Graham Kilmer
MKE County

COVID-19 Disease Burden Remains Stable

County medical advisor says vaccines holding up well against new variants, but those over 65 should get latest booster shot.

By - Nov 25th, 2022 11:25 am
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 remains relatively stable in Milwaukee County and across the country, even as new variants emerge and become the dominant drivers of the disease.

In Milwaukee County, the number of new cases per week and the percentage of tests that come back positive for the disease have been trending down recently. as Urban Milwaukee reported last week, though these may not be the clearest indicators of the disease burden. For instance, wastewater data has been showing higher concentrations of the virus, though that, too, is not a the best measure of disease burden.

These new variants are “certainly immune evasive variants,” said Dr. Ben Weston, chief health policy advisor for Milwaukee County, during a recent media briefing. “But what we’re seeing in the real world, which, sometimes is a little bit different from what you see in the lab, is that vaccines are holding up pretty well.”

Nationally, the disease remains stable, which Weston said is a “promising sign” the emerging variants will not cause a significant increase in the disease burden.

Weston noted that despite the recent stability of the disease, the population 65 years old and older continue to see a high rate of hospitalization. One, he said, that is actually increasing. He said this underscores how critical it is that those 65 and older get vaccinated and boosted.

“And yet nationally, only 30% of this population over 65 has received the new bivalent booster,” he said. “Now in Milwaukee County, we’re doing a bit better than the national average with 35% of our 65-plus population having received a new booster. But that’s still not nearly high enough.”

The bivalent booster was specifically designed to produce immunity against both the original COVID-19 variant and the newer, highly-contagious Omicron variant. This vaccine, in particular, Weston said, has been performing well “not just against getting infected but against what’s most important, which is severe disease, hospitalization, and death.”

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Categories: Health, MKE County

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