Graham Kilmer
MKE County

COVID-19 Spread Increasing Again

Disease spread was trending downward, but is now accelerating.

By - Jan 7th, 2021 06:20 pm
Milwaukee County daily number of COVID-19 cases

Milwaukee County daily number of COVID-19 cases

The spread of COVID-19 is currently trending upward in Milwaukee County.

The latest data shows a resurgence in disease following a lull in December. We are seeing what looks like a slight increase,” said Darren Rausch, director of the Greenfield Health Department, during a press briefing Thursday.

Rausch works with a team of epidemiologists and faculty from the Medical College of Wisconsin and UW-Milwaukee to track COVID-19 in the county.

The team’s latest report shows that after the huge spike experienced in the early fall, which was followed by a massive increase in deaths in late fall and early winter, cases of COVID-19 began to trend down countywide last month leading up to the Christmas holiday.

The uptick, Rausch said, could be the numbers simply stabilizing after going so low around the holiday. “We know that historically we’ve seen small inflections in the data from time to time,” he said. But any potential cases from gatherings over the holidays would likely start showing up in the community now said the health director.

But at the same time that cases started to go up, so too did the transmission rate. This data point measures on average how many people a single case of COVID-19 is likely to infect in the community.

The latest data is from right before Christmas when the county’s transmission rate jumped up to 1.14, indicating that each new case would infect, on average, one or more people with the virus. This means that going into the holiday, the county was no longer suppressing the virus. A transmission rate below 1.0 is required for suppression of the virus.

Deaths have gone down since the high numbers witnessed in November and December. But deaths are a lagging indicator, and typically trail spikes in disease by several weeks because of the time it takes a patient to develop life-threatening symptoms from the virus.

Testing for COVID-19 at the end of December dropped to levels not seen in the county since September. Meanwhile, the positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that are coming back positive for the virus, is increasing. This past week it was 11.5% countywide and 13.1% in the suburbs and 10.5% in the city.

Young people aged 24-39 continue to lead the county with the highest number of cases and the highest rate of disease. County residents aged 60 and above continue to have the highest rates of hospitalizations and deaths, as well as the highest total deaths.

Rausch said the county is starting to see COVID-19 increase among Asian-American residents. Hispanic county residents still have the highest rate of disease. And white residents have the highest case counts. Black residents still have the highest rate of hospitalization and death in the county.

Read the weekly COVID-19 report here. Read the children’s report here.

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Categories: Health, MKE County

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