Graham Kilmer
MKE County

COVID-19 Cases Rising in Milwaukee

County trend reflects a rise in new cases statewide.

By - Mar 25th, 2021 08:06 pm
Milwaukee County daily number of COVID-19 cases

Milwaukee County daily number of COVID-19 cases

COVID-19 has started to rise again in Milwaukee County.

The latest report from a group of epidemiologists and faculty from the Medical College of Wisconsin and UW-Milwaukee shows that several key indicators of the level of disease in the community are going up.

Darren Rausch, director of the Greenfield Health Department, said “for the first time, after 10 consecutive weeks of either decreasing or plateauing numbers, we’re starting to see evidence of an increase in cases.”

Rausch works with the team to produce the weekly report, and he said it may be too early to determine whether this is the beginning of an upward trend or a “blip in the data.”

It’s not only cases that are rising. The transmission rate and the positivity rate are also pointing to increasing COVID-19. “The data could be reflective of increasing transmission and could be the start of another peak,” he said.

The transmission rate, which measures how many people on average will be infected by a new case of COVID-19, shows the county is no longer suppressing the disease. The latest data shows a high transmission rate of 1.25. This means for each new case of COVID-19 1.25 additional people will be infected.

The county is averaging 86 new cases of COVID-19 a day right now, said Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for the county. The current transmission rate would translate to, on average, 108 additional people catching COVID-19 just from the newly identified cases.

Three weeks ago, the transmission rate jumped up above 1.0, then dropped back down for the following two weeks.

Along with rising new cases and a high rate of transmission, the positivity rate, which measures what percentage of tests are coming back positive for COVID-19 has also risen. Last week it was 3.2%. This past week it was 4.1%.

Rausch cautioned that it will require more data in the coming weeks to determine whether the county is truly headed for a spike in disease. But, also, as Weston explained, the county’s indicators are reflective of trends being seen at the state and national level.

This turn for the worse, however slight, is a reminder to continue to practice COVID-19 mitigation efforts like mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing, Rausch said.

Deaths have remained roughly the same. The county is currently experiencing two deaths every three days due to COVID-19, Weston said. This low level relative to other points in the pandemic is likely due to the high rate of vaccination among residents 65 and older — who are most at risk for serious outcomes like hospitalization and death.

After spiking in recent months, the county’s American Indian and Alaskan Native still have the highest rates for hospitalization and death in the county. The hospitalization rate recently plateaued, but the death rate continues to climb.

Meanwhile, the disease also continues to disproportionately affect the county’s Black residents, who are currently suffering the second highest rates of hospitalization and death.

White people still have the highest case count. Hispanic people still have the highest rate of disease. And young people 25-39 have the most cases and the highest rate of disease.

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

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Categories: Health

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