COVID-19 in Wisconsin: State sets new high for patients on ventilators

Despite the omicron variant making headlines, delta remains the major concern in Wisconsin
Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 2:47 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 2, 2021 at 5:16 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) – The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) reported another day with more than 5,000 newly confirmed COVID-19 virus cases and 41 deaths added to COVID-19′s toll on Thursday. At this pace, the state could reach 900,000 coronavirus cases barely a month after passing 800,000 on November 4.

The DHS says test results received in the last 24 hours confirmed 5,097 new cases. It was the first time the state had over 5,000 cases in one day since November of last year. The state averaged 3,015 new cases per day over the past week, and 13.4% of all tests for COVID-19 came back positive -- a positivity rate last seen in, again, November, 2020.

The DHS further reports Wisconsin averaged 20 deaths per day over the last 7 days. The 41 people added to the death toll include 39 who died in the past 30 days. Calumet County reported 4; Outagamie County reported 2; and Fond du Lac, Manitowoc and Sheboygan counties each reported 1. The death rate held steady at 1.03% of all cases.

DHS numbers show 129 more hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. That’s close to our calculated 7-day average of 126 per day. Since the pandemic began, 5.27% of all cases resulted in a hospital stay; that’s down from 5.29% yesterday.

The Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) finds 1,446 COVID-19 patients currently in the state’s hospitals, with 409 of them in intensive care. That’s 40 more patients than yesterday -- and 1 more in ICU -- after taking discharges and deaths into consideration. In the Northeast health care region, there are 162 patients, 41 in ICU -- 3 fewer in intensive care but 10 more patients overall since Wednesday. Fox Valley hospitals are treating 107, with 24 in intensive care -- the same number in intensive care as Wednesday but 2 fewer patients overall.

The WHA further reports among the state’s 136 hospitals there are only 53 ICU beds immediately available to care for all patients with critical needs, not just COVID-19. In the 13 hospitals serving the 8-county Fox Valley region, there are none. Among the 10 hospitals serving the 7-county Northeast region, there are 8.

“Almost 20% in some cases more, hospital beds are being occupied by either someone’s who actively being treated for COVID-19 or has now left their isolation phase, but still is in the hospital because of long term effects,” said Dr. Ashok Rai, President and CEO of Prevea Health.

Dr. Rai says one COVID-19 patient may take away up to three beds for a different type of disease.

Wisconsin health officials say COVID-19 patients coming into hospitals are sicker and younger and staying in hospitals longer than COVID-19 patients one year ago when the state saw its highest surge in COVID-19 numbers.

“With so many hospitals and health care workers already stressed by caring for COVID-19 patients, it becomes increasingly difficult to treat patients who need to come in for other reasons,” said Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake.

In a health briefing Thursday afternoon, Timberlake says 688 COVID-19 patients were on ventilators on November 30, a new high mark for the use of ventilators in the state’s 138 hospitals. The previous high was 638 COVID-19 patients in November, 2020.

“We are currently providing staffing support to assist hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities across Wisconsin in meeting the needs of their patients and residents,” said Timberlake.

Although omicron is making headlines, and has been confirmed in neighboring Minnesota, the delta variant is still very much the major concern in Wisconsin’s health care system. State communicable disease specialist Dr. Ryan Westergaard says omicron gained worldwide attention because of how fast it spread and became the dominant strain in south African nations, but anecdotally early cases were generally mild; he said there have not been enough confirmed cases of the omicron variant yet to know whether it’s as dangerous as delta, which creates a high viral load in people it infects. The last named variants to challenge delta’s dominance were lambda and mu, which were blips in Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene’s genome testing last summer before being swallowed up by delta’s contagion.

Timberlake and Westergaard say efforts to vaccinate older populations are a major factor in why the average age of COVID-19 patients in hospitals is falling. Prevea president/CEO Dr. Ashok Rai said the “vast majority” of people being hospitalized are unvaccinated.

Timberlake says from the end of August to this point early in December, children under 18 went from the lowest to the largest number of COVID-19 cases, “A dramatic change over a few short months.”

She says children ages 4 to 13 make up the largest numbers. The health secretary notes most of these kids were too young to get vaccinated until kid-sized doses of Pfizer vaccine were approved for 5- to 11-year-olds last month. Timberlake says over 87,000 children have been vaccinated since November 5. She adds that kids are in families, making them likely to transmit the virus to adults, “adding the problem we’re trying to combat.”

“The COVID-19 vaccine provides the best protection against serious illness, hospitalization, and death. That’s why we urge everyone ages 5 and up who is not vaccinated to get the COVID-19 vaccine,” Timberlake said.

As we reported yesterday, a milestone of 50% of kids 12 to 15 received at least their first shot of COVID-19 vaccine, while 46.6% are considered fully vaccinated.

VACCINATIONS BY AGE GROUP (and change since last report)

  • 12 to 15: 50.0% received vaccine (+0.0)/46.6% completed vaccinations (+0.0)
  • 16 and 17: 54.1% received vaccine (+0.0)/50.9% completed vaccinations (+0.0)
  • 18 to 24: 54.8% received vaccine (+0.1)/50.3% completed vaccinations (+0.0)
  • 25 to 34: 59.5% received vaccine (+0.0)/55.5% completed vaccinations (+0.1)
  • 35 to 44: 66.6% received vaccine (+0.1)/63.1% completed vaccinations (+0.0)
  • 45 to 54: 67.2% received vaccine (+0.0)/64.4% completed vaccinations (+0.1)
  • 55 to 64: 75.5% received vaccine (+0.0)/72.9% completed vaccinations (+0.0)
  • 65 and up: 87.5% received vaccine (+0.0)/84.4% completed vaccinations (+0.0)

The state reports through December 1, a total 3,436,124 Wisconsinites received at least one dose of vaccine, which is 59% of the total population. This total includes 70.4% of adults.

A total 3,268,304 people are considered fully vaccinated, getting both shots of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of Johnson & Johnson. That’s 56.1% of the total population, including 67.1% of adults.

Wisconsin also passed 1 million booster shots this week, with an additional 1,057,860 “shots in the arm” since boosters were approved first for older populations and now for all adults.


County (Population)
(Health region)
% of population
with at least 1 dose
% of population
completed series
Brown (264,542) (NE)60.0% (+0.1)57.5%
Calumet (50,089) (FV)53.1%51.1%
Dodge (87,839)48.5% (+0.1)46.3% (+0.1)
Door (27,668) (NE)74.9% (+0.1)71.0%
Fond du Lac (103,403) (SE)51.7% (+0.1)49.3%
Forest (9,004)49.2%46.8% (-0.1)
Florence (4,295) (NE)49.1%47.0%
Green Lake (18,913) (FV)53.6% (+0.1)51.1% (+0.1)
Kewaunee (20,434) (NE)48.8%47.3%
Langlade (19,189)51.1%48.7%
Manitowoc (78,981) (NE)56.3%53.9%
Marinette (40,350) (NE)49.7% (+0.1)47.2%
Menominee (4,556) (FV)71.4% (+0.2)69.0%
Oconto (37,930) (NE)50.2%48.3%
Outagamie (187,885) (FV)59.2% (+0.1)56.7%
Shawano (40,899) (FV)44.7% (+0.1)42.9% (+0.1)
Sheboygan (115,340) (SE)57.8% (+0.1)55.2% (+0.1)
Waupaca (50,990) (FV)51.9%49.7%
Waushara (24,443) (FV)43.0%41.2%
Winnebago (171,907) (FV)57.3% (+0.1)54.7%
NORTHEAST REGION (474,200) (NE)275,009 (58.0%)263,429 (55.6%, +0.1)
FOX VALLEY REGION (549,682) (FV)304,854 (55.5%, +0.1)291,978 (53.1%)
WISCONSIN (5,822,434)3,436,124 (59.0%)3,268,304 (56.1%)


To find more free COVID-19 vaccination sites near you, text your ZIP Code to 438829.

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.

Bellin Health is offering “mix-and-match” COVID-19 vaccine boosters at its Ashwaubenon community vaccination site, the Green Bay Fastlane drive-thru testing site and all primary care clinics and FastCare locations. According to Bellin, it’s offering the mix-and-match option to eligible patients at all vaccination sites. Eligible Bellin patients and the general public may schedule a booster, initial or second COVID-19 vaccine dose through a MyBellinHealth account or by calling 920-445-7313.


The City of Appleton expanded its testing and vaccination clinics at the old Best Buy building, 2411 S. Kensington Dr. The site offers walk-in testing Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. Walk-in vaccination clinics are on Thursdays from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. and Fridays from 7 A.M. to 12 P.M. Pre-registration isn’t required, but it’s encouraged to speed up the process.

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 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.

THURSDAY’S COUNTY CASE AND DEATH TOTALS (increases in cases or deaths since the last report are in bold) **

  • Brown – 45,193 cases (+258) (279 deaths)
  • Calumet – 8,086 cases (+39) (66 deaths) (+4)
  • Dickinson (Mich.)* - 3,363 cases (69 deaths)
  • Dodge – 16,579 cases (+68) (210 deaths)
  • Door – 3,958 cases (+32) (35 deaths)
  • Florence - 581 cases (+1) (14 deaths)
  • Fond du Lac – 18,751 cases (+174) (161 deaths) (+1)
  • Forest - 1,603 cases (+27) (29 deaths)
  • Gogebic (Mich.)* - 1,676 cases (27 deaths)
  • Green Lake - 2,790 cases (+13) (29 deaths)
  • Iron (Mich.)* – 1,526 cases (53 deaths)
  • Kewaunee – 3,318 cases (+24) (35 deaths)
  • Langlade - 3,350 cases (+4) (43 deaths)
  • Manitowoc – 11,413 cases (+66) (96 deaths) (+1)
  • Marinette - 6,819 cases (+44) (73 deaths)
  • Menominee (Mich.)* - 2,845 cases(49 deaths)
  • Menominee – 994 cases (+2) (11 deaths)
  • Oconto – 6,588 cases (+29) (66 deaths)
  • Outagamie – 28,656 cases (+145) (259 deaths) (+2)
  • Shawano – 6,725 cases (+30) (83 deaths) (+1)
  • Sheboygan – 19,214 cases (+79) (176 deaths)
  • Waupaca – 7,770 cases (+59) (150 deaths)
  • Waushara – 3,351 cases (+13) (52 deaths)
  • Winnebago – 26,450 cases (+220) (256 deaths)

* You can find cases and deaths for all 72 Wisconsin counties on the DHS County Data website. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Wisconsin Hospital Association publishes updates Mondays through Fridays. Michigan Department of Health updates information on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

** 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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