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Milwaukee Plans To Open Wisconsin Center As Vaccination Hub Next Week

Becca Schimmel
The Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee will serve as a vaccination site.

The city of Milwaukee plans to use the Wisconsin Center as a COVID-19 vaccination site beginning next week.

The city started vaccinating its health department workers and emergency medical personnel this week, with an initial 120 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

“Individuals who are getting vaccinated feel a sense of hope and relief,” Milwaukee Interim Health Commission Marlaina Jackson said during a press briefing Friday.

Mayor Tom Barrett said next week, the city expects to receive an additional 800 doses, and will continue vaccinating its employees who fit into the 1a COVID vaccination priority group. 

Jackson said the vaccine could be stretched by splitting each vial into six doses instead of five, meaning the 800 doses could actually cover more than 900 people.

Barrett said the Wisconsin Center, which was used in 2020 for scaled-back Democratic National Convention activities, and served as an election recount site in November, will be the city's main vaccination location as soon as Tuesday.

“The real purpose of using the Wisconsin Center is we are going to see dramatic increases in the number of doses we will receive,” Barrett said. “We feel confident that the state is being aggressive now in getting additional doses from the federal government … so we want to accommodate larger numbers.”

On Friday, Gov. Tony Evers joined with seven other Democratic governors in asking federal health officials to release more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The governors allege that President Donald Trump's administration is holding back the shots.

As of Thursday, Wisconsin had administered vaccine to 105,000 people, with 5,000 more receiving both doses, according to the state health department.

Barrett and Jackson said that after vaccinating city public health and EMS employees, they will open up vaccinations to other Milwaukee health care workers, who are unaffiliated with hospital systems and need a place to receive their vaccine.

Barrett said he hopes to move to the 1b priority group in February. Pending approval from state health officials, the 1b group mayinclude Wisconsin residents age 70 and older, first responders, education workers, corrections workers, incarcerated people, and those in congregate living settings.

Wisconsin broke 500,000 positive cases of the coronavirus on Friday, two days after the state eclipsed 5,000 dead.

As of Friday, 502,012 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 5,119 have died, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported.

Wisconsin's death count is the 22nd highest in the country overall and the 32nd highest per capita at 94 deaths per 100,000 people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has decreased by 170, a drop of 5.6%. The two-week average of new cases has been rising for the past two weeks after a gradual decrease following a peak in mid-November.

There were 633 new cases per 100,000 people in Wisconsin over the past two weeks, which ranks 35th in the country for new cases per capita.

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