore is also seeing a high incidence rate.

The rising levels of disease is worrying to public health officials as the state is at the precipice of flu season, leading to the potential of twin-pandemics this winter.

Read the weekly report here.

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Categories: Health, MKE County

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