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COVID-19 in Wisconsin: 3,400 new cases, 20 deaths, virus activity “Very High”

New data show the unvaccinated were 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 in August and filled 9 times as many hospital beds.
Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 1:18 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2021 at 3:36 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - It was a day of grim news from Wisconsin’s health department Wednesday. The state confirmed more than 3,400 new cases of the COVID-19 virus (3,426) in the latest round of test results; reported virus activity is rated Very High across the state, with the situation Critically High in two counties, including one in our area; and released data showing the unvaccinated, or not fully vaccinated, were 11 times more likely to die and occupied 9 times more hospital beds last month than people who were fully vaccinated.

CASES, DEATHS AND HOSPITALIZATIONS

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) reports 20 more deaths, raising the death toll to 7,791. Only one death was reported in WBAY’s viewing area, in Oconto County. It was the fourth time this month the state added 20 or more lives lost to the death toll; it only happened once in August. Wisconsin is averaging 16 deaths per day, up from Tuesday’s average of 15. By our calculations, the death rate declined from 1.14% to 1.13% because the number of new cases continues to outpace fatal ones. This can be attributed to the number of vaccinated people in Wisconsin, which we’ll get into in more detail in a moment.

The DHS confirmed the most new coronavirus cases in one day since early January during the winter surge. Testing found 3,426 coronavirus cases, the most since 3,514 cases were reported on January 7. At that time, the state was averaging 2,699 per day over the 7-day period. Right now, the state’s rolling average 1,864 cases per day, a jump from the average 1,670 a day earlier.

The positivity rate continues to fall. An average of 7.0% of COVID-19 tests over the past week were positive. We’ve heard from a number of health agencies that more people are getting tested; that’s a factor in bringing the positivity rate down. The 7% is still well above the 3% positivity rate where health officials can consider the virus is being managed but is going in the direction health officials want to see.

Almost 200 people (197) were hospitalized for COVID-19 treatment since the state’s last report. After taking discharges and deaths into account, the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) says there are 1,054 COVID-19 patients statewide, with 321 of them in intensive care; that’s 1 fewer patient than Tuesday but 7 more who are in ICU. Hospitals in the 7-county Northeast region have 116 patients, 29 in ICU; it’s 3 more patients in the past day but 1 fewer in ICU. Hospitals in the 8-county Fox Valley region have 84 COVID-19 patients, with 16 in ICU; the number of patients overall is unchanged, but it’s 1 more in ICU.

The DHS website cautions that it might be under-reporting data on cases, deaths, and hospitalizations. It says a system performance issue is causing a lag in processing the data. The issue is being worked on.

VACCINATED COMPARISONS

New data from the Department of Health Services show you were more than 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 in August if you were unvaccinated or you started the COVID-19 vaccine series but weren’t fully vaccinated yet.

The report from the DHS on Wednesday shows for every 100,000 people who were never vaccinated or not fully vaccinated there were 1,413.7 positive COVID-19 tests, 98.5 hospitalizations, and 11.7 deaths. That’s equivalent to 1.41% of everyone who’s not fully vaccinated becoming infected last month. These cases had a hospitalization rate of 6.97%.

For every 100,000 people who were fully vaccinated, there were 360.7 positive COVID-19 tests, 11.5 hospitalizations, and 1.1 deaths. That’s equivalent to 0.361% of the vaccinated population having “breakthrough” cases last month, and 3.19% of those who tested positive were hospitalized for treatment.

Those hospitalization numbers are what concern our state’s health care systems the most as they’re nearing capacity amid a “serious surge” in COVID-19. People who were fully vaccinated occupied 9 times fewer hospital beds. Even when a fully vaccinated person was infected, almost 97% of cases had symptoms mild enough not to require hospital treatment or were asymptomatic.

The DHS created this graphical representation comparing the fully vaccinated to the rest of the population, per capita, in August:

A graphical representation of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths among the vaccinated...
A graphical representation of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths among the vaccinated and others in Wisconsin in August, 2021.(Wisconsin Department of Health Services)

The DHS doesn’t break the numbers down further to show cases among people who started their vaccine series compared to those who never took a shot. It only considered people “fully vaccinated” in this data if they’re 2 weeks or more beyond their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or their shot of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The DHS wants people to get vaccinated -- and complete their vaccinations -- as soon as possible to provide the most protection against the disease caused by the COVID-19 virus.

Health officials are also urging people to get vaccinated against the flu as soon as possible, so that overwhelmed hospitals don’t have to deal with flu cases in addition to the COVID-19 cases. The flu season was almost non-existent last year when more people were self-isolating or social distancing, masking, and following other mitigation protocols against COVID-19. These same protocols also slow down the spread of the flu virus. But people are doing a lot less of that these days.

VIRUS ACTIVITY

On top of this news, the Department of Health Services reports virus activity is increasing in most counties throughout the state, and it’s “critically high” in Forest County.

The DHS rated 64 counties with very high case activity, up from 56 a week ago; 6 counties with high activity; and 2 counties with critically high activity: Buffalo County, on the state’s western edge, and Forest County.

The rating is based on the number of positive cases per capita over the last two weeks (the “burden”) and the percent change in the number of cases in the past week (the “trajectory”).

Forest County has a burden comparable to 1,089 cases per 100,000 residents and a rising trajectory of new cases. The DHS says there are 9,004 people living there. On Sept. 7, the county had 1,093 cases. By Sept. 14, it had 58 more. These numbers are cumulative since the pandemic began.

Every other county in WBAY’s viewing area has very high case activity, with the exception of Menominee County where it’s rated high.

Brown, Shawano, Sheboygan, Waupaca, Winnebago saw a growing number of daily cases.

Calumet, Door, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Kewaunee, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto, Outagamie, Waushara saw no significant change in the number of daily cases over the past week.

Florence County, and Rock County on the state’s southern border, are alone in the state seeing a shrinking number of daily cases.

For the state as a whole, there were 489.1 cases for every 100,000 residents over the last two weeks, and a 20% increase in daily cases over the course of the past week.

VACCINATIONS

Here’s another rising number: 2 out of 3 adult women (66.6%) in Wisconsin have now completed their vaccine series, compared to almost 6 in 10 men (59.1%). That’s out of 70.2% of women and 62.7% of men who’ve rolled up their sleeves.

Statewide, 55.9% of Wisconsinites received at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine, and 52.6% of the population is fully vaccinated. Those include a percent of the population too young to receive a vaccine.

Wisconsinites getting COVID-19 vaccine, by age group (and change since last report)

  • 12-15: 44.7% received vaccine (+0.2)/38.8% fully vaccinated (+0.3)
  • 16-17: 50.5% received vaccine (+0.1)/45.5% fully vaccinated (+0.2)
  • 18-24: 50.4% received vaccine (+0.1)/45.2% fully vaccinated (+0.1)
  • 25-34: 54.6% received vaccine (+0.1)/49.9% fully vaccinated (+0.2)
  • 35-44: 62.3% received vaccine (+0.1)/57.9% fully vaccinated (+0.1)
  • 45-54: 63.8% received vaccine (+0.1)/60.0% fully vaccinated (+0.1)
  • 55-64: 72.8% received vaccine (+0.1)/69.8% fully vaccinated (+0.1)
  • 65 and up: 85.1% received vaccine (+0.0)/83.1% fully vaccinated (+0.0)

VACCINATIONS BY COUNTY POPULATION (WEDNESDAY)

County (Population) (Health region)% of population (change from previous report)Completed % of population (change from previous report)
Brown (264,542) (NE)56.6% (+0.1)53.4% (+0.2)
Calumet (50,089) (FV)50.7% (+0.1)48.0% (+0.1)
Dodge (87,839)45.6% (+0.1)42.7% (+0.1)
Door (27,668) (NE)70.8% (+0.1)67.8% (+0.1)
Fond du Lac (103,403) (SE)48.7% (+0.1)45.7% (+0.1)
Forest (9,004)45.8% (+0.1)43.3% (+0.1)
Florence (4,295) (NE)46.4% (+0.1)44.7% (+0.0)
Green Lake (18,913) (FV)50.0% (+0.0)46.8% (+0.1)
Kewaunee (20,434) (NE)45.9% (+0.0)43.5% (+0.1)
Manitowoc (78,981) (NE)53.1% (+0.1)50.2% (+0.1)
Marinette (40,350) (NE)46.5% (+0.1)43.7% (+0.1)
Menominee (4,556) (FV)66.0% (+0.2)59.1% (+0.6)
Oconto (37,930) (NE)47.2% (+0.1)44.7% (+0.1)
Outagamie (187,885) (FV)56.3% (+0.1)53.1% (+0.1)
Shawano (40,899) (FV)41.9% (+0.1)39.2% (+0.1)
Sheboygan (115,340) (SE)54.4% (+0.1)51.6% (+0.1)
Waupaca (50,990) (FV)48.9% (+0.1)45.9% (+0.1)
Waushara (24,443) (FV)39.9% (+0.1)37.8% (+0.1)
Winnebago (171,907) (FV)54.0% (+0.1)50.9% (+0.1)
NORTHEAST REGION (474,200) (NE)259,330 (54.7%) (+0.1)244,964 (51.7%) (+0.2)
FOX VALLEY REGION (549,682) (FV)288,210 (52.4%) (+0.1)271,524 (49.4%) (+0.1)
WISCONSIN (5,822,434)3,252,870 (55.9%) (+0.1)3,060,694 (52.6%) (+0.1)

Vaccination clinics

The community vaccination clinic inside Fox River Mall in Grand Chute is open from 11 A.M. to 7 P.M. on select dates through December 15. The list of dates will be updated on the Outagamie County website. No appointment is necessary for this walk-in clinic, which is located near the food court and Scheel’s. There’s no cost and no ID required.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, the Oneida Nation and Options for Independent Living announced they’re holding free vaccination clinics at NWTC. No appointment is necessary for the clinic, and anyone who is at least 12 years old is eligible for the vaccine. The last clinic is today, September 14, until 4 P.M. If you’d like to attend the clinic but need help with transportation, call 920-490-0500.

Testing sites

The Winnebago County Health Department announced that the Walk-In Wednesday vaccine clinic normally held at Sunnyview Expo Center was relocated to the Coughlin Center for this day only. Testing by the Wisconsin National Guard is available until 5 P.M. Vaccines are offered until 6 P.M. The Coughlin Center can be found across the street from the Sunnyview Expo Center.

With today’s exception, walk-in or drive-through COVID-19 testing is available at Sunnyview Expo Center weekdays from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., with the Wisconsin National Guard handling the testing. Registration is encouraged at www.winnebagopublichealth.org. Testing is recommended (and free) for anyone as young as 1 year old who’s been in close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19, which can include fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, sore throat, runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, headache, muscle ache, or sudden loss of taste or smell. Results are usually back within 48 hours.

ThedaCare also announced its mobile COVID-19 testing schedule in the Fox Valley this week. Appointments are required through doineedacovid19test.com. You do not have to be a ThedaCare patient. All of the sites offer rapid testing, with results usually back in 15 minutes, and PCR testing, which most results in 24 to 48 hours.

  • Wednesday: Sept. 15, 8 A.M.-5 P.M.: ThedaCare Physicians-Neenah, 333 N. Green Bay Rd. (rapid testing offered until 4:30 P.M.)
  • Thursday, Sept. 16, 8 A.M.-5 P.M.: Christ the Rock Community Church, W6254 US-10, Menasha (rapid testing offered until 4:30 P.M.)
  • Friday, Sept. 17, 8 A.M.-5 P.M.: Guardian building, 2300 E. Capitol Dr., Appleton (rapid testing offered until 4:30 P.M.)

WEDNESDAY’S COUNTY CASE AND DEATH TOTALS (increase since the last report is in bold)**

  • Brown – 35,060 cases (+221) (264 deaths)
  • Calumet – 6,377 cases (+19) (52 deaths)
  • Dickinson (Mich.)* - 2,557 cases (+39) (60 deaths)
  • Dodge – 13,123 cases (+68) (185 deaths)
  • Door – 2,917 cases (+11) (31 deaths)
  • Florence - 472 cases (13 deaths)
  • Fond du Lac – 14,074 cases (+52) (138 deaths)
  • Forest - 1,164 cases (+19) (25 deaths)
  • Gogebic (Mich.)* - 1,205 cases (+16) (24 deaths)
  • Green Lake - 1,904 cases (+21) (24 deaths)
  • Iron (Mich.)* – 1,119 cases (+15) (43 deaths)
  • Kewaunee – 2,563 cases (+8) (30 deaths)
  • Langlade - 2,326 cases (+15) (36 deaths)
  • Manitowoc – 8,400 cases (+34) (78 deaths)
  • Marinette - 4,600 cases (+31) (69 deaths)
  • Menominee (Mich.)* - 2,035 cases (+47) (43 deaths)
  • Menominee – 857 cases (+8) (11 deaths)
  • Oconto – 5,056 cases (+32) (65 deaths) (+1)
  • Outagamie – 22,601 cases (+95) (231 deaths)
  • Shawano – 5,210 cases (+34) (74 deaths)
  • Sheboygan – 15,170 cases (cases revised -7 by state) (155 deaths)
  • Waupaca – 5,510 cases (+33) (132 deaths)
  • Waushara – 2,437 cases (+7) (39 deaths)
  • Winnebago – 20,377 cases (+134) (212 deaths)

* The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Wisconsin Hospital Association do not publish updates on weekends. Update: Michigan Department of Health updates information on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Due to the Labor Day holiday, Michigan’s numbers were not updated today.

** Cases and deaths are from state COVID-19 reports, which may differ from local health department numbers. The Wisconsin DHS reports cases from all health departments within a county’s boundaries, including tribal, municipal and county health departments; county websites may not. Also, public health departments update their data at various times, whereas the DHS freezes the numbers it receives by the same time every day to compile the afternoon report.

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