Graham Kilmer
MKE County

COVID-19 Deaths Rising in Milwaukee

In Milwaukee County, 55 people died from COVID-19 during the past seven days.

By - Jan 11th, 2022 09:52 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.

COVID-19 related deaths are rising as Milwaukee County continues to struggle against the Omicron variant driven surge of COVID-19.

Data at the county and city level shows the region is in the throes of unprecedented disease, much like the rest of the country.

“The Omicron variant continues to break record after record for COVID cases,” said Dr. Ben Weston, chief health policy advisor for the county, during a media briefing Tuesday.

The latest case numbers reported by the county’s Office of Emergency Management show a recent decline in cases. But Weston said this is likely just a delay in the data. As of Jan. 6, the county’s seven day average of daily new cases was 1,107.

Other indicators of disease in the county are still pointing to high levels of COVID-19. The positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that come back positive for COVID-19, is still very high at 36%. The City of Milwaukee continues to report “extreme transmission” of COVID-19, and on Tuesday reported a positivity rate of 37.1%.

The latest weekly report produced by epidemiologists and faculty from the Medical College of Wisconsin and UW-Milwaukee and county public health officials shows that between Dec. 29 and Jan. 4 there were 5,522 cases of COVID-19 identified in Milwaukee County, the week prior there were 3,857.

During that week, there were 479 people hospitalized with COVID-19. As of Tuesday, there are 771 people hospitalized with COVID-19.

Deaths, considered a lagging indicator of disease because of how long it takes for COVID-19 to cause severe illness after infection, are also increasing. Between Dec. 29 and Jan. 4 there were 12 deaths among adults due to COVID-19. In the last seven days, 55 people have died of COVID-19, according to the Medical Examiner.

The disease burden created by the Omicron wave has contributed to health systems becoming “deeply strained,” Weston said. Procedures are being postponed, outpatient clinics are being closed as staff is relocated, and emergency departments are keeping patients on stretches and beds in the hallways, he said.

As Urban Milwaukee reported last week, the county is experiencing an unprecedented level of disease due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Weston told the press that, if South Africa is any indication, the surge may peak in the coming weeks. “Those few weeks will be critical,” Weston said.

COVID-19 precautions like distancing and masking are important tools that can be used to limit the spread of disease, he said.

Weston specifically noted that more people should be wearing “high-quality” masks like KN95 and N95 masks. Those, along with surgical masks to a lesser degree, have proven more effective than cloth masks.

Less than a week ago, The Milwaukee Health Department received 500,000 N95 masks, which it has been freely distributing. Mayor Cavalier Johnson said during the briefing Tuesday that the city had already given out 400,000 masks.

Johnson reiterated that he did not intend to institute a mask mandate in the city of Milwaukee. The mayor said vaccination remains the best tool for fighting the pandemic. “Because, again, our numbers are too low with vaccination in this city. We need to encourage more people to go get vaccinated against COVID.”

The latest countywide report on vaccination showed 61.2% of county residents 5 years and older are fully vaccinated as of Jan. 3. In the city, 55% of this same cohort is fully vaccinated.

Read the weekly report here. Read the vaccine report here. Read the kids report here.

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More about the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Categories: Health, MKE County

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