New reports of COVID-19 cases are rising again in Wisconsin, based on latest data published by the State Department of Health Services. The average of seven days of positive COVID-19 tests has doubled in the last three weeks, from 3 percent to 5.9 percent from Monday.
“We are seeing an increase and a sustained increase,” said Dr. Ben Weston, Chief Military Adviser for Milwaukee County. “Although our numbers are still relatively low, there is a trend in the wrong direction.”
Community levels of COVID-19 remain low in all counties, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelineswhich sets these levels based on the number of cases and hospital capacity in a community.
Although the overall number of cases has remained low, Weston noted that it is unlikely to provide as clear a picture of the COVID-19 spread as it used to when using home tests – which are not automatically reported in county or state data – is rising.
Weston said Milwaukee County used to average about 5,000 tests a day, with 10,000 below the height of the omicron rise. Last week, Milwaukee’s seven-day average number of tests was 1,700. At the state level, the highest number of tests last week was around 18,000 – down from 60,000 in January, when omicron peaked.
Wisconsin has been monitoring wastewater for SARS-CoV-2, which officials say can help find out where the disease is rising and warn health officials of possible trends.
“There is no single data source that is perfect,” said Dr. Jonathan Meiman, state physician and epidemiologist for environmental and occupational health. “Together, we try to find free ways to look at the same problem to try to get a more holistic picture of what’s actually going on.”
Wastewater monitoring in Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine and St. Croix counties, for example, have shown a large increase in virus concentration over the past week.
“There are a handful of fairly consistent increases from week to week that are consistent with increasing transmission in the community,” Meiman said. “I would say the levels are still low at the same time.”
Meiman said DHS has not yet been able to map the virus concentration to an estimate of how many positive COVID-19 cases there would be in the area, but that increases in the wastewater virus have previously been mapped to increases in positive tests. Even in the current rising areas, Meiman said, there has not been such an increase in wastewater detection that he would expect a similar increase in positive cases.
About 64 percent of Wisconsinites have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, which is available to anyone 5 years of age and older. Vaccine manufacturer Moderna er seeks Food and Drug Administration approval to offer a vaccine to younger children. Another round of booster shots is available for certain age groups and medically vulnerable populations.
Although the number of deaths and hospitalization of the disease has decreased in Wisconsin, recent research has linked the disease to other harmful health consequences. Some people agree lang COVID, a chronic disease with various symptoms. COVID-19 may cause changes in the brainincluding tissue damage, and researchers have linked the disease to erectile dysfunction.
In Wisconsin, 12,862 people have died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, with another 1,500 deaths likely related to COVID-19, according to DHS. It is the United States as a whole approaching 1 million deaths from COVID-19.