DHS: ‘Safe assumption’ COVID-19 will surge in fall, winter of coming years

Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 4:37 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Wisconsin health officials say it is a “safe assumption” that COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere any time soon and it will continue to spread in the colder months for years to come.

Department of Health Services’ Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard said during a news conference Wednesday that we could expect a surge of COVID-19 cases every fall. He noted that most respiratory viruses do vary by season, such as the flu spreading during the fall and winter as people gather more indoors.

“So under the assumption that we don’t eliminate this virus, which I think is a safe assumption, it’s going to be here for awhile, I think it’s a safe assumption that transmission is going to increase in the fall and winter,” said Dr. Westergaard.

He did note that people do have control over the severity of the infections, depending on if people get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Dr. Ryan Westergaard pointed this year of the pandemic is much different than last year in the fact that respiratory viruses weren’t circulating last fall like they have been already this fall. While we do have COVID-19 vaccines this year, health officials noted a similar trend in the surge of coronavirus cases this November compared to last November and December.

“Of course we can’t predict the future, but the trend we’re seeing I would say from last week to this week is very concerning and something that we need to watch very closely because the slope of the curve looks similar to what we saw last fall,” Dr. Westergaard said.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health Services confirmed 3,503 new cases of COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic, Wisconsin has reported 837,415 total COVID-19 cases.

The seven-day rolling average rose slightly Wednesday to 2,963, putting it at similar levels to this mid-September and early December of 2020.

No counties are listed at high disease activity levels anymore, which is a change from last week. Dane County and Menominee County, which were at high last week, are now at very high levels.

Sixteen counties in Wisconsin are reported at critically high levels of COVID-19, which is double what it was at last week. This includes Juneau County, which is a new addition.

The state itself is reported at very high levels of disease activity, with a case burden of 767.7 cases per 100,000 people.

Twenty-six people have died Wednesday of the virus, bringing the seven-day rolling average for new deaths up to 14. There have been 8,812 people who have died of the virus, to date.

COVID-19 vaccine dashboard update continues to lag

It’s been twelve days since an update from the COVID-19 vaccine dashboard, which DHS noted Wednesday remains due to reporting errors from Walgreens. DHS described this delay as a “very normal thing” when dealing with many vaccinators and distributors.

DHS noted during the news conference than more than 550,000 Wisconsinites have received their COVID-19 booster already.

The agency also added that tens of thousands of children ages 5-11 have received the first dose of their two-dose COVID-19 regimen.

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