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As new variant emerges, most COVID trends are down in Milwaukee County

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Milwaukee County health officials say they’re seeing encouraging decreases in COVID-19 cases.

Health officials in Milwaukee County say they’re seeing encouraging decreases in COVID-19 cases. As of Tuesday, the county is averaging 38 cases and zero deaths per day. But some concerns over the virus persist.

Dr. Ben Weston said hospitalizations are higher, and without as much downward movement, than he would like. Weston is the chief health policy advisor with Milwaukee County.

During Tuesday’s local COVID update, he said around 65 people are currently hospitalized with COVID.

And Weston said Wisconsin’s levels of the newest COVID variant, BA2, are increasing as well. "Most recently we hit 27% of sequenced virus being BA2 in Wisconsin. Now, on one hand, that's a level that's nearing that of the European countries where COVID is now on the rise. Seems we're about three to four weeks behind the UK on BA2’s predominance, and the UK is currently seeing a rise in COVID cases and more concerningly in COVID hospitalizations as well. But on the other hand, we've seen that it's hard to use trends in other countries to predict what will happen here."

Weston said the latest omicron surge may have provided some short-term immunity, coupled with vaccine-induced immunity, that he hopes can soften the blow of the BA2 variant.

But he said regardless, this will not be the last COVID variant we see. "We don’t know what the next iteration of COVID will look like, but what we do know is that the best way for us as a community to be future proof in the face of new variants is to increase our vaccination and booster rates."

Vaccination rates across the county continue to be low, especially in communities of color and younger populations. Weston said the South Shore Health Department is giving $50 gift cards to folks getting any dose of the COVID vaccine.

Teran is WUWM's race & ethnicity reporter.
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