Graham Kilmer

More COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations in Milwaukee Now Than Ever Before

Cases and hospitalizations are rising, but not deaths.

By - Oct 22nd, 2020 06:11 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.

The burden of COVID-19 in Milwaukee has never been greater than it is right now.

“Numbers in the city and suburban communities are higher than they’ve ever been during the course of the pandemic,” said Darren Rausch, director of the Greenfield Health Department during a media briefing Thursday afternoon.

Rausch has been working with a team of epidemiologists from the Medical College of Wisconsin and faculty from UW-Milwaukee to track COVID-19 locally. Their latest weekly report shows that cases of COVID-19 continue to rise rapidly among adults, and now cases among children 18 and under are rising, too.

In recent weeks, new cases of COVID-19 among school-aged children leveled off and were holding steady. But in the past week they have begun to follow the trend that adults in Milwaukee County have been seeing for the past several weeks, an upward growth trajectory.

Currently, every indicator of COVID-19 in Milwaukee County is trending up right now, except for deaths. Deaths are holding steady at one to three deaths per day. 

But deaths are a lagging indicator, because of the time it takes for a person with COVID-19 to develop life-threatening symptoms. Also, medical professionals have a better idea of how to treat the disease now than they did in the early weeks of the pandemic.

The state as a whole has been experiencing record numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. And that is typically the progression, first cases spike, then hospitalizations, then deaths.

In Milwaukee County, there are more people hospitalized with COVID-19 than there have been at any time during the pandemic. That is, there are 254 patients in hospitals with the disease right now, according to Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for the county.

“With each of these trends, whether at the state or the local level, there are no indications of a slowing of this increase,” Weston said “There is no flattening of the curve.”

The seven-day new case average in Milwaukee County right now is the highest it has ever been, and it continues to trend up. Since early October, the county has been seeing nearly 400 new cases a day, on average. At times, it has recorded massive spikes, of more than 500 new cases in a single day.

The transmission rate remains above 1.0, where it’s been for most of the past month and a half. That means that each new case of COVID-19 is creating additional cases of the disease. It means the disease is not being suppressed.

Testing has been going up since early September, when the number of people getting tested bottomed out to the lowest numbers in months. But even as testing rises, the positivity rate, which is the percentage of tests that comes back positive, continues to go up.

The positivity rate for this past week was 11.1%. Just a month ago, the positivity rate was hovering around 5%.

Hospitalizations and deaths continue to be correlated with age. “The older and more medically fragile a person is the more likely they are to have a complication,” Rausch said. But it’s young people, 25-39 that continue to have the highest rate of disease and the highest number of cases.

Despite large swaths of the City of Milwaukee experiencing high incidence of COVID-19, most of the city was being under-tested in recent weeks. This past week, though, testing volumes went back up in much of the city. But there are still large areas with high levels of COVID-19 activity.

White people continue to have the highest number of cases of any racial or ethnic subpopulation in the county. While Hispanic or Latinx people have a per-capita rate of disease that is more than two-times higher than the next group.

White people have the highest cumulative number of deaths from COVID-19, but Black people have experienced the highest rate of death from COVID-19.

Read the county’s weekly report here. And the children’s report here.

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Categories: Health, MKE County

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