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Wisconsin COVID-19 update includes number of cases and deaths, caution about variants

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Screenshot taken by Chuck Quirmbach
The Medical College of Wisconsin prepared this slide for Dr. Raymond's presentation to the MMAC.

A local expert on COVID-19 says the number of new positive cases remains a concern, but there is mostly a "decoupling" from serious health outcomes like hospitalization and death. At least for now.

Dr. John Raymond is president and CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin. He says the seven-day average for new cases in Wisconsin is about 1,500 per day, with a seven-day average of three deaths per day. Statewide hospitalizations for COVID-19 are between 350 and 400 people, with plenty of empty beds, including intensive care units.

About 20% of the new cases are in Milwaukee. It was only five months ago that over a week, Wisconsin was averaging 39 deaths per day.

So, Raymond says we're much better off now, partly because vaccines have reduced many serious outcomes.

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Screenshot taken by Chuck Quirmbach
Dr. John Raymond prepares to speak during Tuesday's Zoom event with members of the MMAC.

But Raymond told the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) Tuesday that there is a cautionary note about the continuing evolution of COVID-19.

"The BA.4 and BA.5 variants have taken hold in the U.S. They're circulating widely in Europe and South Africa. They are omicron subvariants. But they also have some elements that we saw in Delta [variant] that are thought to confer a competitive advantage, not just in terms of increased contagiousness, but increased pathogenicity [disease-causing.] So, these two variants in laboratory studies have been shown more likely to affect lung cells, and to replicate or duplicate at two to four times the rate of the BA.2 and BA.2.12.1 variants that are circulating right now. And by the middle of July, BA.4 and 5 will be the predominant circulating variants in the U.S," Raymond said.

Raymond and other health officials continue to urge getting the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters. Statewide, about 65% of residents have received at least one dose. Sixty-one percent have completed the vaccine series and only about 35% have received a booster. But two-thirds of people 65 and older have been given a booster shot.

There remains no charge to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Raymond says more types of vaccine will likely be available later this year.

Chuck Quirmbach joined WUWM in August 2018. He focuses his longform stories on health, innovation, science, technology, transportation, utilities and business.
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